Skeeters put bite on Esks practice

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:23 PM ET

Has any team in the history of sports ever moved a practice indoors because of mosquitoes before?

The Edmonton Eskimos did it Thursday.

Big bunch of burly football players. Scared inside by a bunch of little skeeters.

"I've never seen anything like it," said GM Eric Tillman.

"The next thing that's going to pop up on our injury report is malaria.

"It's like we're practising in a jungle!"

This is great. A city spends $125 million on improvements to Commonwealth Stadium, including an attached fieldhouse, and you make worldwide human-interest-story news because you cut the mosquito spray budget and the football team is running into the fieldhouse to save themselves from being eaten alive by the little buggers.

Kavis Reed, before coaching his third game Saturday against the B.C. Lions, becomes the first coach in football history to pull his team off the field and go indoors to practise because of mosquitoes?

"They were a distraction," he said. "They were flying into players eyes."

Kicker Damon Duval had to do his business outside in Commonwealth Stadium despite the mosquito infestation.

"I'm from Louisiana, where there are more mosquitoes than anywhere. And we're way up on the mosquito count here compared to there," said Duval.

"I had bug spray everywhere and I still got bit 30 times. I've never been anywhere before that the mosquitoes have been so bad we had to move inside," he said.

Equipment manager Dwayne Mandrusiak is in his 41st year with the Eskimos and he's flabbergasted.

"You'd have figured with artificial turf, mosquitoes wouldn't be a problem."

But they figured that out quick. The first couple of days they weren't there, but then they found out where the players were.

"I've never seen anything like this. We've asked the city to do something for Saturday for the comfort of the players and the fans, and hopefully that will happen.

"We've already gone through two years of mosquito repellent and only played two games so far. It looks like we're going to go through four or five years' worth," he said.

Try being Bruno Savard and his 30-man crew constructing grandstands, retaining walls, fences, building suites, paddocks and a media centre for the Edmonton Indy.

"We've ordered beekeepers' nets from our suppliers to cover the heads of our workers. I've never had to deal with anything like this before," he said of setting up the Formula One race in Montreal every year.

Savard happens to be allergic to mosquito repellent.

"I think I'm averaging about 30 bites per arm, per day so far," he said.

"It's insane."

Anne Roy, GM of the Edmonton Indy, says the city has promised to spray the area, especially near the grandstands, very close to the beginning of the event.

The City spends $3 million to back the race, and then cuts the mosquito budget so visitors from all over the world can go home and talk abut Edmonton's mosquitoes?

There is humour in here.

"You have to be careful when coaching third base at our ball park that you don't put on the hit and run at the wrong time because you were slapping a mosquito on the indicator sign," said Edmonton Capitals manager Orv Franchuk.

On Wednesday, one media wag tweeted after attending the FC Edmonton game:

"Carolina 1, Edmonton 1, Mosquitoes 1 billion."

FC Edmonton doesn't have an actual team nickname. Edmonton Mosquitoes is becoming a possibility.

"I think it's obvious Edmonton FC's mascot should be a giant mosquito," said defender Jeffrey Quijano of the second-place North American Soccer League team at Foote Field.

"Not even the mosquitoes were able to suck the life out of our fans," said Shaun Saiko.

Maybe. But the damn things are driving fans away.

And it's affecting not just pro sports but every family with a kid involved in any sport, or anybody with a set of golf clubs in a city which boasts more golf courses in a 20-mile radius of the city than anywhere in Canada.

Three things an Edmonton taxpayer wants: remove the snow; fix the potholes; spray for mosquitoes.

Edmonton is oh for three!

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones


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