Canucks deserve headsets

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:23 AM ET

It always seemed strange to me the way the Canadian Football League turned its back on homegrown coaches.

The game played for Canadians, by a large number of Canadians, for some reason has almost always been coached by Americans.

While some have been wildly successful in making the transition from the four-down game -- Don Matthews and Hugh Campbell come to mind -- others, such as Darryl Rogers and Forrest Gregg, have fallen flat on their faces at the 55-yard line.

Through it all, hardly anybody thought to give Canadians who'd watched and studied the game their whole lives much of a chance.

Until now, we're happy to say.

By now you've heard the Edmonton Eskimos this week hired their first Canadian head coach in more than half a century, in Danny Maciocia.

That comes on the heels of the signing of Jim Daley by the Blue Bombers to a multi-year deal, which followed the hiring of Greg Marshall in Hamilton last winter.

In less than 12 months, the sidelines of the CFL have become more red-and-white, minus the blue, than they've ever been, at least in the modern era.

Just one year ago, Wally Buono was the only Canuck in charge of his own team. Today, four of nine teams have hosers at the helm.

That's not a trend, it's an about-face.

Around here, of course, we've always known the value of a homegrown head knock.

Where Yanks Ray Jauch, Bud Riley and Jim Spavital had failed, Winnipeg-born Cal Murphy led the Bombers to their first Grey Cup title in 22 years back in 1984.

Funny thing is, not even Murphy hired a Canadian coach after moving up to the GM's chair two years later.

It's a different CFL today.

In Hamilton, give credit to the gutsy decision by new owner Bob Young, who allowed Marshall to become the first head coach to jump directly from the Canadian college ranks (McMaster University). Marshall's success in turning the Tabbies around only bodes well for the next guy.

In Edmonton, Maciocia took a less orthodox route to the pros, cutting his teeth in Canadian junior football in Montreal before serving several seasons as a CFL assistant.

Daley and Buono, of course, have been around for a while. It's about time they had some company.

There's nothing wrong with bringing Americans up here to coach.

But we're finding out there's nothing wrong with Canadians, either.

You can only wonder why it took so long for the CFL to figure it out.

FLIP-FLOP: Ticketmaster and the folks over at True North Sports, who run the new rink, are getting an earful from fans who want to see Canada play two tune-up games for the World Junior Hockey Championship.

The Rink at Eaton's will host Canada-Finland, Dec. 20, Finland-Switzerland, Dec. 21 and Canada-Switzerland, Dec. 22, before all three teams leave for the big tournament in Grand Forks.

Fans still can't get individual game tickets, even though they were supposed to go on sale last Saturday.

"We changed our minds, that is correct," True North's Kevin Donnelly said yesterday. "There was a bit of a misstep there. We're hearing a couple of those complaints."

Donnelly says the three-game packages are selling so well (4,000, and counting) they won't begin selling single games for another week or so.

In fact, he's convinced Winnipeggers will be so jacked about seeing top-level junior hockey again, he'll have to open the upper decks, expanding capacity from 8,800 to 15,000.

"The event is going to be a slam-dunk," Donnelly predicted. "I think we're going to be north of 10,000. Once we put individual seats on sale, it's going to explode."

Then what are you waiting for?


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