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Argos released their season ticket pricing today.  I'll definitely grab a pair of the $199 tickets if there's any available come the 12th.

BMO-Seating-Chart-601x800.jpg

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Ottawa's bid for 2017 Grey Cup has been submitted
Gord Holder, Ottawa Citizen February 1, 2016

Ottawa’s bid for the 2017 Grey Cup game has been submitted, and the Canadian Football League board of governors is expected to discuss the issue at meetings later this month.
 
“It’s really a matter of us being able to demonstrate that we are able to put on a good Grey Cup and that we satisfy the rest of the league governors that we can do it. We certainly want it,” Bernie Ashe, chief executive officer of Redblacks franchise owner Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group, said Monday.
 
Under terms of the expansion agreement between OSEG and the CFL, a Grey Cup championship game is to be conducted at TD Place within the first four seasons of the franchise, and the Redblacks’ fourth season will be 2017.  However, winning the go-ahead to play host to the contest and the weeklong festival leading up to it is not automatic, and the league usually only announces one year at a time.
 
The 2016 Grey Cup will take place in Toronto. The Redblacks lost the 2015 final to the Edmonton Eskimos at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, while the Calgary Stampeders held off the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to claim the title at B.C. Place in Vancouver in 2014.
 
During an appearance in Ottawa in October, commissioner Jeffrey Orridge said only that the city would have another Grey Cup “in good time.” Jeff Hunt, an OSEG partner and president of its sports division, said that a bid had not yet been submitted.  
Hunt and OSEG partners Roger Greenberg and John Ruddy are the Redblacks’ representatives to the CFL board.
 
Any bid for the first Grey Cup game in Ottawa since 2004 would involve a business plan built on temporary seating to increase TD Place stadium capacity to somewhere closer to 40,000 from its current figure of 24,000.  “We have made it very clear we want to do it in 2017, so all roads are leading to 2017 as the right time,” Ashe said.
 
The national capital will be host to several major sports competitions as part of celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Confederation, including: Canadian Olympic curling team trials; Canadian championships in track and field, road cycling and canoe/kayak; an LPGA Tour golf championship. The city and the Ottawa Senators are also hoping to hold an outdoor National Hockey League game.

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Stole this post from Xvys at cfl.ca

Future CFL/NFL Stars in Action: 2016 International Bowl

If you want to watch Team Canada in some live football action, the 2016 International Bowl is now being played! There were two Canadian games on Sunday with more games on Wednesday and Friday. All games are televised on ESPN3 and live-streamed at US Football/Youtube.

Sunday, Jan. 31 3 p.m. CT
U.S. Under 19 National vs. Canada Under 19 National
(Note: There is no sound for the first 45 min.) Don't watch this, we lose 33-0 :(

Sunday, Jan. 31 6 p.m. CT
Canada Under 18 National vs. U.S. Under 19 Select
Now this is much more satisfactory :)

 

Wednesday, Feb. 3 7 p.m. CT
U.S. Under 18 National vs. Canada Under 18 National

Friday, Feb. 5 1 p.m. CT
U.S. Under 16 Select vs. Alberta Under 16

Friday, Feb. 5 4 p.m. CT
U.S. Under 18 Select vs. Ontario Under 18

Friday, Feb. 5 7 p.m. CT
U.S. Under 17 vs. Ontario Under 17

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A couple of things from this.  Capacity estimates for the Argos has gone from 25k to 27.6k to 26k (in this interview)

Amusing quote re the Fan Zone "That's where we want our rowdies to be...hopefully a really uncomfortable experience for the visitor's bench which is gonna be pretty close to them, umm funny how that happened".

Copeland: BMO Field perfect for CFL football

Michael Copeland, President and CEO of the Toronto Argonauts, joins Dave Naylor and Tim Graham on TSN Drive to talk about the new seating plan for the Argos at BMO Field, and hopes for the team's new home.

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New family zone at Argo games part of new fan strategy
Fans who want to bring children to the games will be able to watch the game without worrying about profanity or worse.
Curtis Rush Sports reporter, thestar.com Feb 03 2016

A new Toronto Argonauts “family zone” has been set up to ensure wholesome entertainment for the coming CFL season at the team’s new home on the Exhibition Stadium grounds.

Sara Moore, vice-president of business operations for the Argos, said this new fan-friendly location at BMO Field was important for several reasons, not the least of which was because she has three children, the youngest of whom is eight. They are all CFL fans.

“I remember how important it was to me in becoming a fan going to games as a kid,” Moore said. “I wanted to make sure that we allowed parents that are fans now to be able to share that with their kids. That was really important.”

The family zone is located Section 127 in the northwest corner near the goal line. The section will seat 322 fans in the 26,000-seat stadium.

The CFL audience skews to an older demographic, and the league wants to appeal to a young audience.

In the family zone, something the Argos did not have at the Rogers Centre, children can watch the game without hearing profane language or encountering rowdy displays. Fans there will be promised clear sight lines. And though the section is in a corner, Moore doesn’t believe there is a bad seat in the stadium.

Outside of the family zone, the Argos expect their fans to be loud.

“We’ve created an amazing section for all the rowdy behaviour you want in the south end zone,” Moore said. “The fan zone will be filled with our most passionate fans. They will be closer to the visitors’ benches, which is designed to create an intimidating home-field atmosphere.”

