Saturday, February 27, 2010

Gryphons sweep Gaels: Off to OUA finals

Five different Guelph Gryphons found the back of the net as the team swept their best-of-three series against the Queen's Gaels on Saturday afternoon with a 5-2 victory over the visitors. The Gryphons will once again play for the provincial title, with their opponent to be the Laurier Golden Hawks, in what will be a rematch of last year's championships series when the 'Hawks went on to defeat the Gryphs for their 5th consecutive championship.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Speculation on Walters' replacement

Call it a hunch, but I've gotta think that Bill Brown, current assistant coach with the Gryphons, has to be a leading candidate to replace the recently-departed Kyle Walters as head coach of the Gryphons. Walters stepped down today to pursue professional coaching opportunities and I've heard that he's the guy taking over as Special Teams Coordinator with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL.

Brown is a guy who has a lot of familiarity with the team, as a current longtime coach and former player (the same mould as Walters prior to his hiring). Additionally, he is also heavily involved with the recruiting element of the team, which would maintain a sense of continuity with incoming players. Brown's team bio can be found HERE. I'll let you infer from this what you will, but it seems like a sensible hire.

I'll echo what many others out there are saying that the Gryphons football program is seemingly on the rise. To maintain that level of improvement, Brown seems like a logical choice. Here, you've got a guy familiar with current and future players, as well as other coaches.

This will be a VERY interesting story going forward that I'm really looking forward to covering in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Gryphtalk, in case you missed it

Had a great show today. Ken Cheesy and I broke down the week that was in Gryphons athletics, including information from the men's and women's hockey playoffs where both teams are in their respective semifinals.

We also heard from Elizabeth McLeod, a U of G student who just got back from Vancouver where she got to check out the Olympic Games. Liz is friends with Jeff Batchelor from the men's halfpipe snowboarding team. She had some great things to say about her experiences out west.

Ken and I were also lucky enough to get to break the news that Gryphons football head coach Kyle Walters has stepped down to pursue other opportunities. While rumours are yet to be confirmed, it's been speculated that Walters will accept the position of Special Teams Coordinator with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL. We broke this news here on Speak into the Mike earlier today, and it quickly found its way around the Twitterverse as well.

So, for Guelph's only sports talk radio show, Gryphtalk can be found RIGHT HERE. The download link is at the bottom of the page.

Remember, we can be found every Friday from noon-12:30 on CFRU 93.3FM in Guelph and on the web at as well as Check it out and stay tuned for more information on the Walters story. Stay up to date by following me at


Walters steps down in Guelph. Off to Winnipeg?

University of Guelph Gryphons head coach Kyle Walters has stepped down and rumour has it that he will be named Special Teams Coordinator with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL, filling their second-last coaching vacancy.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Kiriakou wins OUA West rookie honours

Word just came down from the OUA that Gryphons rookie centre Thomas Kiriakou has been named OUA West Rookie of the Year, along with being named to the West's All-Rookie team.

OT heartbreak: Gryphons fall to Thunderwolves in Game 1 of OUA West semis

Things just got a whole lot tougher for the Guelph Gryphons men's hockey team.

Despite a miraculous third period comeback that saw the Gryphs rebound from a 3-1 deficit to send the opening game of their playoff series with Lakehead to overtime, it was the Thunderwolves who came out on top as Andy Hyvarinen scored an unassisted goal just 2:01 into the extra frame.

Racing for a loose puck against Gryphons defenceman Tim Priamo, Hyvarinen came up with it as Priamo fell. The Thunderwolves winger streaked in from the right half-boards and beat Gryphons goaltender Scott Van Bommel high on the glove side to give Lakehead the series-opening victory in the teams' best-of-three OUA West semi-final.

The game itself was fast-paced from start to finish, with the Gryphons striking first when Pat Campbell banged in a rebound off a great rush from Matt Lyall, who was sharp all game for the Gryphons, along with linemates Alex Magera and JT MacDonald who got a rare start, but played well.

