The 2016 Canada West Football season begins in 22 days.
If you’re like me, realizing the Huskie football season is so close is exciting but also a little sad, as it means summer will soon be over. I can always use a couple more weeks of summer, especially when the weather has been as wet and dreary as the last two weeks have.
Training camp snuck up on me this year, as I have been busy with work and family obligations. What is usually an excruciatingly long offseason seemed much shorter this year, due to, in my case, both the warmer winter and my attention and devotion to a new love, the Saskatchewan Rush.
I didn’t feel that familiar pang of excitement for a new season until last week, months later than usual. After scouring the Internet for information on all Canada West teams, that excitement grew, as I came across information and discussions on the many star players who have graduated or will be moving on to the CFL, the NFL and junior football.
The kind of player movement we are seeing this year will undoubtedly have a major impact on the conference this season. Gone are names like Timmis, Simonise, Onyemata, Lyles, Buckley, Deschamps and (Terrell) Davis. The remodelling of the Canada West house, which David Sidoo and Blake Nill undertook in jarring fashion on the west rooms last season, will continue across the entire abode with this turnover in talent and the addition of new coaches like Stephen Bryce and Tom Higgins.
How the Canada West will look when the remodelling is complete is far from certain. While most, including me, will give the edge to UBC in repeating as Hardy Cup champions, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the Canada West is wide open this year. There are so many unknowns across the conference that most predictions of the final standings can be looked at simultaneously as ridiculous and astute.
What we should see this year is a Canada West that is truly competitive, top-to-bottom, game-to-game. Of course, there are many variables that may prevent this, like key injuries or coaching missteps, and we may see a finish that looks similar to last year. But after a decade where the Canada West was as predictable as a clock, the influx of new coaches and the turnover of players certainly signals that the conference is ripe for a shakeup.
For Huskie fans, this is a welcome situation. After several years on the cusp of promise, the talented, veteran-laden roster of the Huskies combined with the star-player turnover experienced by the other teams can’t help but provide hope that the drought of playoff success will end.
As I write this, I can see people staring at their phones or computers, rolling their eyes, shaking their heads and asking: Don’t you say this every year? When haven’t you been optimistic in August? And they’re right – my rose-coloured glasses are firmly affixed to my face this time of year.
I don’t blame people for being cynical after six successive years of first-round playoff losses. There are several fans who are mad and frustrated, and I understand this.
However, I encourage Huskie fans to not give up on this team. They are a legitimate contender this year, and if you give up now, you may miss out on something special.
They are not head-and-shoulders above any team in terms of talent, and they will need address several areas of concern if they want to go on a Cinderella-like run similar to UBC last year. They are a work in progress and will need to be far better than last year in their preparation, coaching and play if they are to win their first Hardy Cup since 2006.
It will be intriguing to see how this team evolves, how they face challenges and how they build on success over the course of the season. It will be just as intriguing to see how the rest of the Canada West conference unfolds. Does Blake Nill have a dynasty-in-the-making at UBC? Will Calgary drop from the top after losing so much talent? Can the Alberta Golden Bears finally make it back to the playoffs?
If, like me, you love this time of year because it’s Huskie football season, then you should be extra excited about this year. I’m confident we will see exciting, competitive football every week.
To me, it is always worth the price of admission to take in the sights, sounds and smells of a Huskie game day in Saskatoon, of which there are far too few. This year, I hope there will be a few more of these game days to savour.
*A note about the blog: We are aiming to keep fresh content on here during the 2016 season, although that will vary weekly as we juggle our work and family responsibilities. We appreciate all of our readers and hope that you find our content interesting and informative. Thank you for your patience over the offseason.