The Argos, she said, will finally enjoy some of the benefits afforded others at their home stadiums.

“We know the whole stadium is going to be loud,” Moore said. “There will be a roof over the top to keep the sound in and amplify the game-day atmosphere.”

The Argos this week announced the pricing structure for season-ticket holders, with an 11-game package, including nine home games, one pre-season game and one playoff game.

The packages range from $199 to $1,999. The highest-priced seats are the field-level seats just behind the on-field digital boards.

They aren’t like floor seats at an NBA game, but they are “as close to the action as you can get without putting a helmet on,” Moore said.

The team hopes to sell out every home game.

“The Argos are going to have their first home-field advantage in a really long time,” Moore said. “It’s a pretty special place to watch a game from.”

The team is allowing people to put down a $50 deposit to reserve their place in the season-ticket line. They will be selected in the order in which their deposits were received. People can make deposits up to Feb. 19.

Existing season ticket holders can start picking their seats by Thursday, Feb. 4. The longest-serving ticket holders get first crack. Moore said almost every season ticket holder has renewed for next season.

The Argos go public with their season-ticket sales on March 1. Single-game sales will be announced later.

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Simon Fraser's Nickel had NFL tryout, but CFL still the goal
John Kryk, Toronto Sun February 22, 2016
    
At the NFL’s main scouting combine in Indianapolis this week, 18 quarterbacks will throw for league talent evaluators.

Eighteen young American benefactors of a football career that, to this point, has gone mostly right.

Conversely, for thousands of other quarterbacks in North America aspiring to be pros, things usually don’t go mostly right. For many, things go mostly wrong.

Until December, things went mostly wrong for Calgary native Tyler Nickel. For seven long post-secondary years.

Football kept sacking him, on the field and off. Academic issues, eligibility uncertainty, annual coaching changes, ill-timed injuries and just plain bad fortune all kept shattering his plans and testing his resilience. He mostly watched his teams play from the sidelines while circumnavigating the western half of the continent in dogged pursuit of his pro-football objective -- from Alberta, to Manitoba, to Northern California to British Columbia, most recently on the Simon Fraser University team in Burnaby.

Nickel, though, is not a young man whose life’s dream dies easily.

That’s how, despite having quarterbacked only one full season since leading Calgary’s Lord Beaverbrook High School in 2008, the 25-year-old inexplicably scored an invitation this past Saturday in Tempe, Ariz., to the second of five NFL regional scouting combines the league is running this month and next.

And it’s why Nickel hopes a March 7 tryout at a CFL regional scouting combine in Edmonton becomes a springboard to the CFL career he has been dreaming about since he began idolizing Montreal Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo in primary school in the late 1990s.

“Honestly, it’s just that I don’t take no for an answer,” Nickel said in a phone interview on Friday night, hours before Saturday’s day-long mix of passing drills plus speed and athleticism tests at the Arizona Cardinals indoor facility. “If I want something, I’m going to keep on trying to get it. That’s kind of how I’ve always operated.

“It’s going to take every coach tomorrow to tell me I suck before I leave there with my head down.”

No NFL coach or scout told him he sucked. Once Nickel had travelled back to his Burnaby townhouse by Sunday night, he talked enthusiastically about his NFL tryout in a followup interview.

“It was awesome,” said Nickel, who stands between 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-4 and weighs about 215 pounds.

He was one of nine quarterbacks who showed his stuff at the Arizona Cardinals’ indoor facility (throwing to 28 wide receivers and four tight ends). After first reps, Nickel said he, Arizona State’s Mike Bercovici, San Jose State’s Joseph Gray and Stephen Rivers of Northwestern State of Louisiana (Phil’s younger brother) were the only four QBs chosen to work with the last group of pass catchers.

“They picked us based on arm strength and accuracy,” Nickel said. “They wanted to get good reps out of the last 10 receivers. So I guess I was picked Top 4 in the camp, in essence.

“It went really well. I was hitting my spots well, driving the ball in there the best I could. Obviously I wasn’t perfect on every throw.”

That Nickel had to take such a circuitous route to get to this position is his own fault, he now realizes.

“I was highly recruited out of high school. I heard from most CIS teams. But my grades were … (laughs) … sub-par to say the least.

“I just wrongly believed that football alone was going to continue to carry me to wherever I wanted to go. I finally realized it’s not.”

Expensive lesson.

Nickel moved to Winnipeg and played for two years on that city’s junior club team, the Rifles of the Prairie Football Conference. He split time at quarterback in both 2009 and 2010.

To support himself that first year, Nickel worked long hours refurbishing propane tanks, “out in the sun. It was pretty brutal. Then off to practice at night.” The next year, he worked in construction.

To someday play NCAA football Nickel knew he had to take the junior-college (JUCO) route -- to rehabilitate his academic resume. He chose the College of the Siskiyous in Weed, a town in extreme northern California.

Nickel redshirted (sat out) in 2011, then started for the Eagles under a partially changed coaching staff in 2012.

“We wound up going 10-1 and winning our bowl game,” Nickel said.

Despite posting poor passing statistics -- 49% pass completions, 152 yards per game, 13 touchdowns against seven interceptions -- even before season’s end, word of his rocket arm and abilities had spread fast. And far.