Lakehead stormed back in the second period, controlling most of the play and receiving goals from Dan Speer and Ryan MacDonald, sending the game to the third period with the Gryphons in unfamiliar territory: trailing.

As the final period began, it was Lakehead who struck first as Matt Caria beat Van Bommel on a well-placed shot that went between the legs of Campbell before slipping through the Gryphon goaltender's pads.

Desperately needing a spark, the Gryphons received it less than a minute later when Thunderwolves defenceman Ryan Baird took an interference penalty, sending Guelph to the powerplay. And on the man advantage, the Gryphons standout rookie trio of Thomas Kiriakou, Nathan Martine and Tim Priamo struck as Martine kept a loose puck in at the blueline, finding Kiriakou just outside the right face-off circle. Kiriakou faked a shot and then fired a cross-ice pass just outside the crease to Priamo who was streaking in from the blueline. The big Gryphon rearguard tipped home Kiriakou's pass to bring the Gryphons within one.

And exactly four minutes later, Kris Belan ripped home a shot from the slot to tie the game at three, sending both teams to overtime, with the Gryphons holding momentum and 'Wolves rookie goaltender Alex Dupuis looking shaken, and struggling with his rebound control.

Nevertheless, it was Lakehead's time to shine in the extra frame with Hyvarinen's game-winner. Priamo was visibly shaken after the play, feeling that he had been tripped by Hyvarinen, leading to the goal. Dupuis, despite playing just three games in the regular season, has taken the lion's share of playing time in the post-season and did just enough to keep the Gryphons at bay, stopping 27 shots for his third playoff win.

The series now shifts to Thunder Bay where the Gryphons will have to win the final two games at the Lakehead Thunderdome, a notoriously difficult place to play. While the Gryphs took two on the road in their quarter-final series with Laurier, the atmosphere in T-Bay will be far more hostile, clearly favouring the home side.

Saving their best for last: Gryphons repeat as OUA figure skating champions

For the second consecutive year, the Guelph Gryphons figure skating team are the OUA Champions.

The Gryphons team went right down to the wire in their quest to repeat as the province’s best and after Wednesday’s first day of events, the anxious Gryphons sat in third place going into last Thursday’s finals, trailing Waterloo by three and Western by just two.

And still lagging in the overall standings going into the final two events, the Gryphons needed a pair of incredible performances to knock of the first-place Western Mustangs and reclaim the provincial throne.

And in the final two events, the Gryphons displays were just that. Incredible.

Krista Ricciati and Tessa Mailling finished on top of the senior similar pairs and in the final event of the two-day spectacle at RIM Park in Waterloo, the Gryphons won the synchronized team event to secure the overall title.

With 78 points, the Gryphons finished with a mere seven-point advantage over the silver medalists from Western. Waterloo finished third overall with 61.

Ricciati and Mailling were by no means the only Gryphons to medal at the provincial championships. From the first day forward, a number of Gryphon women found themselves on the podium, led by gold medal performances by Laura Barbison and Ariel Porty in the senior silver similar dance, and Rebecca Wilkes and Christine Kucava in bronze rhythm dance fours. These six gold medal winning women were also rewarded with nominations to the OUA all-star team. It was the second consecutive all-star nomination for Barbison and Porty who were both gold medalists in 2008-09 as well.

Charlotte Drewett took silver in the senior silver free skate, while Wilkes and Kucava returned to the podium with a silver medal in the STARSkate gold creative dance. Sandra McCubbin was the fourth Gryphon silver medalist in the senior silver solo dance.

Mailling also picked up her second medal of the championships when she, Laura Stratton, Lauren Black and Charlotte Hoyle won bronze in the pairs fours.

The overall title was the third time in their history that the Gryphons have landed atop the overall podium as well as the third consecutive year that they have been in the top two.
For her efforts, Gryphons head coach Janet Gibson received her second OUA Coach of the Year award in the past three seasons as she has remarkably turned the program around in her five years of leading the team.

