Delays, Controversy and a Winner

Courtesy of Sportsology.com and The 20-Yard End Zone

By Footloose

It was an interesting week in the CFL.

Things started Thursday night in Winnipeg on Milt Stegall Night. 

After a lightning delay of more than two hours, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers stormed out of the gate and took a 34-0 halftime lead on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and would win 37-11.

Stegall, the second all-time leading receiver in CFL history behind Geroy Simon, was honored with his family at halftime. Stegall, a Cincinnati native, played at Miami (OH) and then was a Cincinnati Bengal for three seasons before going to Green Bay and then to Winnipeg. During his career, he was a favorite of ESPN personality Chris Berman.

CJ Roberts scored on a pick six early in the game, and then Matt Nichols fired TD passes to Thomas Mayo and Clarence Denmark. Andrew Harris scored a touchdown on the ground.

Hamilton scored a TD in the third quarter when Jeremiah Masoli connected with Terrence Toliver for a 44-yard gain to set up a one-yard TD run by Jeff Mathews.

BC wins in Montreal

Friday night, the BC Lions went into Montreal and outscored the Alouettes 15-0 in the fourth quarter to win 38-18.

Jonathan Jennings completed 27 of 32 passes and tossed a TD to Manny Arceneuax. Jeremiah Johnson scored a touchdown on the ground, and Loucheiz Purifoy made the play of the game by scooping up a loose ball and scoring on a fumble recovery. Richie Leone added four field goals.

BC sacked Montreal QB Kevin Glenn six times. Glenn threw a TD pass to BJ Cunningham and ran for one score.

Bo knows winning

Bo Levi Mitchell of the Calgary Stampeders is the all-time leader CFL in winning percentage among quarterbacks, and he played like it Friday.

Mitchell threw for 312 yards and fired a TD to Anthony Parker in the 35-15 win over Saskatchewan. Jerome Messam and Andrew Buckley ran for TDs. Rene Paredes kicked four field goals.

Rob Bagg scored on a 48-yard pass from Darian Durant for the Riders.

Controversy in Ottawa

All eyes were on Henry Burris as he bounced back with a 23-20 win over the defending Grey Cup champion Edmonton Eskimos in a penalty-filled contest in Ottawa Saturday night.

Burris threw TD passes to Ernest Jackson and former New Orleans Saint Chris Williams. After a Jermaine Robinson interception and long return in the dying minutes of the game, Chris Milo kicked a 17-yard field goal to give Ottawa a 23-20 lead. The Redblacks’ defence then came up big by forcing three Mike Reilly incompletions for the win.

Edmonton scored the most unusual TD of the year when a Burris pass appeared to hit the ground but it actually bounced off Williams’ foot and went high into the air. JC Sherritt interception the ball on the run and raced down the sideline to dive into the end zone. Reilly hit Chris Getzlaf, the brother of NHL star Ryan Getzlaf, for the two-point convert.

At halftime, Burris was interviewed by TSN’s Matthew Scianitti, and he unleashed a rant about the criticism and doubts he has faced from fans and, in particular, the TSN panel.

“Henry and I are friends and we have talked about it and shared a laugh,” said Milt Stegall, one of the panelists, in an interview that can be heard on our podcast.

This week’s games

Thursday – Montreal at Edmonton

Neither team has consistently been able to put a full 60 minutes of football together this year, but both teams have explosive passing games. Look for a high-scoring barnburner.

Friday – Winnipeg at Toronto

Toronto is quietly one of the best teams in the league, and back-up Logan Kilgore shone in his first CFL start after replacing an injured Ricky Ray. Winnipeg is also trending upward, and this is a new team after Matt Nichols replaced Drew Willy as the starting QB.

Saturday – Calgary at Saskatchewan

The Riders are a much better team playing in front of the best fans in the CFL at home. They beat Ottawa at home, but can they beat Bo Levi Mitchell and the Stampeders?

Saturday – Hamilton at BC

Zach Collaro smakes his return to the Tiger-Cats’ line up as they face the red hot BC Lions in Vancouver. Hamilton needs a win to keep pace with Toronto and Ottawa in the standings, but BC has been a juggernaut behind coach Wally Buono and quarterback Jonathan Jennings.

