The BC Lions held their annual Fan Fest event in Kamloops on Sunday and once again it was a big success. Sunny warm temperatures finally graced the tournament capital and fan young and old came to mingle with their football team.
One of the priorities that Bob Ackles had when he came back to the Lions was to grow the game at the grass roots level, and events like the Lions put on today do just that. Young aspiring football players and others that may have been introduced to the game for the first time descended on Hillside Stadium at Thompson Rivers University to “Play with the pros.”
For other fans, the chance to get their favourite players autograph or picture was the draw of the day. I’ll say this unequivocally; there is no other league whose players mingle with the fans better than the CFL.
The team followed the festivities with a practice and a non contact scrimmage for those in attendance.
I hope this gallery gives you a sense of the great atmosphere that was present in Kamloops today. This ends our on location training camp coverage for 2012, as we have to return to the real world on Monday. We hope you enjoyed the pictures and the updates. We look forward to the start of the preseason this Wednesday!
Hello from cold, windy, rainy Kamloops. Yesterday afternoon’s beautiful sunshine was gone by this morning, giving way to the October like weather we’ve been experiencing here. Oh well, at least it’s supposed to be nice for the folks coming out for Fan Fest tomorrow.
There wasn’t much to report yesterday, the morning practice was spirited, the afternoon was a walk through session with no pads, so I took the the day off from blogging, but did post a few pictures, if you missed them.
This morning’s session in the rain was a productive one, but could also have costly. Jon Hameister-Ries left practice on a cart with what looked to be a lower body injury. N o, I won’t get into specifics here, because the club doesn’t appreciate that, but you can probably use your imagination. He did not return to the field. That would make three potential offensive lineman now nursing injuries, meaning guard Patrick Kabongo should have no problem dropping a few pounds. Club president Dennis Skulsky told me this morning that Dean Valli will go to Vancouver on Tuesday to have his knee evaluated by doctors, and said the club will take its time on the return of both he and Jesse Newman. Rookie Matt Norman has shown well.
Khalif Mitchell also took the pads off, favouring his upper body, but it looked like he would be fine after being worked on by the trainers.
Running back Stu Foord had a good morning session, earning the praise of coach Kelly Bates and showing his talents in the mini scrimmage potion of practice. Travis Lulay looked sharp and backup Mike Reilly, perhaps coming to life after the release of Corey Leonard also looked sharper this morning.
Receiver Kierrie Johnson continued his strong showing in camp, and any thoughts that his roster spot might be in jeopardy are starting to fade if they haven’t already been extinguished.
Defensive line hopefully Maurice Evans returned to practice this morning as did receiver Marco Iannuzzi.
Time for lunch, hopefully warmer, drier skies await for the afternoon session at 4:00pm today.
If you’re in Kamloops and would like to join us for a little BC Lions Social at Boston Pizza tonight, we’ll be gathering at 7:30pm at the 500 Notre Dame Drive location. Drop me an e-mail or send me a tweet @BCLionsDen if you’re thinking of joining us so I can ensure we have a seat waiting for you!
Sorry this is posted late, internet problems in the hotel and the arranging of a small get together in Kamloops delayed my intentions a little. More on that at the end of this, but first a quick recap of my observations from my first day in Kamloops.
The morning session saw mainly clear skies to start but cool temperatures. The sun didn’t stay long however and was gone by the end of the session. In the afternoon, cool, grey, windy and at times rainy conditions were present and only the diehards were in the stands.
The starting receivers group looks to be Simon, Bruce, Foster, Gore, and Kierre Johnson. Newcomer Ernest Jackson had a strong session in the afternoon. Kierre Johnson is looking very fast and is catching everything. With his small stature, some felt he might be in tough for his roster spot, especially with some of the players they have brought to camp, but to me he was one of the most dangerous players out there. He’s also being used as one of the primary kick returners so far and is looking dangerous there, albeit with limited contact to date. Marco Iannuzzi sat out the afternoon session and looked to have a minor “lower body” injury.
Andrew Harris is going to have a big year. He looks ready to be a prime time player in this league, in case his performance last year wasn’t enough of a clue. Behind him, I thought Anthony Stewart has a few nice runs, but he’s very small. Didn’t notice much of Stu Foord, but rookie Nic Grigsby also had some nice carries.
The best battles of the day were the one on ones between Patrick Kabongo and Khalif Mitchell. The two put on an impressive display and showed a mutual respect for one another. As someone who had concerns about how heavy Kabongo came into camp, I had some of those alleviated after seeing how well the big man moves and seeing his work ethic. He is fitting in well with the existing offensive line members and is a leader on the field. With a little bit of weight loss and some fine tuning by Dan Dorazio, Kabongo could very well prove to be a solid pick up by the Lions with the injuries they have incurred on the line to date.
