Prairie Kick-off

Western squads prepare for the annual grid wars while a rules showdown approaches in the Canadian rugby setup

J. NORVIL MARKS October 1 1939

Prairie Kick-off

Western squads prepare for the annual grid wars while a rules showdown approaches in the Canadian rugby setup

J. NORVIL MARKS October 1 1939

Prairie Kick-off


Western squads prepare for the annual grid wars while a rules showdown approaches in the Canadian rugby setup


AS CANADA’S 1939 gridiron campaign gets under way on Eastern and Western football fronts, the shadow of seemingly insolvable differences between the two sections still dims the pigskin picture.

Although the annual meeting of the Canadian Rugby Union in Toronto last February lacked the usual arguments and bickering, its outcome must be regarded as a temporization. For while Eastern delegates wanted rule differences and player eligibility discussed with a view to final disposition, Western members were equally insistent that these matters be deferred until 1940. In explanation, they reminded Eastern delegates that a ruling passed at the 1938 meeting will take effect in 1940. This ruling will require participants in the Dominion final to have played under C.R.U. rules throughout the season.

This edict may mean abandonment of the Dominion final next year, unless football moguls in Plast and West can reconcile their differences before the C.R.U. meets in annual session early in 1940.

Western football men feel that under the present setup, the Dominion final is of little or no value in deciding the best grid squad in Canada. The handicaps of strange rules and a long layoff before the final is staged place too big a burden upon the shoulders of even the most optimistic and courageous Western challengers.

Westerners believe the issue is clear. If the C.R.U. intends to continue pressing toward complete unity in Canadian football—a unity which will require a national code governing the sport—the fundamentals of one of the two sets of rulings now in operation must be used as a basis for future play. Granted that certain features of each type of game may be drafted into the desired code, it must first be determined whether the Eastern lateral passing game with limited interference, or the Western code, which stresses interference, shall be adopted.

Chairman of the C.R.U. rules committee, and one of the Union’s most influential executives, W. C. Foulds witnessed three games in the West last fall and returned East with the conviction that Eastern rules, with three-yard interference, produce a more desirable brand of football. He reported that he did not believe the Western public, which appeared to be quite satisfied with the Western style of play, was in a position to make a legitimate comparison iDetween games played under Western and Eastern rules.

In the long run, it’s up to the fans.

If football enthusiasts are to continue to support the grid sport throughout the Dominion, their preferences must dictate the future plans and policies of the C.R.U.

Football fans might decide for themselves if they had an opportunity to witness both types of game, performed

by capable teams in either a postor pre-season exhibition series. The regular schedules would not be interfered with, and the public would be enabled to form its own opinion.

For the benefit of Western fans, such a suggested series could be played between two representative Eastern squads, with the Eastern code prevailing. Two capable prairie squads demonstrating the Western game would enable Eastern supporters to judge the Western code on its merits.

If fans in both sections felt that separate codes should be maintained, that would settle it. A further opinion might then be solicited with respect to the Dominion final. Many think that if this colorful sports spectacle is to be continued, its venue should be altered from year to year, and that the rules governing the final should be those of the section in which it is played.

Recent installation of floodlights in Calgary and Edmonton now make night games possible in the four cities on the prairie circuit. Great increases in attendance are anticipated as a result when the clubs go into the gruelling schedule from which will emerge the 1939 Western champions in early November.

Reports from Winnipeg indicate that the Blue Bombers, runners-up to Toronto Argos in that memorable Dominion final last December, will stand pat with the squad which Coach Reg Threlfall molded into a mighty machine in his first year at the helm.

With the retirement of Russ Rebholz, long a Winnipeg standout, Coach Threlfall is counting on Art Stevenson and Wayne Shelev to handle the passing duties. Fritz Hanson is also available for service in the aerial department. Stevenson’s aptness with the oval was well demonstrated in last year’s Dominion final. His fine punting, together with his ability at the quarterback spot, should again lead the Bombers to great heights.

Benched by injuries for a great portion of last season's schedule, Wayne Shelev has completely regained the form which brought him profes-

sional offers when he starred in college football with Augustana University in South Dakota. The stocky little backfielder was one of the continent’s leading scorers in his last year at Augustana before reporting to the Blue Bombers for the 1938 season.