The Gryphons have been among the OUA’s best teams all season, taking overall silver medals at both the Ryerson and Queen’s Invitationals. Last week’s performance in Waterloo, however, proved that this remarkably talented team was saving its best results for the finale.

Payne captures elusive CIS gold: Three Gryphons land on podium at national championships

After winning CIS bronze in her first year as a Gryphon and silver at the end of last season, the top perch of the national podium was within reach for Chantique Payne as she participated in her third set of championships races on the weekend.

One of the country’s most explosive and talented butterfly swimmers, Payne was scheduled to take part in both the 50 and 100-metre events in Toronto as well as the freestyle races at the same distances.

And after placing third and capturing bronze in the 100-metre butterfly event on Thursday, head coach Don Burton knew that his most talented female swimmer was setting herself up for something special for the 50-metre event on Friday, her trademark race.

“In the past, Chantique has had trouble finishing the four lengths in the 100-metre butterfly but that wasn’t the case this time,” said Burton. “Taking bronze in the 100 made gold in the 50-metre event that much more of a reality.”

“I’d never medaled in the 100-metre butterfly and I was going against the Canadian record-holder in that event,” said Payne. “I was really happy to get a medal in that race and then move on to the 50.”

In dramatic fashion, after a brilliant turn, the Gryphon captain cruised to victory in the 50-metre race, completing two laps in 27.34 seconds to take the national title.

“I was a little bit nervous at the beginning. I felt some pressure,” said Payne of her feelings before the race. “But once I dove into the pool, I was focusing on not breathing. I was focusing on the wall and on my turn. I try to use my turns to pass people, and that’s what I did. In the final 25 metres, I was just trying to hang on and finish first.”

Payne was not the only Gryphon swimmer to stand atop the podium during the three-day series of events. Andrew Ford, a second-year swimmer and, according to Burton, a world-class athlete, took home a pair of gold medals in the 100-metre backstroke and 200-metre individual medley events, along with a silver in the 200-metre back. Ford’s three-medal haul occurred on the final two days of events after an underwhelming first day that saw him place a surprising ninth in the 400-metre IM.

“The first day was not a good one for Andrew at all,” said Burton. “We had a lot of talking to do after that day and he needed to be in a better racing mode, mentally. He definitely did that on Saturday.

“The mental aspect is very important and he and I talked about that after the first day of races. He really came into his own on the final two days.”
Bethany Flemington, in just her first year as a Gryphon, also found the podium with a bronze medal finish in the women’s 50-metre back.

Both the Gryphon men’s and women’s teams finished ninth overall and Burton was extremely pleased with his athletes. Only two Gryphon women were participating in the national championships but Guelph still finished third among OUA schools, an improvement over their seventh place finish at the provincial championships.

“We only had two women competing at the national championships, but Chantique and Bethany are so fast that we were beating teams that had up to ten women,” said Burton. “From a performance side, we do very well, and now I’m really trying to get more men and women into this school because we’re all about high performance.”

Road Warriors: Gryphons take two in Waterloo, steal quarter-final series from Golden Hawks

Just two months ago, the Gryphon men’s hockey team was among the bottom-feeders in the OUA West division, heading into the holiday break dejected and wondering just what had gone wrong in the first half of their season.

2010, however, has been an entirely different story as the Gryphons have emerged in the second half as one of the most dominant teams in the league. That dominance carried through in their quarter-final playoff series against the Laurier Golden Hawks, as the Gryphons won the third and final game of the series, 3-2 in Waterloo, on Sunday night.

The Golden Hawks entered the playoff round as the favourite, having finished fourth in the West division during the regular season, while the Gryphons were fifth. Behind 31 saves from Scott Van Bommel and two points from Kris Belan, the Gryphons erased the Golden Hawks home-ice advantage on Thursday night with a 3-0 victory.

In Saturday’s second game of the series, however, the Gryphons were stonewalled by Hawks goaltender Jeff MacDougald who made 34 saves to give Laurier a 3-2 win, sending the series back to Waterloo for the third and decisive game on Sunday evening.