Thanks for reading!

@DefendTheR

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Redblacks roster shake-up continues on day two of free agency

After an action-packed first day of CFL free agency on Tuesday, day two did not disappoint. A number of big names found themselves new homes on Wednesday, perhaps letting the opening day dust settle and getting a clearer picture of the marketplace.

In Redblacksland, the day was notable for a couple of free agent losses and one signing. First, the bad news:

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The signing has since been confirmed. Capicciotti and his 12 sacks will be sorely missed on a DL that has also lost Shawn Lemon (NFL, er SSK) and Keith Shologan (WPG) since the Grey Cup game. 

Then:

After taking over from Chevon Walker as the starting RB at mid-season, JJ emerged as a real difference-maker in the Redblacks offense. In his seven starts (10 games total), Johnson amassed an impressive 448 rushing yards, 267 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. He also emerged as a leader in the locker room.

Unfortunately, Johnson’s season would be cut short by a foot injury, and William Powell took over the starting job in early October. It was Powell’s performance the rest of the season and into the playoffs that ultimately made Johnson expendable, as the Canadian ratio makes it difficult for CFL teams to carry two American running backs. 

Johnson will be missed. So will his TD celebrations. 

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Now for the good news:

The 27-year-old Gascon-Nadon is a 3-year CFL veteran, originally drafted by Hamilton in 2012 (3rd round, 17th overall). He spent a year at Rice University (2008) before coming back and winning two Vanier Cups (2010 & 2012) at Laval.

As a pro, Gascon-Nadon has appeared in a total of 20 games, though his first start on the Hamilton defensive line was actually in the Eastern Final against Ottawa, filling in for the injured Eric Norwood.

Yes, Ottawa fans only memory of him might be the interception he didn’t make prior to #2ndAnd25, but Gascon-Nadon is not here for his receiving ability. He is a highly regarded DL prospect, who also contributed on special teams in 2015, with 11 tackles.

Another action-packed day in the books for the Redblacks. Here are Ottawa’s remaining unsigned free agents:

QB DeMarco, Thomas
LB Green, James
WR Henry, Marcus
LB Hinds, David
DE Marshall, Andrew
DE Smith, Marlon
DB Thompson, Brandyn
LB/FB Verdone, Jordan

Thanks for reading!

@DefendTheR

Photo credit: Toronto Sun

BC Place, where faint playoff hopes go to die

By: Santino Filoso

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The man almost single handedly responsible for killing Ottawa’s playoff chances

Riding high after last week’s huge home win, the Redblacks headed to Vancouver attempting to do something exceedingly rare in Ottawa’s CFL history, win in BC. Unfortunately with their backs against the wall, they laid a complete egg, coming out flat and getting their ass kicked on both sides of the ball.

Pre-Game:

– Just in case you were getting over the fact that Ottawa hasn’t had a CFL team for 17 of the last 20 years, the league’s twitter feed did their best to reopen the wound

– The Redblacks arrive at BC Place in style, after doing a quick grocery run

– In a somewhat surprising move, Ottawa dons their slick black home uniforms on the road for the second time season

– Henry Burris (#1) makes his 200th career start while Keith “I like hitting people” Shologan (#74) makes his 100th

1st Quarter:

– Ottawa receives to start the game and after stringing together a few first downs with strong running from Jonathan “CFL Offensive Player of the Week” Williams  (#23) and a beautiful 28 yard catch from Henry² (Marcus Henry #16),  the drive stalls when Khalil Paden (#13) can’t hang onto a pass that hits him right in the mitts

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– Ex-Redblack and current BC Lion Kevin Glenn hits a wide open Ernest Jackson for a 40 yard gain but goes down hurt as Moton “The Motivator” Hopkins (#95) levels him.  Glenn breaks a nail and comes out of the game for a few plays

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It’s a little known fact but every trainer on BC also doubles as a manicurist

– Former Rough Rider and 12 time grandfather Paul McCallum opens the scoring for BC with a 30 yard FG

