O’Leary: A gift for each CFL team

However you celebrate them, the holidays are a time when it comes to tradition. As we move toward a holiday-themed play that’s becoming something of a tradition here, I’ll recount a celebratory CFL-Hollywood connection that I think is worth repeating every year.

At some point over the next few days, you’ll likely find Miracle on 34th Street on TV in your home. Maybe your family is more into the old-school Christmas carols. If your eyes catch your eye on any of these classic films this week, you’ll know there’s a CFL link there for you.

Gene Lockhart plays Judge Henry X. Harper in Miracle on 34th Street. He’s the judge overseeing St. Nick’s trial. He also plays Bob Cratchit in the 1938 production of A Christmas Carol.

Born in London, Ontario, Lockhart was also a member of the Toronto Argonauts in the early years of World War I before the Gray Cup games of 1916–19 were canceled. He later moved to Hollywood and built an impressive film career with his wife Kathleen.

As you go through this wish list for every team in the league, you might consider that Lockhart has some sort of stake in them. He wasn’t the central character in those classic films, but he was an integral part of them.

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» Touchdown Atlantic returns in 2023
Steinberg: My top 10 games of the 2022 season

BC Lions: Nathan Rourke in a Lions uniform for Week 1 in Calgary

A simple one. Rourke took the league by storm in the first half of this season, pulling the spotlight away from a Winnipeg team chasing a historic three-peat. Rourke, a young Canadian quarterback, has the potential to become a CFL history figure if the Lions can bring his name under a long-term contract this offseason. If he’s on the Lions’ roster in 2023, they’ll be a Gray Cup contender, and CFL fans can look forward to a treat from a player who proved electrifying in 2022.

sub-desire: In line with their 2022 meetings, I’d like to see another Lions Stamps classic to get the season going.

Calgary Stampeders: The Gift of the Playoff Experience

Jake Maier had a transformative season at Calgary, unseating Bo Levi Mitchell as the team’s starter and securing his spot as the team’s starting quarterback going forward. The 25-year-old got his first bump as a starter in the playoffs when the Stamps faced the BC Lions in the Western Semifinals. Maier made 12-22 passes for 138 yards and failed to deliver the spark he gave the offense during the regular season. We’d love to see Maier carry that loss into the winter months and use it as fuel to stoke his fire for 2023.

Edmonton Elks: A home win

Even in the summer months, it’s been tough sledding in Edmonton for the past two seasons. The Elks have been winless at Commonwealth Stadium since October 12, 2019, when they defeated the BC Lions 19-6. As part of their 2023 promotion, the organization has wisely leaned into this drought with their Guaranteed Win Ticket, which promises fans who buy the limited-edition tickets their seat until they see a win in them. It would be wonderful for everyone involved if that win came in the home opener on June 11 against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The Elks showed a lot of promise in the final weeks of the 2022 season. If they can continue to grow from that, they’ll be in a good position to end this streak and assert themselves in the West Division.

The Roughriders need a boost in 2023 after getting lost in a promising season (Riderville.com).

Saskatchewan Roughriders: A rebound

In the words of the great Kevin Harlan, the Riders went up high (with a 4-1 start) and down hard (with a seven-game losing streak) in 2022, leaving them outside their own arena at the 109th Grey Cup and the playoffs overall. Her holiday fix is ​​obvious: a nice rebound. Let’s start with improved offensive line play. The 77 sacks the Riders allowed were the worst in the league by an uncomfortable margin. If that worsens and even gets into the middle of the pack totals (somewhere in the 40 range), their other problem, quarterback play, would likely improve significantly.

Who that quarterback is in 2023 remains to be seen. Cody Fajardo watched his team’s last two games from the touchline, which seems to send a clear message about how the organization feel about him at this point going forward.

Still, improved O-line play and some quarterback productivity would drive the turnaround that Rider fans are longing for after a disappointing 2022 season.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Honey, Sugar, Fruit Juices, Maple Syrup

What is this mishmash of ingredients, you ask? A quick google search tells me this is the most efficient way to remove a bitter taste from the mouth.

It may still be difficult for the Bombers and their fans to come to terms with, but the 2022 season has seen an abundance of achievements; They just missed the last game of the year.