As reported, the Lions are going to give James Yurichuk every chance to stake claim to the middle linebacker spot of the departed Solomon Elimimian. It’s really tough to get a gauge on how he’s doing right now, because at this point in camp, there isn’t a lot of hitting going on. I expect to see a bit more on Friday and Saturday, and of course we’ll all get a first hand look Wednesday against the Riders. Anton McKenzie has two strong sessions including almost picking off Travis Lulay. Adam Bighill is also in the mix, but the job is Yurichuk’s to lose.
This is definitely an area of strength for the Lions and it shows. Byron Parker is fitting in nicely, both on the field and the trash talking department among the unit. The real standout for me today though was safety Cauchy Muamba who picked off Lulay and looks to be grabbing hold of the starting safety spot. Lin-J Shell continues to see second team reps and Anthony Reddick looks to be getting most of the reps at the nickle back spot.
Angus Reid sat out the morning session for what was referred to by the team as a maintenance day. He was back in the afternoon session. Defensive lineman Maurice Evans tweaked something in the morning and was sitting out the afternoon along with LB Adam Leonard who looks close to returning. As mentioned above Iannuzzi also sat out the afternoon.
If you’re going to be in Kamloops on Saturday night, June 9th, a few Lions fans are getting together at the Boston Pizza at 500 Notre Dame Drive at 7:30pm. If you would like to join us, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll make sure we save a seat for you.
Next practice: Friday, June 8th 8:20 am and 4:00pm.
Here are some photos from today’s sessions:
So you’re heading up to Kamloops to check out BC Lions training camp. If this is your first time, there are a few things you need to know and hopefully this guide will help you come prepared for anything that might happen! This will be my 9th consecutive trip to training camp so I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade and thought I would share them here. I’ll be in Kamloops from June 7th through Fan Fest on June 10th and hope to meet a few Lions fans there during my stay!
Kamloops is known for its lack of rain, but that doesn’t mean you should leave the rain gear at home. I’ve sat in the stands and been hit by flash thunderstorms that bring heavy rains, hail and wind. It’s not common, but come prepared for everything. Sunscreen is of course a must. For the first week of camp the weather looks a bit iffy.
If you’re coming up for the day, be warned. The Lions can cancel a practice session at any time. Coaches may not like the weather forecast; they may feel the players need a break, or that a film session would be more beneficial. There is also the chance the team may decide to have a “closed’ practice inside the field house at the university. The team’s media people generally try and give ample notice of this, but I have shown up to the field once or twice to find that the session has been cancelled.
Follow the BC Lions on Twitter (@BCLions) and check their web site for the latest announcements, especially if you’re just planning to come up for the day.
The Lions have a great setup at Thompson Rivers University. The players accommodations are located here, and they practice at Hillside Stadium. The parking on site is free during Lions practice sessions, so don’t by a ticket.
If there is one piece of advice you’ll be thanking me for it will be my tip to bring a cushioned pad to sit on. The stadium bleachers are not comfortable!
It’s important to remember that the BC Lions are here to work. Training camp is very important for the players and coaches, and they should not be bothered while they on the field working. Take all the photos you like from the stands, but fans are not allowed on the field (including this blogger). The players are great with the fans and many will come over to the stands to mingle with fans following any given practice section. Be polite, and they will sign and even pose for a picture.
Fan Fest on June 10th is the best way to get quality time with your favourite player and they are more than happy to interact with the fans on this day.
Enjoy the chatter
One of my favourite parts of training camp is listening to the players talk amongst themselves on the field. The defence in particular likes chirp a lot, particularly at the offensive players. There can be some really amusing lines that get thrown around. Also, don’t be surprised if tempers flare occasionally and the occasional fight breaks out. The toll of two a days can cause the blood to boil.
Meet other fans
One of the great things about the CFL is the friendships you can make with other fans. Lions Nation is growing by leaps and bounds every year. Every year at Grey Cup I am seeing more and more black and orange, and that’s great to see. If you see me, stop by and say hello, sit down and talk some football. Who knows we all may end up in a pub somewhere talking about our team.
If you’re planning to come up for more than a day, there are plenty of hotel and motel options in the “Tournament Capital of Canada”. Look around for the best deal but you can expect to pay between 80-125/Night for a decent place to stay. My personal preference is the Accent Inn. It’s clean, reasonably priced and close to everything. If camping is more your thing, there are several camp grounds in the vicinity as well.
With an early morning session and an afternoon session there is plenty of downtime to be had between all the football. Kamloops offers plenty of things to do for all ages. Riverside Park is a great place to spend a few hours, and it has a water park for the kids. Explore the local pubs and restaurants or go for a hike in the area. At night there is a Casino downtown if that’s your thing. When you’re out for dinner, don’t be surprised if you see a few players out enjoying a meal away from camp. There is plenty of shopping as well, so Kamloops has something to offer for everyone.
