Tough to get up this morning to cover the commissioner’s state of the league address at nine bells. It was a busy day on Thursday, traditionally the busiest news day at the Grey Cup because of media opportunities to speak to one team at a breakfast and another team at lunch, followed by the player awards. But it didn’t end there.
Afterward, the Canadian Football League Players’ Association had its After Party. Former Ticat and Argo Mike Morreale, who heads up the PA’s marketing arm, Pro Players, encouraged media to attend. What a bash!
It took place in Old Montreal, which in some places still has cobblestone streets. I’ve walked through this area of town in the summer and it’s gorgeous.
The party took place at a lavish banquet hall called the Marche Bonsecours. Unfortunately by the time we arrived, we couldn’t seem to find an entrance point, and with the temperature hovering below the freezing point and the wind chill adding to it was cold. Really cold. Ted Hellard, the managing partner of the Calgary Stampeders, arrived with his wife and some friends, including one named Derek, who looked like a cross between a member of the Allman Brothers with his long hair and a defensive lineman. He was huge. As we all searched for an entrance point, Ted remarked it was darn cold.
“As cold as Calgary?” I asked.
“Colder. In Calgary there’s no moisture in the air.”
We finally made it in. I spotted Hamilton Tiger-Cat running back Jesse Lumsden, his arm in a sling from recent shoulder surgery. I told him to get better and wondered in my mind if he will sign with Edmonton in a couple months as a free agent.
We tried to get into the V.I.P. area, but didn’t make it because Morreale, speaking on a wireless microphone, was trying to encourage people to move to other areas in the party to lessen the obvious congestion. And I always thought V.I.P. stood for Very Important Perry.
As we moved about, we spotted brothers Wally and Steve Zatylny, both of whom played in the CFL. I knew Wally from his one year covering the Argos for its radio broadcast team. Wally is one of the funniest guys in CFL history, and we recalled the time he interviewed Argo head coach Don Matthews for his pre-game segment. Wally was encouraged by the radio producer to ask Matthews about the team’s signing of linebacker Mike O’Shea and allegations the Argos were going over the salary cap?
Matthews looked at Wally with a steely demeanour and told him to F.U. twice and then walked away.
“Wally, if you’re going to get tough in an interview,” I said upon hearing Matthews’ response, “ask four or five easy questions and then hit them with the hard one, that way you’ll at least get some something on tape.”
We also laughed about the time we were in Regina and heavily inebriated and en route to Casino Regina with Argo media director Dave Watkins, who was also feeling good if you catch my drift, detoured into a bingo hall. To give you the short version of what happened, we kept yelling bingo even though we didn’t win and were told to leave.
Steve Zatylny, whom I had never met, played in Winnipeg and is the host of the team’s big bash in Grey Cup week. He encouraged me to come visit it. Hey, Steve, I’m here to work, not party.
Shortly thereafter, as if fate decreed it, O’Shea happened by with Argo teammate Jeff Johnson, who was looking for a ticket to Sunday’s game. I told him I’d talk to some people I knew and try to hook him up.
Then we spotted Winnipeg towering defensive tackle Doug Brown and his lady Christine. Doug told Christine how I played up in a column that he had no shot against B.C.’s Cameron Wake for the top defensive player award. I was right. But Doug is a fine man.
Then Argo defensive tackle Adriano Belli, The Kissing Bandit. walked over to us and immediately planted a kiss on a woman who is a dead ringer for my wife Jane. He didn’t kiss me, but pinched a part of my anatomy which rhymes with hit. Adriano, if you didn’t know, is a touchy-feely guy, regardless of the gender.
To add to the list of who’s who we saw Tracy and Jody O’Billovich, daughters of Hamilton GM Bob O’Billovich and his wife Judy. I often kid Bob about his voice and do imitations of him — as do many people — but he says I’m too nasally.
And then Sportsnet CFL commentator Adrion (Peewee) Smith came over to say hello. Earlier in the day I helped make a few bucks on a transaction involving a case of beer which all the members of the Football Reporters of Canada were given or two bottles of whiskey if they preferred. I took the whiskey. Adrion sold his case to Hamilton Spectator football reporter Ken Peters for $20. So Adrion used some of his money to buy me a beer.
Soon it was time to leave and we spotted broadcaster Cabral Richards, better known as Cabbie. He was impeccably dressed, but made a key fashion faux pas with his shiny white shoots. Cabbie, no white after Labour Day. Cabbie was with former Fan 590 reporter Dave Krikst, who is the co-producer of Cabbie’s segments.
“You don’t who I am?” he said. “I’m Dave Krikst, you used to give me Twizzlers at the Argo games.”
“Sorry, Dave. But just so you’ll know I don’t do that anymore because of my high cholesterol.”
While waiting for a cab, we spotted Hellard’s gang and I told one guy he looked like a guy in the Allman Brothers.
“That’s not bad,” he said, “and then bumped me aside and stole our cab.
On the way back to the hotel, we shared a cab with Lee Grenier of the Calgary Stampeders’ business operations. He’s been with the Stamps for 15 years, an absolute eternity in the CFL, hired originally by Larry (Hair Weave) Ryckman.
What a night. Now time to hear The Commish.