Bombers Seek Third in a Row

A TALENTED trio of lossers—Stevenson. Shelev and Hanson—share the passing assignment, so the Bombers will undoubtedly take to the air in their bid for a third consecutive Western title. Lateral passing has been given considerable attention at the Bomber training camp. But observers believe that Coach Threlfall was merely anticipating another Winnipeg challenge for the Grey Cup when he drilled his gridders in the East’s favorite play.

Elusive P'ritz Hanson, the golden ghost of the gridiron, and shifty Wayne Sheley will be doing a great deal of the ball-carrying for the Bombers this season. Gregg Rabat, Andy Bieber, Bill Boivin, Herby Mobberley and Jeff Nicklin will round out a brilliant back-field. An all-star end with Winnipeg for several seasons, Nicklin is being converted by Threlfall for backfield service. Ches McCance is moving from the half-line to Nicklin’s old spot at the outside position.

With such talented linemen as Martin Gainor, Bill Ceretti and Bud Marquardt again donning blue and gold livery, the Bomber front wall should be just as effective this season. The Winnipeg squad is a smooth football machine. Individual stars have been molded by Threlfall into a team which stresses teamwork in a variety of deceptive running and passing plays.

Two drastic developments in the football setup at Regina indicate that the Rough Riders have at last succumbed to the lure of streamlined football. For years the Riders have dung to the orthodox plunging game, with the accent placed on bone-crushing, off-tackle plays which carried the Regina team through to a succession of Western championships. Of late, however, the wisdom of such a game has been doubted. Considerable strength was given to that doubt by the success of other Western teams with deceptive football of the razzle-dazzle variety.

First change instituted by the Rider board of strategy is the appointment of Leo Schweinfurt as backfield coach and director of play from the bench. Schweinfurt, of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, comes to the Rough Riders with eleven years of football experience in North and South Dakota. Dean Griffing will continue as line-coach and centre. With the acquisition of Schweinfurt, the big all-star centre will be able to devote all his time to handling the Rider line, a task which certainly requires concentrated attention. Too much responsibility placed upon Griffing last season as playing coach in complete charge of the Regina team is perhaps one of the reasons the Rough Riders were eliminated early in the Western playdowns.

Second development in the transformation of the Rough Riders is the visit of Doug Kerr to Regina on a busman’s holiday. McGill University’s gridiron master mind, Kerr has been invited West to assist Griffing and Schweinfurt in smartening the Rider attack. He will concentrate on the Eastern end sweep and lateral passing plays. With such apt and brilliant pupils as Howard Cleveland, Leo Danaher and Jimmy Lander, he should develop a Rider offensive which may quite possibly sweep the Regina team to its first Western title in three years.

Additions to the Regina squad this season are backfielders Troy Scholl from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Mickey MacDonald from Moose Jaw; linemen Rollo Edberge from South Dakota, McDonald from Ottawa, Toar Springstein, the placekicking giant of last year’s Dominion champion Regina Junior Dales, and Cal Krienke from California.

Minnesota Stars For Edmonton

V\ 7TTH five former Minnesota Gophers ** now located at Edmonton, Bob Fritz can be counted upon to lead his Eskimos to greater heights this season. In his first year at the Alberta city last season, Fritz won the confidence of Edmonton fans, even though his squad failed to win a single game in the Western Conference. The fact that the former Blue Bomber playing coach has been retained at the helm reveals the esteem in which Fritz is held at the Alberta capital.

Newcomers Bill Matheny, Bob Hoel and Russ Wile, together with second-year men Paul Kirk and Lyle Howell, are the five former Minnesota stars bolstering the Eskimo bid for honors. Scorer of fifteen touches last season for the Gophers, Matheny is expected to pace the Edmonton offensive in spectacular fashion when he lines up in the backfield with Coach Fritz, Vin Yatchek, Harold Sutton, Paul Kirk and Ernie Stevens.

Backfield relief will be provided by Steve Olander, who came to Edmonton from the Blue Bombers last season, by Arnold Olander, a younger brother of Steve, and by Ted Heath, Norris Hardie and Jim Jordan, a trio of home-brew gridders.