Nickel began hearing from high-profile NCAA schools, including Texas Tech, and coaches, including then Oregon head coach Chip Kelly (now head coach of the San Francisco 49ers).

“First, you have to know that I ended up being on the Dean’s List and President’s List, so I really turned my grades and academics around completely,” Nickel said with pride. “I took the equivalent of six courses the semester I started, so I could graduate early, in January, to go right into a Division I university in time for spring ball.

“At one point I had Chip Kelly telling me, ‘Hey, we want you to come walk on at Oregon. We really think you could be a good addition.’ Akron told me, ‘You’re the top quarterback on our recruiting list.’ Then their entire coaching staff got wiped out.”

Then Nickel’s D-1 hopes got wiped out.

Uncertainty arose as to his academic and eligibility standing: academic, in part because of his deficient high school grades; eligibility, because of his having played two years of Canadian junior football (apparently, one is generally accepted in the NCAA without question).

“Being a Canadian, I knew absolutely nothing about this ‘clearinghouse’ stuff that they were talking about. I just knew it wasn’t in order. Once I got it in order, it was too late.”

Interested top-division recruiters couldn’t count on Nickel being immediately eligible. So they all “pulled the plug,” he said.

Despite graduating from the College of Siskiyous in January 2013 with a general-studies diploma, Nickel had nowhere to play. Or enrol.

Months later he chose to turn down a couple of impressive second-division NCAA offers and return to Canada, to accept a football scholarship at SFU, the only Canadian university that plays American football, albeit in the NCAA’s lowest division.

SFU’s head coach, Dave Johnson, was a family friend.

Nickel still wasn’t in the clear. A week before summer training camp began, after already enrolling, Nickel learned he was ineligible to play that fall.

“It was a pretty brutal situation,” he said. “They thought my two years of junior (football in Canada) was a competitive advantage. They saw junior ball as a higher level than JUCO. So they basically said, okay, you played two years with the Rifles so we’ll have to sit you a year to basically even things out.

“That was pretty disheartening, for sure.”

After the 2013 season Johnson was fired. New head coach Jacques Chapdelaine ran a complicated offence in 2014. Still, Nickel made up for his inexperience and “split time with the starter from the year before … I actually started our game against Dixie, one of only two wins for us the last two years."

Chapdelaine resigned after one season, and Kelly Bates replaced him for 2015 -- Nickel’s sixth different post-secondary head coach in seven years.

“For lack of better words, I don’t think coach Bates ever had any intention of playing me at quarterback at SFU,” Nickel said. “I felt I had the best spring ball of all the QBs.”

But after spring practices concluded, SFU coaches asked Nickel to switch to wide receiver. He kept his disappointment to himself.

“I was kind of taken aback. But I’m a football player. I’ve never seen myself as a quarterback only -- ever. I’ve always just wanted to contribute any way I can.”

Nickel’s father urged him to transfer one more time, but he couldn’t go there.

“I was like, I can transfer but I might fall right into the exact same position somewhere else. I’d been made promises before and they’d almost all fallen through. I figured I was maybe better to stick it out where I was at. Academically, too.

“That’s how far I’d come. I was making decisions based on what I wanted out of school, academically, because I wanted to graduate from Simon Fraser.”

Indeed, Nickel is on pace to graduate this spring in Communication Studies.

As for last football season, one day early summer, while running routes for a quarterback, Nickel tore his left hamstring.

“It clicked, and the next thing you knew my leg was all black,” he said. “It wasn’t good.”

So much for wide receiver. Nickel recovered enough last fall to play “a little bit” of quarterback, “but not one-eighth as much as I wanted to play,” he said.

That wasn’t how Nickel wanted to end his football-playing career. Not after all that heartache, all those sacrifices, all that watching from the sideline.

And so, “with nothing to lose,” he himself -- not an agent, nor a coach, nor a parent -- applied directly to the NFL to participate in one of the five regional scouting combines. Nickel sent along game-tape highlights, too.

On Dec. 8, the NFL answered Nickel -- not with another rejection, but with an emailed invitation.

And so, proudly sporting his huge red maple leaf tattooed between the biceps and triceps of his powerful right throwing arm, Nickel ripped throw after throw for NFL talent scouts on Saturday.

Nickel was told that all 32 teams will soon receive a critique with stats and video of his combine workout.

“I’ve had it tough at times, man,” he said on reflection. “But I haven’t given up. And that’s why I was in Arizona this weekend, and why I’ll be in Edmonton in two weeks.”

At the end of Friday’s interview, Nickel apologized for talking for so long about the past seven years.

“I tried to keep this short, man, but there’s so much to tell.”

Maybe his best football stories are yet to come.

'MORE EXCITED FOR CFL'

Taking part in an NFL regional scouting combine on Saturday was incredible, Nickel grants you.

“But to be honest with you, I’m more excited for the CFL combines,” the hard-luck 25-year-old said.

And that’s been the case since the Calgary native was eight years old.

“You can go back to my Grades 2 or 3 and look at my future goals. I know everybody says this, and it’s clichéd -- but it’s true. I’ve always written down that I want to play professional football. And when I thought that and said that I was always thinking about CFL football, not NFL football.

