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Winnipeg Blue Bombers topple Calgary Stampeders to clinch playoff spot

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Matt Nichols threw for more than 300 yards for the first time this season to help the Winnipeg Blue Bombers clinch a playoff spot with a 29-21 victory over the Calgary Stampeders on Friday.

The Bombers’ win (10-7) also eliminated the Edmonton Eskimos (8-9) from post-season play. Winnipeg ends the regular season in Edmonton next weekend.

Calgary (12-5), which has lost three straight, can still finish first in the CFL West Division if Saskatchewan (11-6) loses or ties its Saturday game in B.C. (9-7). If the Roughriders win, the Stampeders can get top spot if they beat the Lions in B.C. the following weekend.

It was the first time Winnipeg has defeated Calgary at home since July 2009. The Stamps had nine straight victories.

Nichols completed 24-of-33 pass attempts for 358 yards and threw touchdown passes to Darvin Adams and Drew Wolitarsky. He had no interceptions in front of 25,173 fans at Investors Group Field, which was covered in fog for the second half.

WATCH: Raw Matt Nichols Post Game Interview







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Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was 22 for 35 for 274 yards with one touchdown toss to Markeith Ambles and no picks for Calgary.

Adams caught a 50-yard TD pass and Wolitarsky hauled in a 60-yard reception for Winnipeg’s touchdowns through the air. Backup quarterback Chris Streveler had a two-yard run for a TD.

Justin Medlock booted a pair of field goals from 13 yards out and a 35-yarder for Winnipeg. He made a pair of converts and Nichols was sacked on a two-point convert attempt.

RELATED: ‘I don’t look at them as wounded’: Blue Bombers not underestimating injury-riddled Stamps

Backup Calgary quarterback Nick Arbuckle pushed in for a two-yard touchdown and Ambles had a one-yard TD catch. Two Calgary converts were unsuccessful. Rene Paredes made field goals from 43, 31 and 51 yards.

Calgary led 3-0 after the first quarter and 12-6 at halftime, but Winnipeg went ahead 26-18 after the third quarter.

Both teams scored field goals off turnovers in the first half.

WATCH: Raw Mike O’Shea Post Game Interview






Stampeders receiver Chris Matthews fumbled late in the first quarter as he stretched his arm out to gain more yardage. The Bombers only capitalized with Medlock’s 13-yarder at 4:19 of the second to make it 3-3. Parades had booted a 43-yarder on Calgary’s first possession of the game.

Matthews made up for his earlier error when he caught a 65-yard pass from Mitchell. A Winnipeg penalty also helped Arbuckle cap off the three-play, 75-yard TD drive with his two-yard keeper. A two-point convert attempt to William Langlais was incomplete for a 9-3 Stampeders lead at 5:17.

Paredes’ kickoff was taken by Bombers receiver Nic Demski, but he also fumbled while trying to add yardage. Calgary could only use the turnover for a 31-yard kick by Parades. Medlock finished the scoring with a 35-yard field goal at 12:46 that made it 12-6.

Four touchdowns were scored in the third quarter.

RELATED: ‘It was kind of a whirlwind experience’: Winnipeg’s Geoff Gray back from NFL after signing with Blue Bombers

Nichols still had a clear shot of Adams despite the fog. Adams got behind rookie Calgary defensive back DaShaun Amos to haul in a 50-yard pass in the end zone at 4:48 of the third. With Medlock’s convert, the Bombers took a 13-12 lead.

Calgary got to Winnipeg’s one-yard line on the next series after a Winnipeg pass-interference penalty, but Arbuckle was stopped twice. Mitchell came in, went in a shotgun formation and connected with receiver Ambles for the one-yard TD. A two-point convert pass to Juwan Brescacin failed.

Winnipeg quickly regained the lead after Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill forced Stamps running back Don Jackson to fumble. Streveler punched into the end zone at 13:42 for a 26-18 lead after the convert.

WATCH: Raw Adam Bighill Post Game Interview






The Bombers turned the ball over with 4:20 left in the fourth quarter after Streveler’s attempt at third down with one yard was stopped and Calgary took over at Winnipeg’s 28-yard line.

The Stampeders got to Winnipeg’s five-yard line, but on third down and five, Mitchell’s pass to Eric Rogers popped out. After a review, the call on the field stood and it was a Calgary turnover with 2:49 remaining in the game.

Winnipeg took over and ran time off the clock until Paredes booted a 51-yarder with three seconds left.

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Don Cherry comes back with a new show

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They may have knocked Don Cherry to the ice with a hit he didn’t see coming.

Now watch him get back up.