“The first game was a huge win for us,” said centre Thomas Kiriakou. “But in the second game, we weren’t as hungry for the puck and Laurier just wanted to battle more. We sat back in the first half of the game and they capitalized on everything.”

And in the final game, the Gryphon offence picked up the slack, beating MacDougald four times and adding an empty-netter as the Gryphons won 5-3. Captain Derek Knowles had three assists, Ed Gale scored twice, and the Gryphons didn’t take any team penalties to secure the series win, sending them to the next round. The semi-final will be another best-of-three series against Lakehead, which began last night in Guelph after the Ontarion went to press.

Arguably the two most critical factors that plagued the Gryphons in the first half of the season was a lack of goal-scoring up front and stability in net. Both of these deficiencies were solved after the winter break, however, as Van Bommel emerged as the number one goaltender, and the top line of Gale, Kiriakou and Belan established themselves as one of the most explosive and cohesive units in the league.

“A lot of us are new players and it doesn’t just take a couple of games to gel. For us, it took half a season,” said Kiriakou. “And with Scott (Van Bommel), you’re always going to get 200 per cent. He’s a small guy, maybe the smallest in the league, but he’s got the biggest heart and he’ll do whatever it takes to win. We know that and we have so much confidence in him.”

Kiriakou’s 32 points led the team and left him just outside of the top 20 in league scoring in just his rookie season. Belan’s team-leading 16 goals was good for tenth in the province and Gale was a constant playmaking threat who was more than willing to do the dirty work in the corners and create chances with his speed.

“(Head coach) Shawn Camp did a lot of line juggling and he found great chemistry between Kris, Ed and myself,” said Kiriakou. “We’ve also found great chemistry in our second, third and fourth lines. We have four very strong lines now.”

With the semi-finals underway, the Gryphons continue to be one of the more revered teams in the league and are now just steps away from a berth in the division finals.

“You only need seven [playoff] wins to win an OUA championship,” said Kiriakou. “We’ve got two right now. It’s going to be a great series.”

Friday, February 19, 2010

Gryphtalk is here!

Not sure why I didn't do this sooner, but after 7 weeks of sports talk radio, I'm going to start posting a link to the audio for my radio show here on the website. This is my weekly sports talk radio show that I co-host with Ken Cheesy about Guelph athletics. It airs every Friday at noon on CFRU 93.3FM in Guelph and on the web at

You can also find the same audio file at as Matt and Chris have generously offered to publish the link to my show. Check them out, it's great university sports content.

Matt was this week's guest on our show. Check out the following LINK for Gryphtalk from Friday, February 19, 2010. The download is at the bottom of the page. Thanks for reading/listening.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Down, but not out: Van Doormaal leads by example

In previous editions of this column, I have attempted to draw attention to courageous performances, as I believe that these are the events worth writing about, regardless of the outcome.

You may remember that I previously compared the Yates Cup performance of hobbled Western Mustangs quarterback, Michael Faulds, to the display of strength by former Toronto Maple Leaf, Bobby Baun in the 1964 Stanley Cup playoffs.

I suppose that Gryphon swimmer Scott Van Doormaal’s performance at the OUA Championships last Thursday should be mentioned in a similar light. Here was an athlete, so determined, and so competitive that he would risk further injury at the pinnacle of his sport.

Back in December, Van Doormaal, the senior-most member of the Gryphons team and one of the elected captains, broke his foot. I can only imagine how a swimmer could contend with such an injury, but I suppose, as a former baseball player, I could liken it to breaking a pitching arm, just weeks before the playoffs began.

Nevertheless, Van Doormaal remained committed to competing, committed to providing his team with the kind of leadership that captains are expected to demonstrate to their teammates.

It’s worth noting that Van Doormaal is much more than merely your average swimmer with this Gryphons team. Aside from being a team captain, the fifth-year student-athlete was, and still is, a nationally-renowned competitor, who would have been a major threat to stand on the podium in the upcoming CIS championship races.