“That’s not because I didn’t feel I’d ever be capable of playing in the NFL, it’s just because I love the CFL game so much. I have mad respect for all those players and coaches. It’ll probably be more intimidating for me to go to the CFL combine.”

Nickel, a member of the Simon Fraser University team from 2013-15, has been invited to a CFL regional combine in Edmonton on March 7. If he impresses talent evaluators there, Nickel hopes to be invited to the main CFL scouting combine in Toronto, March 11-13.

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Copeland: Argos becoming larger event
TSN.ca Feb 19 2016

Toronto Argonauts President & CEO Michael Copeland joined Mike Hogan to talk about the Argos inaugural season at BMO field, and it's effect on the city of Toronto.

He addresses a wide range of topics from booming ticket sales, tailgating at BMO and state of the art locker-rooms to the rivalry with the Ticats.

Edited by Joe MacCarthy

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David Onyemata, we hardly knew ye
John Hodge http://3downnation.com March 16, 2016

Much has been written about University of Manitoba phenom David Onyemata.

From his unlikely path to becoming a legitimate professional football prospect to the way in which his progression has mirrored that of fellow Bison alumnus and retired NFLer Israel Idonije, Onyemata has been a staple of the Canadian sports newsreels in recent months. It’s hard to imagine Onyemata still making fresh news, but, after his pro day at the U of M campus on Monday morning, he did just that.

David Onyemata, the second-ranked player on the central scouting bureau’s draft board, will likely never play a down in the CFL. Period.

Onyemata wowed NFL scouts from half the league’s teams with a pro day performance that would have had him atop a number of measurable categories should he have participated in the NFL combine back in February. And while measurables alone cannot make a prospect, they can certainly go a long way to boosting the stock of a project player like Onyemata.

Measurable     Result     Rank among 30 defensive tackles at NFL combine

40-Yard Dash     5.06 seconds     t-14th
Vertical Jump      33″                     t-5th
Broad Jump        9’11”                  1st
Bench Press       33 reps             1st
3 Cone Drill        7.25 seconds    1st
Shuttle               4.65 seconds     14th

The odds of Onyemata signing a CFL contract next season were never high, but an eventual return to Canada was always a possibility. Like many CIS prospects before him — McMaster’s Matt Sewell and Queen’s Matt O’Donnell come to mind — Onyemata could have signed an NFL contract as an undrafted free agent only to be released during his first year down south. After such an outstanding pro day performance, however, Onyemata should not only be selected in April’s NFL draft, but also stick down south for the foreseeable future. His ceiling is simply too high.

There are valid reasons for NFL scouts to shy away from Onyemata. For one, he hasn’t played a lot of American football – an impressive week at the East-West Shrine Game is all the four-down experience he’s had – meaning he’s mostly had to line up a full yard off the ball. Mastering the nuances of the American game while simultaneously facing the stiffest competition he’s ever encountered will be a major challenge — the leap from the CIS to the NFL, after all, is massive. Onyemata’s stock will also be hurt in the eyes of some scouts because he is a product of the CIS, a program that is not always held in high regard south of the border.

There are also plenty of reasons for NFL scouts to be enamored with Onyemata, however. His dominant game film and excellent pro day aside, Onyemata has no history of injury. His relative inexperience will also be seen as an asset by some coaches, as a post-secondary player who hasn’t had the time to learn bad habits will not need to unlearn them in training camp. Most importantly, those who have spent time with Onyemata repeatedly speak highly of his intelligence, humility, work ethic, and coachability. These traits are what make Onyemata such a tantalizing prospect — a project player only has value if he is likely to reach his full potential. In the case of Onyemata, there’s a good chance that he will.

The only questions that remain where Onyemata’s future is concerned is where and by which team he will be selected in the upcoming NFL draft. Roughrider receivers coach Markus Howell told TSN1290 in Winnipeg that NFL scouts pegged him as a “third round pick to a late round pick.” In what is considered a deep class of defensive linemen south of the border, the third round is likely too high a spot for the soon-to-be former Bison. But if the last CIS player to be drafted by an NFL team serves as any example — McGill’s Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, the 200th selection of the 2014 NFL draft, is now a starter for the Kansas City Chiefs — there’s no shame in being selected as late as the sixth round.

Regardless of when or if he is selected, one thing is certain — barring a stunning turn of events, David Onyemata will not be suiting up for a CFL squad in the foreseeable future.

In fact, it’s likely that he never will.

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Bombers win big financially, scoring $11 million profit
Paul Wiecek winnipegfreepress.com 04/11/2016

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers hit the jackpot in 2015, posting a profit in excess of $11 million thanks to both a financially successful season and hosting the Grey Cup.

The club announced Monday they recorded a net profit of $7.1 million from hosting the Grey Cup at Investors Group Field last November. And team sources say the club will also announce on Wednesday that they posted a larger operating profit on the 2015 season than they did in 2014.

The Bombers posted a $3.9 million operating profit in 2014, meaning the club’s combined profit from 2015 will be comfortably into eight figures, a monstrous payday for a CFL team.

While a $4.5 million mortgage payment on the new stadium and $1.5 million in stadium improvements that were done prior to the Grey Cup need to be subtracted from that number, that still means the Bombers will bank over $5 million from the 2015 season towards a rainy-day fund.