– Burris moves the chains three times with catches made by Roy Finch (#19) and Henry² before back to back drops by Marter (Matt Carter #85) force Brett Maher (#3) to punt

– Eddie Elder (#5) lowers the boom as the defence settles down and forces the Lions to go two and out

– Finch looks quick as he busts a 17 yard run and John Delahunt (#49) picks up 18 yards on a beautiful play actions pass

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He got very few chances but when he did get the ball Finch looked as good as advertised

– A catch by Dobson Collins (#80) is wiped out by a holding call and finding himself all alone on the goal line,  a wide open Paden drops a TD. The Redblacks are forced to once again punt

2nd Quarter:

– Heavy pressure forces a quick BC two and out

– Williams picks up 5 and 8 yards on back to back running plays before Wallce Miles (#84) drops a deep pass and Burris is sackedHenry Burris, Cord Parks

– Kanneh Abdul (#14) is flagged for pass interference and BC busts a big run as the Redblacks’ secondary realizes shoulder tackles don’t work.

– A second questionable pass interference call, this time on Jerrell Gavins (#24), moves ball to 1 yard line and is quickly punched in

– Scrambles by Burris, a 26 yard catch by Miles and a 7 yard run by Finch lead to Ottawa’s first points of the day as Maher nails a 34 yard FG

– Sloppy tackling lets BC convert a 1st and 20 before Gavins gets torched by Jackson, allowing him to blow by for a 60 yard TD catch and run

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When your DB is a dozen steps behind the WR, you’re gonna have a bad time

– Ottawa responds by going two and out

– 17-3 for not Ottawa after 30 min

Half-time:

– TSN’s panel fawns over Finch and deep in the bowls of BC Place OC Mike Gibson decides to completely abandon the run

3rd Quarter:

– BC receives and marches down the field and scores a TD as a surgical Glenn shreds Ottawa’s defence, going 7/7 for 82 yards on the drive; apparently he passes the ball as well as he passes the blame for his twitter account being “hacked”

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– Redblacks go two and out as Mike Gibson ignores Williams and Finch

– Ernest Jackson continues to dominate Gavins, making a 40 yard catch that leads to Paul “Granddaddy” McCallum’s second FG of the night

– Henry² makes a 7 yard catch for a 1st down but the ball is spotted 2 yards short, but instead of challenging the Redblacks come out in a weird ass formation before burning a time out and QB sneaking the ball for a 1st down

– A few plays later Marter lets another pass bounce off his hands, forcing a punt

4th Quarter:

– Glenn leads BC on another touchdown drive and I hate him that much more and wonder why I’m not in bed

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– Down 34-3, Burris is pulled and Danny “Boy” O’Brien (#9) enters the game for Ottawa in time to hand off the ball to Williams who quickly picks up 8 yards though once again the drive stalls

– NFL reject John Beck enters the game at QB for the Lions and I mentally zone out as I no longer care

– The comedy of errors continues when a bad snap snails over Maher’s head on 3rd down, leading to a massive loss and setting the Lions up on the Redblack’s 13 yard line. Predictably they score

– O’Brien is picked off but the Lions fumble and the ball is recovered by Scott “Why Am I So Low on the Depth Chart When I Actually Catch the Ball?” Macdonell (#83)

– Nothing else worth mentioning happens

Final score: 41-3 for BC

Key Stats:

Burris went 12 of 21 for 143 yards with 0 TDs and INTs

Williams had 10 carries for 42 yards

Henry² made 3 catches for 52 yards

Travis Brown made 7 tackles

Maher punted 9 times for 343 yards

Closing Thoughts:

While this might not be our most frustrating loss, though we’ve had our fair share of those, it might be our most disappointing, especially after the promise we showed last week. In a game that Ottawa simply had to have and one in which many thought positive momentum from last week would carry over against a banged up Lions squad, the Redblacks simply shit the bed. This was a statement game for Ottawa and they came out without a pulse and proceeded to embarrass themselves and their fans.