In each of his previous four seasons with the Gryphons, Van Doormaal had won multiple medals at the OUA championship level, excelling in both the medium and long distance races. 2010 would have likely been no different and along with Andrew Ford and a host of other supremely talented Gryphon men, this team was poised to be a profound national threat.

Nevertheless, at least from an individual perspective, Van Doormaal’s season was derailed by the now-infamous broken foot.

But despite the obvious physical limitations, there was no breaking of his competitive spirit. Broken foot notwithstanding, Van Doormaal was there to compete.

Now keep in mind that I did not personally observe this event. This column is, instead, a recollection of stories that have been communicated to me by others who did happen to bear witness to the men’s 1500m freestyle race at Brock University this past weekend. Gryphons team head coach, Don Burton, had his fair share of superlatives when describing what happened in St. Catharines

“Swimming with one foot is virtually impossible,” said Burton. “Scott did a phenomenal job of leading by example, above and beyond the call of anything that anyone would’ve ever expected of him.”

“We all know what it’s like to have injuries,” said fellow captain Chantique Payne. “Just to see how Scott tried to step up and [compete] for our team, it was really inspirational.”
The stories all have the same message: Van Doormaal’s performance was nothing short of phenomenal.

Requiring the aid of crutches to approach the blocks at the start of the race, Van Doormaal hit the water for 30 laps of one-footed competition against the province’s most accomplished (two-footed) distance swimmers. Competing against the province’s best, Van Doormaal finished 14th overall in the 1500m race, taking three points for his team.

The result, though incredible, is not the story here. It’s the effort that makes this story so compelling, so newsworthy.

Time and time again, university athletes have proven themselves to be the ultimate competitors. And so long as these stories exist, I will continue to publish them. Too often, stories in the media highlight the negatives associated with athletics; these stories are stale and often, unworthy. If you have a story about a local athlete that defies expectations for the purpose of competing, I want to hear these narratives. This is the space for those refreshing tales.

Ford, Payne shine at OUA Championships

Going up against perennial powerhouse squads from U of T and Western, the Gryphons swimming teams proved that they belonged to be mentioned among the province’s best schools at the OUA Championships last weekend in St. Catharines.

Led by a several dominant individual performances by Andrew Ford and Chantique Payne, who were both named OUA all-stars following the meet, Gryphon swimmers combined to win six gold, one silver and seven bronze medals over the four-day event, hosted by Brock University.

Ford’s gold medal haul began on Friday with a winning performance in the men’s 200m individual medley, and followed that up with another gold medal win in the 100m backstroke race on Saturday. Ford finished the tournament magnificently with two more individual gold medals in the 400m IM and 200m backstroke on Sunday and his four-day winnings of four gold and two bronze medals gave him the male Dr. Jeno Tihanyi IM award, along with his all-star nomination.

“Andrew is a world-class athlete and his goal is to make the Olympic team,” said head coach Don Burton. “To win all of his events at the OUA level fits right in with that plan.”

Will Wright, Matthew Stephenson and Ben Roberts, who also received an OUA all-star nod, were the other Gryphon individual medal winners as the men’s team finished with 468 points, good for fourth place overall and an improvement over last year’s fifth-place finish.

On the women’s side, Payne continued to assert herself as one of the country’s most prolific athletes, particularly in the butterfly events, as she won a pair of gold medals in the women’s 50m and 100m butterfly races, along with a bronze medal in the 100m freestyle competition, earning her OUA all-star status.

“Chantique’s 50m butterfly time was hundredths of a second away from being her personal best,” said Burton. “Considering she didn’t have her best turn or finish, it was a very fast time for her final result and it shows that she has potential to go even faster.”

“I’ve been working really hard on my turns and usually they’re pretty good,” said Payne. “For some reason, my split times were way off [at OUAs] but it pulled together ok.”

Payne’s spectacular performances, along with a bronze medal finish by Bethany Flemington in the women’s 50m backstroke were enough to earn the Gryphon women a seventh-place finish with 262 points.