Linemen Bob Hoel and Russ Wile, likewise touted as grid standouts, will take up positions in the Edmonton front wall along with Gordon Gelhaye, Eddie O’Brien, Lyle Howell and other capable second-year men.

Calgary Squad Rebuilds

RUNNERS-UP to the Blue Bombers in - the 1938 Western finals, Calgary Bronks have Dick Haughian, former Santa Clara University star, and Calgary line-coach last year, in charge at the foothills city this season. Haughian, a line stalwart who came to the Bronks in the

1937 season, replaces Carl Cronin at the helm. In his first year as mentor in the Conference loop, Haughian faces the assignment of filling Cronin’s shoes, together with a difficult rebuilding task.

Backfielders Buzz Buzzard, Ed Rorvig, Johnny Rosano, Johnny Mike Sullivan and Bob Campbell will be missing from the Bronk lineup, as will linemen Hal Hoptauit. Plug Mitchell and Keith Gibson. Sullivan and Hoptauit were named on last year’s Canadian Press allstar Western team. Hoptauit, the brilliant Indian guard, gained further recognition on Maclean’s all-star Western squad. Their replacement constitutes a weighty problem for Coach Haughian.

Of last year’s backfielders, Haughian has but Paul Rowe, Jimmy Gilkes and Joe Turner available for service, and Turner will be returning to Queen’s University after the first five games in the prairie loop. Herb Snowden, a fine blocking back, returns to the Bronks from a season with Gonzaga University. Newcomers Willard Bisbing from Mississippi, Wilf Hughes from Loyola, Jack Ferguson from Victoria, and Bud Weaver and Steve McKinnon from the University of Saskatchewan, report to the Bronk backfield with fine advance notices. On their performances in a football loop which is considered one of the toughest on the American continent, will depend the destinies of the 1939 edition of the Bronks.

Latest addition to the Bronk backfield is Lyn Warren, from Stetson University in Florida. Hailed as a greater passer than the renowned Slingin’ Sammy Baugh, Warren reports to Calgary following a tryout with the Washington Redskins of the National Football League. Last season Warren completed sixty-seven per cent of his passes, and his tossing ability, together with his versatility as a punting and running left half, should certainly bolster the Calgary attack. Calgary workouts have definitely corroborated the sparkling advance notices on Willard Bisbing, and the former Mississippi University gridder. a triple-threat star, is definitely established at the fullback position.

Calgary line recruits are Bob Zwank, hefty tackle from Loyola University, Buck Baker, a 235-pound giant from Gonzaga University, Johnny McKee from Villa Nova University, Bert Border from the University of Saskatchewan, Ken Thompson from Montreal Nationals, and several other likely-looking prospects. Line-coach Bob Cosgrove from Montana, a bulwark of strength with the Bronks last season, has veterans Jack Lawrence, Bob Harrison, Hal Harrison, Larry Haynes and Chet Hagen ready for action.

Strongest opposition to the perennial Blue Bomber bid for Western honors is likely to be provided this year by Regina Rough Riders and Edmonton Eskimos, with Calgary Bronks the dark horse entry.

If the lateral-passing plays of the East can be adapted for Western football by the Rough Riders under the guidance of McGill’s Doug Kerr, then the Saskatchewan gridders may regain the honors they held for so many years in the prairie loop. At any rate, the Regina experiment will be interesting to watch, and will provide Western fans an opportunity to study a prairie interpretation of the Eastern type of play.

Under the leadership of Playing Coach Bob Fritz, and bolstered by Minnesota stalwarts, the Edmonton Eskimos should make things interesting for the rest of the loop. Provided that Fritz can familiarize his latest American imports with the Canadian game in a short space of time, the Eskimos will certainly be pointing for a Western title in their second year in the Conference.

Necessarily handicapped by the rebuilding program at the foothills city, the Calgary Bronks may or may not attain to the heights they reached under Carl Cronin last year. But win or lose, they will be doing their best for Haughian, in an effort to make his coaching debut successful.

Football fans throughout the Dominion are insisting on an early compromise by Eastern and Western grid officials to end the constant bickering which has jeopardized mutual relations and precluded national unity. The C.R.U. will have to make some move to ensure the future of Canadian football.