The Bombers will formally release their 2015 financial report on Wednesday.

"It was a big year," Bombers CEO Wade Miller said in an interview Monday. "The Grey Cup was a huge success that took a ton of dedication from the committee, the 500 volunteers that were involved, the Grey Cup staff and the Bombers staff.

"We pushed hard for 18 months leading up to the game and it all paid off."

The $7.1 million profit from hosting the 2015 Grey Cup is more than double the $3.2 million the club earned the last time they hosted the Grey Cup in 2006.

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Copeland: Argos experience at BMO Field will be spectacular
Hustler and Lawless TSN1290 April 20/2016

Toronto Argonauts president Michael Copeland joins Hustler & Lawless to discuss opening the upcoming season at BMO Field. Copeland outlines the work the Argos have to do in the GTA to get Canadian football back on the map and shares some plans he’s working on for fans of the double blue.

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Interesting interview with Ti-Cat GM Eric Tillman about how the NFL draft affects the CFL draft.  Also he comments on how an athlete's upside is more important than the school they attend or the competition they face.

Tillman: I would take Wentz over Goff in NFL draft
Marsh & Milton Hamilton 1150 April 28/2016

Hamilton Tiger-Cats General Manager joins TSN 1150's Marsh and Milton to discuss the end of the Ticats minicamp, and how an NFL draft affects what CFL teams do.

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Who’s going where: CFL prospects and their NFL opportunities
Drew Edwards http://3downnation.com May 1, 2016

With the NFL draft now over, CFL prospects are now in the process of securing free agent contracts and invites to mini-camp.

Generally speaking, a player who has been drafted has the best chance of actually making an NFL squad while a free agent contract is the next best thing. A mini-camp invite offers little by the way of guarantees for a player, though Canadian players have parlayed them into NFL contracts (most notably current Carolina Panthers offensive lineman David Foucault and Hamilton Tiger-Cats defensive tackle Linden Gaydosh in 2013.)

The three-day NFL rookie mini-camps will be held either May 6-9 or May 13-16. The New York Giants, who have invited five of the top-ranked CFL prospects, will hold their rookie mini-camp on May 6-9.

The CFL Draft, meanwhile, takes place on May 10. That means teams could be drafting players without a clear picture as to their availability for the upcoming CFL season. Canadian rookie camps are set to open on May 25, with main training camp starting on May 29.

Here is a look at top 20 prospects, as ranked by CFL central scouting, and their NFL prospects.

1 David Onyemata (Manitoba) DL Drafted by Saints
2 Tevaun Smith (Iowa) REC Signed as a free agent by Colts
3 Mehsi Abdesmad (Boston College) DL Signed as a free agent by Titans
4 Arjen Colquhoun (Michigan State) DB Signed as a free agent by Cowboys
5 Josiah St. John (Oklahoma) OL
6 Charles Vaillancourt (Laval) OL Attending mini-camp with Giants, Raiders
7 Alex Singleton (Montana State) LB Attending mini-camp with Patriots
8 Trent Corney (Virginia) DL Attending mini-camp with Jets
9 Philippe Gagnon (Laval) OL Attending mini-camp with Giants
10 Brian Jones (Acadia) WR
11 Taylor Loffler (UBC) DB Attending mini-camp with Giants
12 Juwan Brescacin (Northern illinois) WR
13 Mercer Timmis (Calgary) RB Attending mini-camp with Giants
14 Dillon Guy (Buffalo) OL
15 Anthony Thompson (Southern Illinois) DB
16 Michael Couture (Simon Fraser) OL
17 Jason Lauzon-Seguin (Laval) OL
18 Elie Bouka (Calgary) DB Signed as a free agent by Arizona
19 Llevi Noel (Toronto) REC
20 Doug Corby (Queens) REC Attending mini-camp with Giants
– Brandon Revenberg (Grand Valley State) OL Attending mini-camp with Giants
– D.J. Lalama (Manitoba) LB Attending mini-camp with Giants
– Mike Jones (Southern) REC Attending mini-camp with Redskins
– Terrell Davis (UBC) LB Attending mini-camp with Giants
- Quinn van Gylswyk (UBC) K/P Attending mini-camp with Giants

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Argos trying to bring back football culture to missed generations
Move to BMO enables Argos to engage younger customers via tailgates and the game-day experience.
Morgan Campbell Staff Reporter thestar.com May 16, 2016

Four weeks before the CFL regular season kicks off, the Toronto Argonauts’ brain trust has already drawn up its first blitz.

This one involves marketing.

In the lead-up to the Argos’ first season at BMO Field, the club plans to plaster the city with ads — on TV, radio, bus shelters and more — hoping to boost ticket sales to games at the team’s new home.

The ad campaign is part of a broader brand makeover aimed at making the team relevant again. Overtaking one of the city’s Big Three pro sports franchises might not be realistic, but Argos executives think a renewed marketing buzz could propel the club to a less-distant fourth place in local fans’ minds.

Outdoor ads are set appear this week in the neighbourhood surrounding BMO Field.

“It will show our players in a whole new way,” Argos president Michael Copeland said during a conference call Monday. “It will really re-ignite the conversation around Argos football.”