Payne’s 2009-10 season has been nothing short of outstanding. The third-year swimmer appears poised to make numerous appearances on the podium at the CIS national championships in Toronto later this month, where she qualified for no fewer than ten different events, yet in accordance with league rules, is only allowed to compete in four. Payne will be among the favourites in the butterfly and freestyle strokes, both at the 50m and 100m distances.

“I’m really excited for these CI [championship races],” said Payne. “This year, I swam a lot faster at the beginning of the season and I’m really looking forward to the next step.

“Two years ago, I won bronze in the 50m butterfly and last year, it was silver. The girl who beat me both times has now graduated so we’ll see how things go. I really want to move up to the gold.”

Payne will be joined at the CIS championships by Ford, Stephenson, Wright, Roberts, Flemington, Scott Van Doormaal, if he is capable of competing, and any other Gryphon qualifiers between now and Feb. 19, when the events begin.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A successful recovery: Zerafa puts injury behind her, leads Gryphons towards playoffs

The month was March and the Gryphon Centre was the scene of the 2009 OUA women’s hockey playoffs between the Brock Badgers and the Guelph Gryphons. The game had just begun and the ice was still fresh as the Gryphons looked to capitalize on the powerplay.

The Gryphons came into the series ranked second in the OUA, sporting one of the most prolific offences in the country, led by Jessica Zerafa, the league’s leading goal-scorer.

After narrowly missing a scoring chance in front, Zerafa, on just her second shift, chased a loose puck into the corner, when she took a light push from behind, sending her feet-first into the boards.

What happened next remains somewhat of a blur for Zerafa, but she does remember being unable to feel her leg as she was helped off the ice, assuming that it was shattered.
“It was really emotional for me,” said Zerafa. “I instantly thought that my leg was broken and I figured that I would be out for the rest of the playoffs.”

Zerafa already had shoulder surgery (her third) planned after the season, so the expectation of being bedridden already existed prior to injury. Nevertheless, her season was over, forced to watch her team from the stands as they defeated Brock in the OUA semi-finals, only to bow out to rival Laurier in the championship series.

“It was so difficult to have to watch,” Zerafa said of observing the remainder of the playoffs from the sidelines. “I even tried to skate before the first Laurier game but there was no way I could get out there and I had to accept that I couldn’t be out there and I had to be a cheerleader from the sidelines. It was great to watch but it would’ve been better to be out there.”

Upon diagnosis, the leg was not broken, but rather, Zerafa had suffered the dreaded high ankle sprain, an injury that sounds simple, but as any athlete rightfully knows, the type of injury that has a long recovery period and uncertainty about how the ankle will respond following rehab.

High ankle sprains are usually not dealt with via surgery, but rather, a slow rehabilitation process.

“I knew that one way or another, I’d be back on the ice one day,” said Zerafa of her optimism following the injury. “I’ve been through a lot of injuries in the past. This one was just frustrating.”

A high ankle sprain, besides being more complicated than a break, meant two months in a walking cast and six months off the ice, an excruciatingly long time away from the ice for a player as dedicated to her sport as Zerafa. When she was able to resume skating in August, there were definite reservations about how quickly she could return to the form that led to her being named an OUA Second Team All-star in 2009.

“When I first put my skates back on, I was experiencing some pain,” Zerafa said. “I didn’t know if I’d be able to get back out there in time for the season.”

Watching Zerafa’s triumphant return to the ice this year, however, her ankle – as well as her shoulder – seems to be responding admirably.

Zerafa has played in all 24 games thus far, and has scored ten goals and 24 points, good for third on the team and a tie for 11th in league scoring.

With the injury still relatively fresh in her mind, visions of March still go through Zerafa’s mind every time she chases a puck into the corner.

“In the first few games, I felt a little traumatized to go into that same corner where I got hurt,” admitted Zerafa. “I wondered, ‘Am I going to lose my footing? Am I going to get hit?’ It became the evil corner, but I’ve looked past it now.”

With only three games left in the regular season before the playoffs begin and the Gryphons starting to peak, Zerafa relishes the idea of a rematch with Laurier, the league’s only undefeated team and the OUA champions for the past six years.