On the offensive side of the ball Burris was simply pedestrian, not having a stellar game but also not losing it for his team. As we’ve come to expect, he had a few throws he’d like back but at the same time his receivers dropped a number of easy passes, including a few that could have swung momentum in Ottawa’s favour. Khalil Paden dropped a pass at the goal line and Miles and Marter looked terrible with drops of their own. In an extremely telling stat, no wide receiver made more than two catches, other than Henry² who had a whopping three. The CFL’s reigning offensive player of the week, Jonathan Williams, was MIA though through no fault of his own. You can’t pick up 5 yards at a time (as he was) when you’re never even handed the ball. Newcomer Finch showed good burst and also averaged a healthy yards per carry but was also ignored from the middle of the 2nd quarter on. Williams finished with 10 carries but that’s deceiving as he had two carries to run out the first half and also two in garbage time late in the 4th. Which means that Mike Gibson put the ball in his hands six times when it mattered. Ignoring the run game when playing a strong defence such as BC’s is simply criminal. Looking back the Redblacks will be frustrated as they actually did move the ball early on, but drops and flags killed any chance they had of scoring.

On the other side of the ball, the defence blew, showing no spine and getting pushed around all night long, giving up 548 yards of net offence. The front seven failed to put any kind of pressure on the QB, which allowed Glenn and his band of scrub receivers to torch the secondary. Stats don’t lie; Glenn racked up 345 yards and 3 TDs and completed 74% of his passes. Ernest Jackson alone accounted for 195 of those yards yet the Redblacks never switched their man coverage, even as he continued to haul in gains of 40+ yards. Ottawa’s lost a lot of games this season but it’s rare to see their defence pushed around the way it was last night, they even gave up 170 yards on the ground.

Special teams coverage was fantastic containing the league’s most dangerous returner and Maher made his one FG attempt with ease. Some incredibly weak PI calls helped the Lions sustain a few early drives and lead directly to points but that’s pretty much come to be expected as CFL referees continue to influence games with bad calls.

With the loss the Redblacks season will officially finish their season in Toronto on November 7th. After one brilliant game Mike Gibson was right back to his usual inept and incomprehensible self, ignoring the run game and failing to call plays that play to his players strengths. With the Redblacks now out of the playoff race he should be unemployed ASAP. Head Coach Rick Campbell will have to find a way to motivate his players for the remaining 4 games because they simply cannot have another game like this. Next up is a date with the Ticats at Tim Horton’s Field, where they are currently undefeated. The game will be a real test of the character of the guys on the team, as R-Nation will easily be able to see who mails it in and who still gives it their all. Expectations need to be realistic for an expansion team, but there’s no way fans will tolerate the team laying eggs like this.

@RedBlackGade

P.S.

One thing that drove me nuts last night was the fact that Chris Cuthbert and Glen Suitor kept mistakenly saying Ottawa didn’t want Glenn and so he was motivated to prove a point, which is completely wrong. As we’ve covered before here on the Defend the R, Glenn wanted the starting job handed to him on a silver platter, despite the fact that Marcel Desjardins said he’d add competition from the day he picked Glenn in the expansion draft. It’s understandable that Glenn felt upset but it’s wrong for anyone to paint him as some wrong done by QB who got his revenge against the team who didn’t want him.

When it rains it pours; Lions Edge the Redblacks

By: Santino Filoso

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On Friday night the Redblacks welcomed the BC Lions and former Redblacks QB Kevin Glenn to TD Place. Following a painful trend, the Redblacks lost another defensive struggle late in the 4th quarter to move their record to 1-9 on the year.