Three-peat talk shrouded the Bombers like a fog for the past year. Kudos to trainer Mike O’Shea and the vets on his team for not eating into it. The fact that Montreal hasn’t played back-to-back since 2009 and 2010 speaks volumes about how hard it is to win consistently in the CFL. The Calgary Stampeders – John Hufnagel and Wally Buono – will also tell you that. The improvements and tweaks on the field with this team are minimal and I expect they will be just as strong as they have been for the past three seasons when we return to the field in 2023.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats: An end to the drought

It’s easy to forget how close the Ticats came to their own picture-perfect end in 2021. At home, Jeremiah Masoli faces Jaelon Acklin in the end zone and Deatrick Nichols fingers in between and a 22-year Gray Cup drought comes at his merciful, perfectly placed closeness.

The characters in the game will be different this time, but the Ticats will have another opportunity in 2023 as they host the 110th Gray Cup. While it might feel like a wild claim to see them in the Gray Cup in 2022 after their 8-10 finish and first-round playoff loss, the CFL is exceptional in how it allows for drastic year-round turnarounds. There’s only one thing Hamilton fans want this season, and it’s for the black-and-gold confetti to finally fly on their home field in late November, ending a 24-year Gray Cup drought by then.

Brandon Banks and Andrew Harris were two experienced newcomers who helped lift the Argos into the Gray Cup in 2022. Will they be back to defend their championship in 2023? (Thomas Skrlj/CFL.ca)

Toronto Argonauts: Run It Back

If you’re an Argos fan, consider this their second consecutive Gray Cup win. I’m thinking of something more specific.

We saw last year how a group with many veterans formed with this team. McLeod Bethel-Thompson and Henoc Muamba were already there, but when Andrew Harris and Brandon Banks signed, the Argos gained some key figures and played their part in disrupting the Bombers’ three-peat bid last month. I’ve always felt that championship teams should be given a chance to defend that title while keeping their lineup intact as much as possible. There are many retirement rumors for all four of these players (thanks to full-back Declan Cross who announced his retirement on Monday). I would love to see them all back on the field for a decent Gray Cup title defense next year.

Montreal Alouettes: A time machine from the early 2000s

My Alberta roots probably shine through here, but I can’t think of Danny Maciocia, Jason Maas, and Noel Thorpe without thinking of them in green and gold. All three were in Edmonton in the first decade of the new century. It’s a time of some ups — Edmonton played in three Gray Cups and won twice between 2002 and 2005 — and downs, including a 35-year playoff run that ended in 2006.

Edmonton offered Maciocia his first opportunity as CFL head coach and the connections he made there have clearly stayed with him as he hired Maas as his head coach at the Als last week. If this trio can work together to put the Als on a Gray Cup run similar to what Edmonton enjoyed almost 20 years ago, we will have many happy football fans in Montreal.

Ottawa REDBLACKS: A healthy Jeremiah Masoli

The 2022 REDBLACKS are one of the biggest CFL what-ifs. What if Jeremiah Masoli hadn’t been injured in Week 5 and lost for the season? What would have become of a seemingly limitless offense? How would this team have fared in an East Division that was winnable for most of the 21-week regular season? Would they have been a playoff team? How much post-season noise could they have made?

Assuming Masoli comes back from his broken leg and he’s the same old self, he’ll have a new coach to work with in Bob Dyce and a roster that will see at least some free-hand changes. We won’t get any answers as to what could have been for the REDBLACKS in 2022, but a healthy Masoli puts us in a position to see improvement from a team that has been starving for success over the past few seasons.

sub-desire: It’s not at the Elks level, but the REDBLACKS are also hungry for some home wins and go 0-9 at TD Place in 2022. Let’s throw in an early win in 2023 to get the ball rolling for them.

Atlantic Schooners: Become the 10th team of the CFL

This last wish also becomes an annual tradition here. I spent almost a week in Halifax and Wolfville, NS for the Touchdown Atlantic game this past summer and it was a highlight of the season.

The area is beautiful and the people are *so* nice and welcoming. The food is excellent, the terraces and accompanying venues are immaculate. Game day felt like a real event in Wolfville, where a town grew in size for a day and everyone was treated to an amazing game. It was a perfect insight into what could be and what the CFL could offer the Atlantic region if they had a full-time team. In the words of The Office’s Darryl Philbin, let’s make it happen, Captain.

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