“Every time we play them we’re just so close [to winning],” said Zerafa. “Our coach (Rachel Flanagan) said the other day that once we beat them one time, we’ll be able to keep it up. I feel good about the playoffs. If we play Laurier again, we’ll get it done this time.

“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs this year, but we have a really good team on paper,” said Zerafa. “I definitely think we’re peaking at the right time and things are going our way right now.”

Bucking the trend

Canadian football players in the Canadian Football League. Novel concept, no?

Not so fast if you play quarterback, a position made up exclusively of Americans. Players born, raised and trained south of the border make the journey north of the 49th when the dream of making it in the National Football League begins to falter, taking the place of their Canadian counterparts.

This is not a recent paradox of the game’s most important position being comprised entirely of Americans. Doug Flutie? Raised in Maryland and a Boston College Alum. Damon Allen? Raised on the (American ) West coast and an outstanding two-sport athlete at Cal State Fullerton. Warren Moon? Another left coast native, who played his college ball with the Washington Huskies.

See the trend?

Year after year, Canadian born, raised and trained quarterbacks have ended their university careers and have been left with no real option to continue their careers, despite the fact that this country has a professional football league of its own that should be supporting their further development.

Granted, the CFL has a Canadian quota system in place: half of each team’s roster is reserved for Canadian athletes; however, their college location does not matter (so Canadian-born athletes who play NCAA are part of the Canadian quota) nor does the position that they play. Generally, Canadians on CFL teams are offensive linemen, defensive backs and receivers. Former Gryphons Mike Palmer, Dave McKoy and now Brad Crawford fit the bill.

But as far as quarterbacks go, Canadian signal-callers are extremely rare, with the only successful historical example being Russ Jackson, a McMaster Alum who played professionally with the Ottawa Rough Riders in the 1960s. Recent CIS-grads Tommy Denison and Teale Orban have tried to get a foot in the door, but to no avail, losing jobs to American competition.

But doom and gloom aside, as a great songwriter once said, the times, they are a-changin’.


In this past CIS football seasons, we have witnessed arguably the greatest quarterback play in the history of the league. Erik Glavic (Calgary), Michael Faulds (Western), Danny Brannagan (Queen’s) and Guelph’s own Justin Dunk have combined to shatter all-time passing records for Canadian quarterbacks, raising the bar for quality at the position and reintroducing the age-old argument in favour of Canadian quarterbacks playing at the next level.

And it seems that coaches and general managers in the CFL are starting to listen.

Home-grown talents have brought an entirely new level of legitimacy to the position and the players are being rewarded accordingly.

Glavic, Faulds and Brannagan have all received invites to try out as quarterbacks at the CFL’s upcoming Evaluation Camp in Toronto, to be held in March. Dunk will try out as a receiver and hope that his virtually unparalleled athleticism will be enough to afford him an opportunity to showcase his skills in the professional ranks. No Canadian quarterbacks attended the 2009 E-Camp.

While an invite to the CFL’s E-Camp is by no means a guaranteed professional job – these Canadians have not even been drafted by a CFL team – it is still a giant step in the right direction for these accomplished and remarkably talented athletes.

Glavic and Faulds arguably have the best chance at moving forward. Glavic, a Pickering native and two-time Hec Crighton trophy winner is six-foot-six with a big arm and the ability to move around and outside the pocket. Faulds is a rifle-armed on-field general with incredible heart and the all-time leading passer in CIS history.

Dunk may be the wildcard.

Blessed with good size, exceptional speed, agility and elusiveness, it’s not out of the question to foresee a future for him at wideout in the CFL, especially given the recent success of Canadian receivers in the league. Mike Morreale, Jason Clermont, Andy Fantuz and Rob Bagg come to mind – yeah, if you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m kind of a fan.

Regardless of how successful Glavic, Faulds, Brannagan and Dunk are in their respective tryouts, these four student-athletes have done a remarkable job of bringing national relevance to the quarterback position once again.

Now someone just needs to give them a chance.