Pre-game:

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– OSEG continues to do the little things right, honouring Ottawa’s storied CFL history by unveiling a statue of Frank Clair

– The trolls who run the official CFL twitter account do their best to get Ottawa fans excited about the game

– R-Nation continues to show that they aren’t fair weather fans, filling TD Place once again

– Redblacks win the coin toss and choose to recieve

1st Quarter:

– Jamill Smith (#15) fields the opening kick and returns it 26 yards to Ottawa’s 35 yard line

– Henry Burris (#1) shows off his arm with a long pass as the Redblacks look to strike quickly but Marter (Matt Carter #85) fails to bring it in

– A Henry² (Marcus Henry #16) catch leads to a 35 yard FG off Brett Maher’s boot

– Jonathan Willams (#75) forces the Lions to punt on their opening drive when he gets this 3rd sack of the year, bringing Lulay down for an 8 yard loss

– Defence is the name of the game as the teams trade two and outs

2nd Quarter:

– Burris criminally under throws a pass right to Dante Marsh who picks it off and returns it 34 yards

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– Paul “Grandaddy” McCallum’s 49 yard FG is good evening things at 3

– The pocket collapses around Burris who is flushed, and hits Wallace Miles (#84) on the run for a 1st down

– The Redblacks dial up a fake field goal when Alex Carder (#4) hits FB Patrick Lavoie (#81) for a fresh set of downs

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– Chevon Walker (#29) has a few tough plays, first dropping a screen pass that would’ve been touchdown and then getting nailed by Solomon Elimimian, breaking his arm and fumbling for the 2nd time in his career while trying to extend the ball over the goal line

– In his first start in weeks, Moton “The Motivator” Hopkins tackles Harris in the end zone for a safety

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– Fans at TD Place continue to wait for the Redblacks offence to show any signs of life as they go two and out

– Antoine Pruneau (#6) misses Lulay as he comes in free on the blitz, allowing Lulay to scramble outside for a massive gain

– With no time left on the clock, McCallum’s 34 yard FG ends the half

Half-time:

Third Quarter:

– The defence continues to dominate, gang tackling Lions RB Andrew Harris for a loss

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– Ricky Schmitt punts 69 for a rouge, extending BC’s lead to 7-5

– Showing off a slick spin move Bradon Lang (#91) sacks Lulay

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– Lavoie gets beat clean by his man and Burris quickly goes down

– Henry² makes an incredible one handed catch, snagging a wobbly Burris throw

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Fourth Quarter:

– BC tries to get fancy but their WR sweep is snuffed out for a huge loss as the Redblacks keep contain and box Emmanuel Arceneaux in

– With torrential rain falling and easily within FG range, Maher never gets the chance to give the Redblacks the leads as Danny O’Brien (#9) lets the snap slide right through his hands, and his panicked pass falls incomplete

– Lulay survives a collapsing pocket, breaks a few arm tackles and turns a sack into positive yards

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– With just over a minute left and deep in Redblacks territory, Lulay fumbles the ball and re-injuries his throwing shoulder

– The Lions recover the loose ball, dashing any hopes of a Redblacks comeback

– Final score: 7-5 for BC

Key Stats:

Burris went 21 of 32 for 188 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT

Walker had 4 carries for 6 yards

Henry² made 4 catches for 51 yards

Maher punted 9 times for 428 yards

Jermaine Robison (#32) made 7 tackesl

Closing Thoughts:

Another week brings another close loss. It’s said that good teams find ways to win games, so maybe expansions teams find ways to lose them. On a night when the offence struggled, the defence gave the Redblacks a chance to win. Some fans have been clamouring for Burris to be benched for weeks and his performance did nothing to silence his critics. There were a few drops, but Burris looked off all night, under and over throwing open receivers. The run game was non-existent, with only 12 yards gained on 10 carries between Walker and Michael Haynes (#34). The offensive line played soft all game long, failing to give Burris any kind of time and their inability to open up running lanes perhaps plays a factor in OC Mike Gibson’s reluctance to call runs.

The defence played lights out, putting points on the board again and limiting BC to two FGs and a rouge. If you hold the other team without a touchdown in the CFL you should win the game, plain and simple. If there is a positive to take from the Redblacks recent losing streak it’s that the defence is playing consistently tough and refuses to give up. Though their efforts are currently overshadowed by the team’s offensive woes, the Redblacks strong defence bodes well for the team’s future.

On special teams the Redblacks did an admirable job containing the league’s most dangerous returner (Tim Brown), holding him to a single long return of 25 yards. Maher made every field goal he had a chance to kick and averaged nearly 48 yards per punt.

