Seven questions to ponder for fall sports
by Blaine Meller
The Calgary Flames experiment. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of middle ground when it comes to the Flames re-acquiring forwards Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay, especially when it comes to the former. Jokinen was originally brought in to be the No. 1 centre for Jarome Iginla, yet in 75 games with the Flames, net- ted only 19 goals and 50 points and was a combined minus-5. Statistically, Tanguay fared significantly better, with 40 goals and 139 points in 128 games and a plus-23 rat- ing, but this past season in Tampa did not produce anywhere near those numbers. Can Tanguay rediscover the chemistry he had with Iginla, and can Jokinen produce the numbers expected of him without the pres- sure of having to be the top set-up man?
Can the Hitmen repeat? Watching the Hitmen defeat Brandon in Game 5 of the Western Hockey League Championship last season was some- thing very special. Over 15,000 fans in the Saddledome were boisterous right from the opening drop of the puck until well after the final horn sounded. Unfortunately, that suc- cess did not translate into a Memorial Cup title after losing to Brandon in the semi-fi- nals. Almost immediately, the questions be- gan: Can they do it again? The Hitmen will, in all probability, look very different this season, with any number of players mak- ing the jump to the NHL or AHL. Can coach Mike Williamson work his magic again this season?
Can the Stamps win the Grey Cup in Edmonton? Off to a strong 8-1 start this season, the Stampeders are surprising a lot of CFL pundits this season. The defense has been stifling, sitting first or sec- ond in 21 of 25 categories. The offence is looking stronger each game, but still looks to keep improving. The one question sur- rounding the Stamps has been special teams, where they have, on occasion, looked vulnerable to big plays. Still, with the locals falling in the West Final to Saskatchewan last season, thus failing to compete for the Grey Cup on their home turf, can the locals head to Edmonton in November and claim the championship in the home of their hated rivals?
CMA and UFC go toe-to-toe. The Canadian Medical Association has recommended to federal lawmakers that mixed martial arts (MMA) prize fight- ing be made illegal in Canada, ironically just days after the Ontario Government lifted its sanction of the sport beginning in 2011. With rumblings of a major Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) event in the works for Rogers Centre in Toronto next March, will an event that could draw 50,000 fans and contribute more than $6 million for the local economy be knocked out by the CMA, or will Dana White and the UFC finally make their way into their biggest pay-per-view (per capita) market in North America?
Is Tiger back on the prowl? With his divorce now finalized, can the world’s number one player finally get back to form? Tiger did finish fourth in two majors this year, the Masters and U.S. Open, but next to that, his top finish was 19th at the Memorial. Woods on-course issues have been many; poor driving, iron play and putting, and his personal demons have been much publicized. With Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood and a plethora of 20-somethings on his tail, can Tiger fend off the charge and return to dominance?
Is Favre past his prime? Show of hands: How many people were sick and tired of the “will he or won’t he” Brett Favre saga after about an hour? Finally, we got his answer, and the NFL’s elder quarterback statesman decided he would return for one more run with the Minnesota Vikings. Can the 40-year-old repeat the performance that got the Vikings to within one game of the Super Bowl? Can he stay healthy? And the biggest question of all: How long will we have to wait for his decision on next season, if there actually is a season to be played?
The CIS invades America. The Simon Fraser University football team will have a completely different look this season. That’s because 2010 will serve as SFU’s first season in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, and their first season playing American rules after eight seasons in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) ranks. The University is defending its ven- ture into the NCAA Division 2 ranks, where it will play teams from Washington State, Oregon, California and Utah after going 3-5 in CIS play. How long will it be until an- other CIS team decides to test the American market?