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FIDDLER'S FACTS: Time right for CFL in Atlantic Canada

Toronto Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray and receiver S.J. Green take part in Wednesday’s practice in Ottawa. CP Photo
Toronto Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray and receiver S.J. Green take part in Wednesday’s practice in Ottawa. CP Photo

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – The surging Toronto Argonauts, who upset Saskatchewan in the CFL Eastern final, are in Ottawa to face the West champion Calgary Stampeders Sunday in the 105th edition of the Grey Cup.

Veteran Toronto QB Ricky Ray capped off a last-minute rally in what may be the most important Argo victory in recent memory. More than 25,000 packed into BMO Field for last week's victory, the biggest crowd of the season in Toronto for football, and the victory may have revived the interest and love of football in the country's biggest market. Unfortunately, we will have to wait until next summer to find out for certain.

Aside from the Toronto victory, the news out of Nova Scotia is there are plans for a possible CFL franchise in Halifax, Atlantic Canada's biggest market with a population base of about 400,000.

There are enough football fans in Atlantic Canada, as evident by the many university football teams nearby like Saint Mary’s, St. FX, Acadia and Mount Allison and college programs like Holland College, Dal, UNB and UNB Saint John. Factor in the Atlantic Canada high school football teams, the minor programs and there's reason to believe the time might be right now to pursue a CFL franchise in the region.

Although Halifax municipal officials did not guarantee taxpayers dollars for the project, as expected, the business plan presented to officials, which included a new stadium, was a formidable one.

“We have to get creative and find something that protects the taxpayer,” Mayor Mike Savage was quote as saying said.

That tells me this project has the green light. Apparently there is federal infrastructure money available and organizers have deep pockets so we will see just how creative council will be. I believe after many years of talking that action on a CFL franchise will soon take place. We shall see.

Condolences

A belated memorial service for Dave MacLeod was held in Charlottetown last Sunday and his brother Don (Duck) MacLeod, a Boston University Hall of Famer in both hockey and baseball, was here all the way from Atlanta.

Dave and his brother Roger were top athletes and talking about Dave’s athletic exploits brought back many memories. He was an outstanding athlete (like his son Smiley) and he excelled in track and field, rugby and hockey. He returned here every Old Home Week for the harness racing from Vancouver until illness put an end to his travels. The sports community was out in force for the service, including boyhood family friend Bobby Lund, Montague's Doug Johnston, Alf Groom, Paul Schurman and Nick Murray, as well as a great many friends and relatives.

Fitness

Shawn Francis is making quite a name for himself in fitness training and as a personal trainer at The Spa. He is preparing distance runner Pam Paquet for marathon races next spring as she thrives to qualify for the Boston Marathon and he has Pauline Champion training like a spartan but I am not sure for what events.

Harness racing

Today is a big day at the city track as the annual driving championship takes place with eight of the top drivers competing in eight races for the Paul MacDonald Memorial Trophy.

Points are awarded from one to eight and the driver with the most points is the winner.

Marc Campbell heads the list of drivers in a format where any driver, especially good ones like in this field, can win. Gilles Barrieau, Corey MacPherson, Kenny Arsenault, Jason Hughes, Donnie MacNeill, Adam Merner and Earl Smith will make for a great afternoon of racing.

The $2,250 feature goes in Race 12 and Nogreatmischief with talented Walter Cheverie from the rail could be the horse to beat, although Likely to Win, Painted Desert and The Big Bite, who have been sharp of late, will be tough to beat.

There's also a good-looking Sunday card, with a 12:30 p.m. post time as well.

Veteran horseman Ralph (Boo) Shepherd, who worked with James Roach MacGregor when they campaigned horses like Dr Harry C, Diller Sport, Vic Adio, and trotters Suspension and L G Diplomat at Foxboro in the late 1960s and 1970s and stayed with Roach for 25 years, is a patient in the QEH. Boo was also an outstanding defenceman with those great Maritime Senior Hockey Champion Amherst Ramblers when Wally McInnis and I were stickboys in their games here at the old forum. Get well soon Boo.

There’s a big card at The Meadowlands tonight with a number of big purse events like the $400,000 Governors Cup and Goldsmith Maid among others. Mark MacDonald has Post 2 with Pure Country in the $175,000 TVG mares final.

It's been a while since we've seen Harry Poulton, Ricky MacPhee, Kevin MacMaster and Danny O'Brian in action but you can watch them Sunday afternoon at Www.thestable.ca/watchlive as the Stable presents its fall open house with about 60 yearlings getting early lessons for racing next summer.

Pigskin picks

The NFL heads into Week 12 and there are a number of playoff spots up for grabs. There was a trio of games Thursday, so let's take a look at Sunday's reduced schedule.

Jacksonville Jaguars (7-3) at Arizona Cardinals (4-6) – The Cardinals are allowing 26 points per game, and the Jags are the best defensive club in football. Jags QB Blake Bortles has been resourceful. The Cards are without QB Carson Palmer and without star running back Dave Johnson. Jags easy winners here.

New Orleans Saints (8-2) at L A Rams (7-3) – The Saints gave up 31 points to Washington and were very fortunate to win last time out. The Rams are for real and they're two-point home favourites although the Vegas odds-makers think otherwise. I still don't believe in the Saints D. Give up the points and play the Rams.

Houston Texans (4-6) at Baltimore Ravens (5-5) – Baltimore looked impressive in blanking the Packers at Lambeau Field last week. Houston has too many injuries to key players to beat a contending team. That being said, give up seven points and bet the Ravens.

Seattle Seahawks (6-4) at San Francisco 49ers (1-9) – The Seahawks can score and the 49ers cannot and that's all you need to know. Seattle's QB Russell Wilson can pass accurately on the move and is a threat as a runner. The Seahawks are seven-point favourites, so jump aboard.

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

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