It’s nearly impossible for the club to have a smaller footprint than they had last season, when the Pan Am Games kept the Argos away from their home field until August. Later in the season, Blue Jays playoff games at the Rogers Centre forced the Argos to play “home” games in Hamilton and Ottawa.

The team’s absence from its home stadium had a drag on attendance. The Argos averaged 12,430 at home games last season, a figure that includes the sparse crowds at the out-of-market games the team hosted.

The Star commissioned a poll late last year that found only two per cent of sports fans in Toronto listed the Argos as their primary rooting interest, tying them with Toronto FC but placing them well behind the Jays, Raptors and Leafs.

Not a single respondent between 18 and 34 identified as an Argos fan, but the club is confident the re-brand and move to BMO will help re-engage younger fans who have avoided home games at the cavernous Rogers Centre.

Argos executive Sara Moore says the club conducted extensive market research before embarking on its marketing program. She says younger adults routinely reported being open to embracing the Argos if the club could deliver an engaging game-day experience.

Specifically, they wanted to tailgate.

“In this market there never really has been great football culture,” says Moore, the Argos’ senior vice-president of business operations. “There are a couple generations here that haven’t been immersed in what is the best game-day experience . . . That’s been missing and that is everything we’re creating and investing in.”

To craft a campaign that speaks to the cherished 18-to-34 demographic, the club enlisted Bensimon Byrne, the same Toronto-based ad agency that oversaw the CFL’s re-brand late last year.

That movement kicked off during Grey Cup week with “What We’re Made Of,” a commercial that stresses the league’s national appeal and local flavour. In Calgary, a man riding a white horse holds a Stampeders flag overhead, while in the next shot a beefy offensive lineman-type grips a rope and pulls a tractor across a flat stretch of Saskatchewan highway.

One shot features the Argos sprinting onto their home field, and another features longtime receiver Chad Owens flexing his muscles for the camera.

But Owens, one of the club’s most recognizable players, signed with Hamilton this winter, depriving the club of a familiar, marketable face.

Similarly, Moore acknowledges re-branding risks the equity a company has built among loyal fans but says the gamble is minimal here because previous Argos regimes haven’t invested in cultivating younger fans.

“The fans we have now didn’t become fans at 55,” Moore said. “We got them when they were young. The problem is the Argos haven’t gone back to that well and captured more of those 20-somethings.”

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Argonauts set to unveil new branding
Kirk Penton, Winnipeg Sun May 16, 2016

Toronto is about to blanketed in all things Argonauts.

Now that the Boatmen are under new ownership and they’re moving to BMO Field this season after two depressing decades at Rogers Centre, the team is about to unleash a marketing campaign that will re-brand the Double Blue and signify a brand new beginning for North America’s oldest pro franchise.

The new message will hit the 6ix next week, and there will be Argos everywhere you look and listen: TV, radio, patios, subway stations, billboards. You name it, and it’ll have an Argos ad on it. The franchise hired the Bensimon Byrne marketing company to tackle the project.

“This is a real effort to bring the Argonauts brand out to the forefront and return it to the stature that it has experienced previously,” Argos president Michael Copeland said Monday, adding it will be a brand campaign “the likes of which this city hasn’t seen for probably a couple decades.”

The team, which is now owned by Bell and Larry Tanenbaum, will be pulling out all the stops to attract new and old fans alike. The one attraction the Boatmen are really banking on is tailgating, which will be allowed in areas around BMO Field this season.

The only catch is it isn’t BYOB due to Ontario liquor laws. Beer will be sold at “very fair prices,” according to Copeland, and patrons are allowed to bring their own food and barbecues. There will be areas for games of catch and other attractions.

Copeland and his team are doing everything they can to put the fun back in Argos football.

“We can’t just rest on the stadium alone,” Copeland said. “While it is going to be spectacular, it’s everything we’re doing around the stadium that’s really going to augment it for us this year. And that begins with tailgating.”

Copeland wouldn’t get into specifics about season ticket sales, saying the only thing the organization is worried about this year is selling out all 26,000 seats for all nine home games.

“We went into this year focused on selling out our games, so that’s all we’re focused on,” Copeland said. “We like where we are. We’ve had a really good start to the year. We’ve exceeded the team’s levels from last year quite a bit, and once our single game tickets go on sale June 1 we’re going to start seeing some sellouts.

“This organization is only going to aim to be No. 1 in all categories, and that means selling out our building. We’re not focused on anything less than that. So we haven’t set targets other than that.”

They should get some help in the summer, as the Argos will have two home games during the Canadian National Exhibition. Having a ticket to the Argos games on Aug. 20 against Edmonton or Aug. 31 versus B.C. will also get you into the CNE.

“The grounds will be alive in those games,” Copeland said, “and that brings something just a little bit more special to our season this year.”

Almost forgotten in all the hoopla surrounding the team’s off-season sale and move is the actual squad itself, the leader of which isn’t sure how all the changes will affect his troops. It will definitely be better than the last few years, when Rogers Centre treated them terribly and forced them to play home games on the road or go long stretches without a contest actually in Toronto.