You people out there who want the 85-year-old Cherry back, here’s the news you have been hoping for.  You people who wanted him to fade away are out of luck as the former NHL coach of the year is going to be able to exercise his free speech, after all.

Don Cherry’s Grapevine is back once again. This time as a podcast.

Coach’s Corner may be “no more” as his one-time Hockey Night in Canada sidekick Ron MacLean announced on Saturday. Cherry was fired by Rogers and Sportsnet for his “you people” who “come here” comment that was misunderstood and later spun as discriminatory.

Cherry wanted his opportunity to properly explain it. Now he is going to get that chance.

You read it right: Don Cherry and his no-holds-barred views are coming back on the air.

The Toronto Sun has learned you won’t have to wait long for the first installment of the new Grapevine. It will drop Tuesday morning and be available on Spotify and other streaming services every Monday during the hockey season.

And yes, the very first one will address Cherry’s firing from Sportsnet.

“But that’s not all we talked about,” Cherry told me Monday. “We are talking hockey, of course. It’s going to be terrific. In this one I am talking about The Rocket (Maurice Richard), one of the all-time greats.”

One thing for sure about the new show is MacLean will not be in his foxhole.

So who will be?

You may have noticed the word “we” in Don’s comments and since so many scrutinize every word he says and what he means by it, I asked.

Turns out Grapes has a new co-host. And perhaps hosts.

“My son, Tim, is going to do it with me and my grandson Del,” said Grapes. 

At least he knows they won’t turn on him when the waters get rough as MacLean did.

“They did great,” Don said of Tim and Del. ”I think people are really going to enjoy this one and the ones we do down the road.”

Tim Cherry tells me the plan is to tape and post it every Monday.

“That way we cover off what happened on the weekend in hockey,” said Tim. “It’s going to be fun.”

For Don’s fans, who are already missing him and unlikely to tune into whatever Sportsnet comes up with to replace the 38-year-old segment, this will give them the opportunity to hear what he has to say. For Don himself, it will connect him with the hockey fans and players he loves while getting back on horse quickly.

It will be in audio broadcast to start with but Tim says it could grow into a TV-style show with cameras and sponsors.

If The Grapevine title sounds familiar it’s because Don’s television show, which Tim produced, was on the air from 1982-93 — filmed in Hamilton.

The new project will feature Don talking about the NHL and hockey and whatever he wants without any censorship.

If he wants to talk about poppies, he can do it without being fired. If he wants to talk about the troops or cops or firefighters or honour the fallen, no one can tell him to keep his nose out of it.

Mostly the plan is to talk hockey. And he won’t have just seven minutes to get it all out.

“The first podcast is about half an hour,” said Tim.

But if they ever find themselves in a position to need more time, or less, the beauty of podcasts is there are no constricting rules.

It also keeps Grapes in game shape while he considers other potential TV offers and opportunities.

Mostly it’s just the perfect outlet for Don Cherry to do what he does best: Be Don Cherry.

Yes Coach’s Corner is over: The new Grapevine has just been planted. Just call this the coach’s comeback! 

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Injuries sideline Habs Drouin, Byron indefinitely

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Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron will be out of the lineup indefinitely as the result of injuries they suffered in Friday night’s win over the Capitals in Washington.

Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron will be out of the lineup indefinitely as the result of injuries they suffered in Friday night’s win over the Capitals in Washington.

Drouin underwent wrist surgery on Monday, and Byron is scheduled to undergo knee surgery on Tuesday.

“We’ll a better idea of a timeline after the surgery,” coach Claude Julien said after the Canadiens practised in preparation for Tuesday’s road game against the Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio).

The Canadiens recalled Charles Hudon from Laval. He played Saturday against New Jersey and was sent back to the minors after the game.

Julien said Carey Price will start in goal, and he will wait to decide on a goaltender for Wednesday’s home game against the Ottawa Senators.

phickey@postmedia.com

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NHL commissioner says Ron MacLean spoke from the heart

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TORONTO — NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says Sportsnet broadcaster Ron MacLean “spoke from the heart” during his monologue on “Hockey Night in Canada” over the weekend.

MacLean opened the first intermission segment on Saturday night — the first since Cherry was fired last week — by speaking alone on camera for nearly five minutes.

Bettman, a panellist at today’s PrimeTime sports management conference in downtown Toronto, says MacLean “obviously made his feelings clear.”

Bettman declined to weigh in on Cherry’s departure, saying he’s not going to start another news cycle.

Cherry used the phrase, “You people,” during the “Coach’s Corner” segment on Nov. 9 but later denied that he was singling out visible minorities.

MacLean, who apologized the day after, talked at length about his close relationship with Cherry but said he had to choose “principle over friendship,” adding “Coach’s Corner is no more.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2019.

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