CFL parity makes for fab finish

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 12:12 PM ET

If only the B.C. Lions and Hamilton Tiger-Cats would have cooperated, we'd be in the middle of a CFL season that would be a model for parity.

I mean, if you just forget about first place in the West, which belongs to the 8-0 Lions as long as they keep one of their two great quarterbacks healthy, the playoff races couldn't be better.

Montreal has finally come down to the rest of the pack in the East, but nobody's been good enough to take their place as the front-runner.

With just one win separating the Alouettes, Toronto and Ottawa, all three could still finish as high as first -- or out of the playoffs altogether.

CROSSOVER POSSIBILITY

That's because of the crossover possibility: the Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan aren't just two points out of the third and final playoff spot in the West, they're also two points behind third in the East.

Only the 0-8 Tabbies spoil the landscape, and who could have predicted the hard times that have hit Hamilton's Greg Marshall, the reigning CFL coach of the year?

Some other thoughts, dots and what-nots as we reach the mid-point of the football season ...

HEAD CASE? Memo to the Argonauts: I hope Sean Millington is more effective coming out of retirement as a player than he was as a TV commentator. That Millington, at 37, is making a comeback after nearly three years out of the game only reinforces the notion he took a few too many shots to the head during his brilliant career -- a notion that crossed your mind as you listened to him on CBC broadcasts ... A former Bomber, Millington's peak as a player came in B.C., when he teamed with Cory Philpot to form the Thunder and Lightning backfield. What do we call him and John Avery in Toronto -- Old and Creaky? ... Why is anyone surprised at the shaky camera work and bad sound quality from Saturday's Edmonton-Toronto broadcast? If CBC management types can screw up the corporation so badly, what makes us think they can point a camera?

ALL TALK, ANY ACTION? The NHL can blather on all it wants about rule changes like allowing two-line passes and reducing the size of goaltender equipment.

But if it doesn't hold true to the promise to crack down on obstruction, it won't have accomplished anything, hockey-wise, during the lockout.

A couple of former pros, in town for a charity golf tournament yesterday, have similar feelings.

"I think they're on the right path," Kirk Muller, a six-time all-star who retired three years ago, said. "The nice thing is they're experimenting, and are aware of it. Who knows? The biggest thing is if they can eliminate that hooking and holding. That will be such a huge impact on the hockey. To me, that's the big one."

Former Winnipeg Jet and Hockey Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuk agreed.

As much as Hawerchuk would have thrived accepting long-bomb, two-line passes through centre, he put up big numbers anyway during his 16-year career.

"Back then the big thing was they really called everything," Hawerchuk said. "You couldn't hook, you couldn't hold up. The interference was always called. The bigger defenceman back then had to learn how to skate, because he couldn't get away with hooking and holding. But it slowly crept in and became a problem."

Hawerchuk and Muller took part in former Winnipegger Rod Black's ninth annual "Keep Them in School" fundraiser at Elmhurst yesterday, and helped raise another $25,000 or so for student bursaries and scholarships for kids in the River East Transcona School Division.

Muller will have to get used to the new red-line rules -- he's the new head coach of the Queen's University hockey program, and the CIS has been allowing two-line passes for years.


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