“It’s really hard to say,” head coach Scott Milanovich said. “All I can go on is what I’ve seen so far, and it’s things like Michael and his staff being down at mini-camp and at the draft. I’m careful to be critical of what we were in the past, but I will say this: It seems to be a much more cohesive unit with everybody pulling in the same direction, and that’s what everybody wants in an organization, whether it’s football or the Winnipeg Sun or whatever your case may be.

“We’re all really excited. We’re excited about BMO. Again, I’m only a couple months into this with our new ownership, our new president and all those things, but it feels really good so far. That’s about all I can tell you at this point.”

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CFL goes on marketing offensive in its biggest markets
New league-centric campaign is meant to work alongside new Argos rebrand
Morgan Campbell Staff Reporter thestar.com May 18, 2016

Hope you’re ready for the CFL, because avoiding the league’s marketing message is about to become difficult.

The CFL kicked off a marketing campaign Wednesday, based on the “What We’re Made Of” re-brand unveiled at last year’s Grey Cup, and aimed at strengthening its presence in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

For now the blitz consists mainly of posters showcasing attributes — like “Grit,” “Heart” and “Soul” — that endear the league and its players to would-be fans. But it will grow to include billboards and on-screen commercials at Cineplex theatres, says the CFL.

The league’s campaign unfolds the same week the Argos are going public with their brand makeover, and soon TSN’s CFL-themed advertising will begin appearing around Toronto.

CFL spokesperson Paulo Senra says the three marketing blitzes spring from a months-long planning process designed to ensure they complement each other instead of drowning out each other’s messages.

Senra says the first posters connected with the CFL’s campaign will begin appearing in strategically-targeted neighbourhoods, like Queen St. West and Liberty Village, that surround BMO Field, which will host both the Argos and the Grey Cup this season.

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Argonauts' ad campaign is their most ambitious in decades (video and photos)
Andrew Bucholtz 55 Yard Line Yahoo!Sports May 23/2016

2016 is a huge year for the Toronto Argonauts, who are now under the ownership of Bell and Larry Tanenbaum and moving to BMO Field, and it looks like the new owners have given the team the marketing budget it deserves to promote these major changes. That's particularly notable, as marketing funds were especially lacking for the last few years under former owner David Braley. Under the new owners, the team's now doing some new and innovative marketing things, including buying fans drinks this past weekend and creating a large ad campaign on a scale we haven't seen from them in decades, including a new high-quality commercial that will first air on TSN during Monday night's Raptors - Cavaliers NBA playoff broadcast. Here's the commercial:

This is an excellent ad, emphasizing the team, the experience at the new stadium (including the new tailgating setup, which is huge), and their ties to the city. It's also just part of a much larger campaign (developed with Argos’ agency of record Bensimon Byrne) planned for the next few weeks, which will include TV, radio, digital and out-of-home advertising. Here's what Argos' president Michael Copeland (the former CFL president and chief operating officer) said about this new approach in a release sent out Monday:

“With training camp opening this weekend, it’s the perfect time for us to introduce the new Argos to Torontonians,” said Michael Copeland, President and CEO for the Argos. “And when we talk about the new Argos, its not just the players we added in free agency or through the CFL Draft. It’s about new ownership, a new stadium and an entirely new Argos experience that will happen in and around BMO Field this year. It’s about an authentic football experience to compliment our great team on the field. We can’t wait to show our city what Argos Football really is.”

Here are some of the ads that will be posted around the city:

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These are terrific, emphasizing the team's connection to the city (and bringing up some memories of the Tim Tebow CFL Chronicles for some of us; fortunately, the Argos' "taking it outside" here only refers to an outdoor stadium rather than going Bound For Street). Here's another good one promoting the new tailgate experience:

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The overall approach is a long way from anything we've seen from Toronto on the marketing front in decades, and is perhaps the most ambitious since the John Candy/Wayne Gretzky/Bruce McNall ownership triumvirate's days in 1991, featuring everything from Rocket Ismail to the Blues Brothers. The team's found some great on-field success since then, including Grey Cup wins in 1991, 1996, 1997, 2004 and 2012, but they've had plenty of off-field ownership and marketing issues. It's fantastic to see the new owners investing heavily in marketing this team and their new stadium experience. Hopefully that investment will pay off with new fans and returning old ones, and lead to the Argonauts finding off-field success as well as on-field wins.

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Ticats’ Dyakowski touts fake study, conducts fake radio interview
Drew Edwards 3DownNation May 21, 2016

Hamilton Tiger-Cats offensive lineman Peter Dyakowski pulled an amazing troll job on Roughrider fans yesterday – and duped an unsuspecting Saskatchewan radio host in the process.

It starts with this Tweet from Dyakowski yesterday.
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Predictably, this Tweet got Rider fans – who view themselves as the league’s pre-eminent fan base and are more than willing to shout down anyone with audacity to suggest otherwise – all up in arms. There were dozen of Tweets like these…

Dyakowski played along, Tweeting out a few other “facts” about the study but things really took a turn when Jamie Nye, a Regina radio host, asked him to provide the “professor” who authored the “study.”

So Dyakowski sent him a response…
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For those of you following the U.S. presidential race, “John Miller” is the name Donald Trump used back in the 1990s when he acted as his own fake spokesperson. But Nye dutifully interviewed “Professor Miller” on his show yesterday… and it’s remarkable how much Miller sounds like one Peter Dyakowski.

