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FIDDLER'S FACTS: Great event, wrong city

Calgary Stampeders defensive lineman Charleston Hughes pretends to kiss the Grey Cup ahead of the 104th CFL Grey Cup against the Ottawa Redblacks in Toronto on Thursday, November 24, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Calgary Stampeders defensive lineman Charleston Hughes pretends to kiss the Grey Cup ahead of the 104th CFL Grey Cup against the Ottawa Redblacks in Toronto on Thursday, November 24, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – The Grey Cup is one of the great sport spectacles in Canada outside of Toronto and a cherished must-go-to event for football fans across the country.

The game will be contested Sunday night between the Ottawa Redblacks and Calgary Stampeders at 27,000-seat BMO Field in Toronto. Rumours prevail the Grey Cup will not be a sellout.

It’s unfortunate the game will be played in Canada’s largest city, where the franchise that resides there has the least number of Canadian Football League fans among all CFL cities.  Toronto is a hard sell for Canadian football. It has too many major sports. It’s that simple.  There’s still the Blue Jays hangover from their great season. There’s a huge following for Toronto FC, the major league soccer club where more than 60,000 turned up for the playoff game in Montreal.  The NBA Raptors are a great draw with a young talented club and, of course, there’s the Maple Leafs, one of the great franchises in the entire NHL.

Nowhere else in North America could a team finish near the bottom of the standings for 40 years yet outdraw even the most successful clubs at the box office. If I was running the CFL, I’d want the Grey Cup in one of the western cities, where it has a huge following and is guaranteed to fill any of the stadiums. Montreal is a natural too because of the strong Alouettes base and because of the strength of the minor football and university programs in the province.

What the CFL needs right now is a couple of homegrown standout quarterbacks, graduates from the Vanier Cup and university ranks like Laval Rouge et Or, Montreal Carabins or the Calgary Dinos. The Vanier Cup will be played today at the 24,000-seat Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton.

The Steel City is a great football city and it’s possible the university title game could outdraw the Grey Cup. It is very likely the last Grey Cup game ever in Toronto and that may be reason enough to attend. 

The game will be contested Sunday night between the Ottawa Redblacks and Calgary Stampeders at 27,000-seat BMO Field in Toronto. Rumours prevail the Grey Cup will not be a sellout.

It’s unfortunate the game will be played in Canada’s largest city, where the franchise that resides there has the least number of Canadian Football League fans among all CFL cities.  Toronto is a hard sell for Canadian football. It has too many major sports. It’s that simple.  There’s still the Blue Jays hangover from their great season. There’s a huge following for Toronto FC, the major league soccer club where more than 60,000 turned up for the playoff game in Montreal.  The NBA Raptors are a great draw with a young talented club and, of course, there’s the Maple Leafs, one of the great franchises in the entire NHL.

Nowhere else in North America could a team finish near the bottom of the standings for 40 years yet outdraw even the most successful clubs at the box office. If I was running the CFL, I’d want the Grey Cup in one of the western cities, where it has a huge following and is guaranteed to fill any of the stadiums. Montreal is a natural too because of the strong Alouettes base and because of the strength of the minor football and university programs in the province.

What the CFL needs right now is a couple of homegrown standout quarterbacks, graduates from the Vanier Cup and university ranks like Laval Rouge et Or, Montreal Carabins or the Calgary Dinos. The Vanier Cup will be played today at the 24,000-seat Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton.

The Steel City is a great football city and it’s possible the university title game could outdraw the Grey Cup. It is very likely the last Grey Cup game ever in Toronto and that may be reason enough to attend. 

Charlottetown Islanders logo

Hockey

If you’ve been following the fortunes of the Charlottetown Islanders of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League or the UPEI men’s hockey and basketball teams you should understand this is a crucial weekend for all concerned. 

The Islanders have been a surprise, sixth overall entering Friday’s play without sniper Daniel Sprong, who has ready experienced and scored with Pittsburgh Penguins.  Tonight they host the Quebec Ramparts in the second of two weekend games, which should tell us if the Islanders are for real or not.  On the university front, the men’s hockey Panthers are in a fight for their playoff lives. 

It’s the same situation for the men’s basketball club, which entertain first-place Memorial tonight and Sunday and need wins to stay in the playoff picture. 

Harness racing

In city harness racing, the annual Drivers Championship is the big attraction today as nine of the top drivers compete in the eight-race competition. 

Marc Campbell, who will likely soon break his old record of 130 wins at the city track, heads the cast, which includes drivers Ken Arsenault, Jason Hughes, Corey MacPherson, Gary Chappell, Gilles Barrieau, Don MacNeill, Todd Walsh and Adam Merner.

At Woodbine, Atlantic Sire standout Proven Desire goes in Race 5 for trainer John McKinnon and James MacDonald, who also handles Evening of Pleasure in the $34,000 feature.

Yonkers is dark again tonight, but returns Sunday afternoon.

The last major stake race of the season is the $314,000 Hap Hansen three-year-old pace at Dover where Western Fame (Mark MacDonald) has the six-hole against the likes of Check Six, Easy Lover Hanover, Boston Red Rocks and four others. 

Fred MacDonald's column appears every Saturday in The Guardian. He can be reached at fiddlersfacts@hotmail.com.

The Prophet’s Football Picks

Calgary over Ottawa in the Grey Cup by at least 10 points.

San Francisco 49ers (1-9) at Miami Dolphins (6-4) – The Fish are hot, winning five straight, while the 49ers played the Patriots tough last week. The Fish have beaten less than .500 teams but they’re winning and at home with a sharp QB in Ryan Tannehill. Bet the Fish.

Tennessee Titans (5-6) at Chicago Bears (2-8) – Marcus Mariota is one of the best young quarterbacks in the game and Tennessee is still in the AFC playoff picture. Stay with MM.

Cincinnati Bengals (3-6-1) at Baltimore Ravens (5-5) – The Ravens at home against a banged up and bungling Bengals without two of their big play guys in A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard. Bye Bye Bengals.

Green Bay Packers (4-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-5) – This is a playoff type game, where the loser is likely done for the year. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has been great, but he gets no protection, has a terrible group of ironhanded receivers and Green Bay has a porous defence. The Eagles are unbeaten at home, so fly with the Eagles.

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