BCFC Musings – I can safely say I don’t dislike the Saskatoon Hilltops

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    Saskatoon Hilltops photo from Saskatoon Hilltops twitter account

    The 2017 BCFC season is in the books, and I distinctly remember thinking way back on opening weekend July 29, that it would be over before we know it. It would have been nice if our season went through to the Canadian Bowl Nov 11th, but those honors will go to the Saskatoon Hilltops (Prairie Football Champions), and the Ontario Football Conference Champion Windsor AKO Fratmen when the teams meet in Windsor for the Canadian Bowl. Musings for the final time this football season…

     

    Dictionaryonline.com defines the word dislike this way, “to regard with displeasure, antipathy, or aversion”. It also defines the word envy this way, “a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions etc.”.

    Armed with this knowledge, I can safely say I don’t dislike the Saskatoon Hilltops. The people I know from that organization are good people. The odd conversation I have had with the face of the franchise, head coach Tom Sargeant, tells me he’s a good man, and a very smart junior football mind…although his canned answers to reporter’s questions are a little painful at times. So no, I don’t hate the Saskatoon Hilltops, but that envy definition? Yes, that fits… from the machine that is Football Saskatchewan, to the Hilltops facilities, to the wealth of high school football teams and coaches to draw from. Those things I, and most of us in BC are very envious of.  That said, the Saskatoon Hilltops make it all count, and there are no silver spoons in ‘Toon Town, as the organization has developed a winning culture top to bottom. If there is a more dominate sports organization in Canada at any level I’d like to know what it is.

    What I do dislike though, or what does bug me at least, is when teams outside Saskatoon or even Regina in the PFC ride the coat tails of their Saskatchewan based PFC brethren as happens every year, and did again this weekend from at least three different clubs on the prairies. Three different PFC social media posts trumpeted the “PFC is better” mantra in taking jabs at the BCFC and the VI Raiders for the score of the semi-final game in Saskatoon.  Is the level of football overall better in the PFC? Absolutely it is, and anyone who denies that hasn’t been paying attention, but while we give credit to the Raiders for a terrific play-off run, remember that team was a 3rd place club that did lose 3 BCFC games, one by a 45-11 margin in the regular season. One could argue this was a Cinderella team taking on Goliath…

    Regardless, if the PFC is overall stronger than the BCFC, this is due to a certain degree by the grass roots football (2016 story link breaks down numbers) that funnels players to the junior teams, not due to the ineptitude of our conference or the superiority of the non-Saskatchewan based clubs that is sometimes the perception on the prairies. The PFC clubs in all centres would be a little lost I think, if they had to deal with the recruiting, housing and job assisting that all our club’s face every year. It’s not easy, and while there are usually hiccups and balls dropped along the way as our team volunteers scramble to help make sure their respective teams survive…they do an incredible job.

    I remember a few years back when I was involved with the Okanagan Sun, and our club met with the owner of the Kelowna Rockets, Bruce Hamilton to get some business advice with regards to junior football marketing. He asked me after the formal get together, how the Sun operates, how we recruit, fundraise, support players etc. When I explained a board of volunteers brings in 50 plus players from out of town, his “motivational” response was “How do you do it?”

    I don’t know how any of our teams do it, but they do it and they do it well all things considered. Logically, based on our provincial talent pool the BCFC should consist of two teams at most, not 6.

    Kudos to everyone involved with our teams in Kamloops, Kelowna, Chilliwack, Langley, Nanaimo and Westshore. A bit of a public service announcement to all the teams to remember that while we compete, we should work together as well.

    I’ve been involved in the CJFL either at the team or conference level for 25 years. In that time, the number of Canadian Bowls won by each province has Saskatchewan way out in front (17), but after that, things seem balanced actually BC (4), Alberta (2), Ontario (2). If you are a player on the prairies considering a place to play and your principle goal is a national title you should stay in Saskatchewan if that’s your home. If it isn’t your home, that’s the place to head for a best opportunity for a championship, although you will find the number of talented players competing for a job on the high side compared to what you are used to.

    But if you are looking to play football in a smaller city and football stadium, where junior football is a bit higher profile than most other parts of the country, if you are looking to bond with teammates in a way only a small city can provide because the team lives close together, the BCFC is a conference you should consider.

    I understand that teams in Alberta or Winnipeg don’t want high school or midget players leaving their city, while our junior football goal is to assist players to get to the next level, winning games and championships is what feeds our own egos. If a coach or even an organization at this level doesn’t have winning as a goal, there is a problem. But at the end of the day a PFC team in Alberta or Winnipeg has no better shot at a national championship than a team in the BCFC. Let’s not pretend otherwise…

    Every few years, suggestions on possible CJFL rule changes are floated by the prairies to limit the ability of high school players to play for the team of their choice, or to give the junior team in the area the ability to decide which players can leave their borders and which players can’t.

    That concept of not allowing players to leave the area might have some merit. It would create a true “us” vs “them” rivalry between the BCFC and the PFC when the conferences meet in the play-offs. I know the whole Canada vs Russia hockey rivalry lost some of its luster when the Soviet Union collapsed and players could freely choose to play in the NHL…

     

    The VI Raiders season didn’t end the way the organization would have liked this weekend. A third-place team doesn’t come out of the conference and beat the best the PFC has to offer, it just doesn’t happen. I’m not saying the Raiders played over their heads in beating the Sun and Rebels on the road in the conference play-offs, maybe they came into their own as the play-offs got underway. History tells us though that only a team that dominates the BCFC season in a major way beats the prairie champions, and the Raiders did not dominate this season. Still, it was a season to be proud of, and one the Raiders players and coaches will remember for a long time. Let’s be honest, the way former athletes age and talk war stories years later, they likely will remember the 2017 season forever.

     

    The off season is going to be over before we know it…

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