You should really listen to the entire interview but Dyakowski plays it completely straight, making up all kind of “facts” and sounding like, well, a boring math professor defending his study. Their chat goes on for nearly eight minutes and Nye never appears to clue in, inviting him back when the “full study” is released at the start of CFL regular season.

Dyakowski finally confessed to the hoax on Twitter….

Well done, Peter. Well, done.

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Argonauts open doors to tailgating, with a Toronto twist
Because of existing liquor laws, an Argos official says the team will be selling the liquor but promises to make them affordable.
Sean Fitz-Gerald Sports Reporter thestar.com May 28, 2016

In Toronto, a city where alcohol and professional sports have endured a glacial courtship, where Major League Baseball once housed its only dry stadium — not one dry section; an entirely alcohol-free park — one team is introducing a beer-tinged tradition in the hope of sparking renewed interest while also attracting younger fans.

The Argonauts want to tailgate.

For the first time, the team is planning a real pre-game tailgate, where fans are allowed to park their cars, pull out their barbecues and grill their own food. Beer, a key ingredient in the process, will be permitted as the team opens its debut season at BMO Field.

There is one catch.

“Our liquor laws prevent people from bringing their own beer,” said Michael Copeland, the team’s president and chief executive. “But other than that, it will be true in all other respects.”

The team will sell the beer. Copeland said the Argos are still finalizing the prices, as well as the brands that will be available for purchase, but stressed the idea the team is trying to create an “accessible experience” for fans and that “overpricing for beer just shoots us in the foot.”

“When people experience it, they’re not going to think, ‘Oh, I wish I could have brought my semi-warm case of beer in with me,’ ” he said. “We’re going to price it affordably, because again it has to be an authentic experience.”

Special zones will be reserved for tailgating within the lots at Exhibition Place, as well as Ontario Place. Copeland said the team has not finalized the parking rates, but suggested a modest premium would be levied on the designated tailgating zones.

He said there would be a minimum of 250 tailgating spaces for each regular season home game, but felt that number could swell to 1,000 depending on demand and availability at both venues. (Duran Duran is scheduled to play the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre on July 13, the night Toronto hosts Ottawa, creating a crunch on available parking spaces.)

Copeland said access to the tailgating section will likely be made available through a presale process. The team is planning a trial run at its pre-season game against Hamilton on June 11, building to the main launch 12 days later, at its regular season home-opener.

“We’ve got a very, very strong core fan base, but it does skew older,” Copeland said. “And we need to bring in new fans, probably more urgently than most sports teams.”

The Argos have been working with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, the government organization that administers the Liquor Licence Act. Copeland has also had talks with Toronto Mayor John Tory, as well as Exhibition Place, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and others with a stake in the process.

Beer sales will end 30 minutes prior to kickoff. Cars entering the special tailgate area will be searched for contraband alcohol. It will be open to all ages, with Copeland envisioning children throwing a football around with parents.

“It’s starting to take shape as an opportunity to do something that might get more people out to watch CFL football, which is their goal, and do it in a respectful way that’s not going to put others at risk,” said Andrew Murie, chief executive of MADD Canada. “The worst possible scenario is someone gets hurt and that’s one of the outcomes we don’t want.”

Tory, the former CFL chairman, said the team has his “full support” to run a tailgate.

“I wanted to make it work both because I thought it was a sane way for responsible adults to entertain themselves, but also because I wanted to try and help the rebirth of the Argos,” he said. “I have the CFL in my blood both from being a fan as a boy, but also of being the chairman and the commissioner in days when it was pretty dark.”

Having struggled for years to build a fan base at Rogers Centre, the team needs to spark new interest in its new home. Earlier this month, the Argos dispatched players to a bar in nearby Liberty Village — an enclave of young professionals — behind the rallying cry of, “Who wants sangria?”

Tailgating has been a staple of football for generations in the United States, both at the collegiate and professional levels. Several versions have been attempted around Toronto, but usually revolving around a pedestrian area featuring expensive beer.

Part of that is tied to Ontario’s liquor laws, which have deep historical roots.

“There was a large population who felt that a lot of things were immoral,” said Dr. Ron Stagg, a professor in the department of history at Ryerson University. “And they were particularly immoral on Sundays, because Sunday was supposed to be reserved only for worshipping.”

In Ontario, until the late 1950s, Stagg said the government tied the purchase of alcohol to a kind of passport. One side would list the customer’s personal information, and the other would list their purchases.

“If you bought too much,” Stagg said, “they would ban you.”

In 1977, as the Blue Jays were preparing to make their big league debut, the Ontario government announced it would not allow beer to be sold at Exhibition Stadium. Fans were unhappy — sometimes chanting “We want beer” in the stands — but the protest never quite evolved into outrage.

“To be honest with you, they didn’t know any better,” said Howard Starkman, a long-time Blue Jays employee now working as a consultant with the team. “Most of the people who came to our games just really didn’t realize they were missing anything, other than people saying you were supposed to have a beer and a hotdog at a baseball game.”

Beer finally broke through in 1982.

The tailgate has taken a bit longer.

“Why it wasn’t done before? I can’t answer that question,” Copeland said. “I think, perhaps, people just didn’t pursue it to the extent that they may have been able to.”

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