Blue on road early, often

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

Mike Kelly won't have to wait long to face his old team.

The first-year head coach will take his Winnipeg Blue Bombers into Edmonton for the 2009 season opener, July 2.

"It's fun. It's good for the league," Kelly said yesterday. "There will be added interest in the two communities."

Kelly bolted Edmonton after one season as the team's receivers coach, taking fellow assistants Ronnie Vinklarek and Rick Campbell with him.

He's since traded for quarterback Stefan LeFors, who played behind Eskimos starter Ricky Ray the last two years, and indicated LeFors has a chance to be the Bombers' No. 1 quarterback this year.

If that won't be a stiff enough test for Kelly's program, the Bombers' first home game surely will.

The CFL schedule, released yesterday, has Winnipeg hosting the defending Grey Cup champion Calgary Stampeders on Friday, July 10.

That's one of just three Bomber home games over the first 10 weeks of the season, including the team's bye week.

"It gives me a chance to hide," Kelly joked. "I'm not thrilled with that part of it, because we have a definite advantage playing at home. But you can also twist it the other way: down the stretch we're not travelling that much.

"I hope and think we can do better, but if you come out of the first half of the season at .500, you've got a real chance down the back stretch, with playing that many at home, to come out with quite a season."

Over the last nine weeks of the season, Winnipeg plays six home games, including two occasions of back-to-back home games within six days of each other -- which can be challenging for ticket sales.

"That is interesting," Bomber president/CEO Lyle Bauer said. "Overall our marketing department is pretty pleased with it."

For the first time in three years, the Bombers will be forced to play a home game on a summer weekend (Sat., Aug. 15, vs. Montreal).

"You don't always get what you want," Bauer said. "Not everybody has a cottage. We've planned for that. And there are certain things that are driven and requested by television. We work very hard with them to try to get what fits."

Winnipeg has three home games on Fridays, three on Saturdays and three on Sundays. There's also the traditional home-and-home series with Saskatchewan, and four games against Montreal.

The CFL schedule opens with a double-header on Canada Day: Toronto at Hamilton and Montreal at Calgary.

It's a later schedule than the last few years, ending Sunday, Nov. 8.

2009 BLUE BOMBERS SCHEDULE

(Home games BOLD; local times)

PRE-SEASON

Wed., June 17: WINNIPEG VS. HAMILTON, 7 p.m.

Tue., June 23: Winnipeg at Montreal, 6 p.m.

REGULAR SEASON

Thurs., July 2: Winnipeg at Edmonton, 8 p.m.

Fri., July 10: WINNIPEG VS. CALGARY, 6:30 p.m.

Sat., July 18: Winnipeg at Hamilton, 5 p.m.

Fri., July 24: WINNIPEG VS. TORONTO, 6:30 p.m.

Thurs., July 30: Winnipeg at Toronto, 5:30 p.m.

Sat., Aug. 8: Winnipeg at Calgary, 8:30 p.m.

Sat., Aug. 15: WINNIPEG VS. MONTREAL, 7 p.m.

Fri., Aug. 21: Winnipeg at B.C., 9:30 p.m.

BYE WEEK

Sun. Sept. 6: Winnipeg at Saskatchewan, 6:30 p.m.

Sun., Sept. 13: WINNIPEG VS. SASKATCHEWAN, 3 p.m.

Sun., Sept. 20: Winnipeg at Montreal, 12 noon.

Sat., Sept. 26: WINNIPEG VS TORONTO, 8 p.m.

Fri., Oct. 2: WINNIPEG VS. EDMONTON, 6:30 p.m.

Mon., Oct. 12: Winnipeg at Hamilton, 3:30 p.m.

Sun., Oct. 18: WINNIPEG VS. B.C., 4 p.m.

Sat., Oct. 24: WINNIPEG VS. MONTREAL, 1:30 p.m.

Sun., Nov. 1: Winnipeg at Montreal, 12 noon.

Sun., Nov. 8: WINNIPEG VS. HAMILTON, 12 noon.


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