With their next game on September 21st, the Redblacks need to make the most of their bye week by figuring out a way to put points on the board and how to deal with the loss of Chevon Walker, out for the season with a broken arm. Sitting in last in the East and with a record of 1-9, the Redblacks next game against the GREENWHITES is pivotal in keeping their playoff hopes alive.

@RedBlackGade

– All images via Roman Romanovich, CFL.ca and the Ottawa Sun

CFL Mascots 101: What they didn’t tell you in the media guide

By: Santino Filoso

Welcome to Defend the R’s first annual (and completely unbiased) CFL Mascot Power Rankings. We’ve got the inside scoop on all the things left off the mascot scouting report. If you thought you knew everything about these cuddly mascots, prepare to be surprised!

THE EAST:

4) Jason (Toronto)

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Jason brings up the rear in what can only be described as an extremely weak mascot division. This cartoony Argonaut suffers from multiple personality disorder. He carries a sword, wears a futuristic space helmet, only has three fingers and looks like he’s been trying to pinch a loaf since the start of the Trojan War. Jason needs to seek professional help. And if you’re an Argos fan, please encourage him to get it next time you see him fishing on Lake Ontario.

3) T.C. and Stripes (Hamilton)

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T.C. and Stripes, the love children of Tony the Tiger and Tigger, are the tamed pussy cats who can be found patrolling the Hamilton sidelines. T.C. , which cleverly stands for Tiger Cat (man, they got some thinkers in Steeltown), has been leading purrs of “Oskee Wee Wee” since the mid 80’s. Sadly, this feline’s best days are behind him and like John Henry giving way to the steam-powered hammer, it’s only a matter of time before Stripes (get it — tigers have stripes!) replaces him.

2) Touché and Blitz (Montreal)

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These identical unilingual twin birds representing the Als are a stretch at number two but by default they can’t rank any lower. Like junkies searching for their next hit (of worms), these birds have been known to draw flags for illegally entering the field. Lastly (and most worryingly), though they claim to be birds, Touché and Blitz have never been spotted airborne, leading many to question their true nature.

1) Big Joe Mufferaw/Grand Jos

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The gem of the East division’s mascots, this dashing lumberjack can do it all; whether it’s chopping down trees, exterminating rodents (he’s looking at you, Gainer), bird hunting, or causing French language controversies, Joe’s the man for the job. When he’s not being serenaded by R-Nation at TD Place, Joe can be found log running down the Rideau Canal or in Mattawa, where his winter home is.

THE WEST:

5) Gainer the Gopher (Saskatchewan)

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Though Alberta has successfully and meticulously prevented rats from entering the province, their watermelon hat-wearing neighbours to the east have fully embraced rodents – even selecting one to represent their fabled name-stealing team. Gainer, which is an anagram of Regina, struggles when trying to count to 12, and has two cousins named Leonard and Goof (seriously) who sometimes make watching the Green Riders lose a family affair.

4) Leo the Lion (BC)

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Leo is a lion who tragically can’t roar. When he’s not meowing to pump the crowd up, you can find the feline practicing ballet and avoiding Ralph.

3) Punter and Nanook (Edmonton)

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They say opposites attract, and boy oh boy is that ever true when it comes to the Eskimo Empire. You can’t expect a lot out of your offense when one of your mascots is a ‘roid raged football named Punter. The yin to Punter’s yang is Nanook, a polar bear who moved South to avoid the melting Arctic ice floes and because he heard so many good things about the sushi in the West Edmonton Mall.

2) Buzz and Boomer (Winnipeg)

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Ever since they flew the coop in Chicken Run, these poultry have been living large. The loveable duo never stop hatching plans to entertain the Winnipeg faithful because they know their team won’t.

1) Ralph the Dog (Calgary)

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You have to give respect where respect is due, and despite always looking like he just woke up, Ralph deserves all the praise he gets. As the CFL’s first and oldest mascot, Ralph has been eating Eskimo pies, chicken Alouette and gopher gumbo long before any of the other mascots showed up. Despite showing his age, this pooch is still top-dog in the West.

Where do you rank ’em? Let us know in the comments below!

 @RedBlackGade