I hope to see a lot of fans in the stands in Kamloops this week. I hope you enjoy the experience and the beautiful surroundings of Kamloops, BC!
Summer has arrived in the tournament capital of Canada and BC Lions training camp is in full swing at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops BC. It was our first look at the 2011 crop of hopefuls looking to become BC Lions and it didn’t take long to see there was some impressive talent out on the field.
Let’s get you up to speed on some of our observations from our first day here in Kamloops. We’ll also answer some questions you sent us on Twitter.
The first thing you notice at camp this year is that there is a very high tempo. Players are being moved from drill to drill to keep the pace up and the teaching constant. There is very little standing around and this is probably a good plan. Players coming to Canada for the first time need to adjust to a shorter play clock and the faster pace of the game. This is a smart move by the team.
Last year’s CFL rookie of the year has come to camp looking like he wants to add to his trophy case. Elimimian was flying out there in the drills we watched and opposing offences had better be ready to deal with #56. The hard hitting linebacker, who the Lions tried to sign to extension in the off-season, is going to open some more eyes this year. The Lions are going to feature a 3-4 defense for many plays and combined with Adam Leonard, Anton McKenzie and Korey Banks should sport a very effective linebacking core with Elimimian as the centerpiece.
When Emmanuel Arceneaux left for the NFL dream this off-season, it certainly left the team with a hole to fill. The Lions have some options to look at in the returning Nick Moore and Akeem Foster and both had some nice plays on Thursday. But the club also looks to have found some nice options in newcomers Dobson Collins, Kierrie Johnson and Jared Perry. Collins in particular is an intriguing option with his height and speed and he received some reps with the first team, looking good doing it. He beat his defender more than once on deep routes despite not getting the ball thrown his way. Both Johnson and Perry also showed promise. 1st round draft pick Marco Iannuzzi looks like a solid pick, running solid routes and showing good hands.
There is one thing you notice right away this season. Lulay is going to be the leader of this team. He is vocal and supportive in the huddle and everyone has his attention. His passes were crisp and despite one interception during redzone drills, there was lots of reasons to feel excited watching Lulay work today.
With the release of Yonus Davis because of his legal issues the hunt is on for a new kick returner. Auditioning today were Tim Brown, Kierrie Johnson, Andrew Harris, Marco Iannuzzi and Michael Smith. Of that group Andrew Harris and Tim Brown stood out to me.
Your Twitter Questions:
@the4jenkins asked: “@BCLionsDen How is Corey Leonard doing as QB? Will he be a good addition to the Lions?”
Unfortunately it’s tough to answer that mainly because Leonard didn’t get a lot of reps today. Travis Lulay, Jarious Jackson and Mike Reilly got the majority of them from what I saw. Leonard and Matt Johnson will battle it out for the 4th QB position and we’ll have to watch more closely as camp progresses.
@allezlabluesca asked: “@BCLionsDen Ask Joash Gesse how he envisioned its second season with the Lions.”
I don’t have access to the players but I can tell you Gesse looked good in special teams drills, and saw some reps at linebacker. With the depth the team has here I think it will be tough for him to get defensive minutes when the bullets start to fly. Like James Yurichuk before him Gesse is going to earn his keep on special teams for another year I think.
@KieranM37 asked: “@BCLionsDen good to hear! How are the DBs doing?”
The DB’s looked very solid today. Marsh, Phillips and Banks looked in fine form. Davis Sanchez was present but didn’t take part in drills. J.R. LaRose has returned and didn’t show any effects from his season ending injury last season and is working with Jason Arakgi at safety. Hamid Mahmoudi struggled today, getting beat deep on more than one occasion while Stanley Franks looked solid.
@BushmanGarth asked: “@BCLionsDen Wondering how Ben Archibald looks on the O-line and the O-line in general.”
Lions fans can look forward to big things from the offensive line if it stays healthy and the big reason will be Archibald. The man is massive, and the Lions now have to solid bookends at tackle with Jovan Olafioye moving to the right. The line looked good in drills and a few running backs hit some nice holes in drills.
@Padre35 asked:@BCLionsDen How is Matt Johnson and Edgeson looking in practice? Muamba as well?
See above for Matt Johnson, Edgeson is no longer with the team and Muamba looked ok, but didn’t stand out today.
We won’t be attending the morning session tomorrow, as the defense will be practicing indoors where we can’t see, and the offense will be doing a walk-through and teaching session.
Photos: Thursday June 9th, 2011
It was a crisp morning but the weather was perfect to kick off day one of BC Lions training camp in Kamloops. The Lions took to the field in a very workmanlike manner, and the intensity was high for the first practice of camp. There were great catches, interceptions and even a few big hits in the morning session of day one, a session that had the defense looking a little sharper than the offense early on. We have some highlights of the first practice here, and you can see some pictures below.
Be sure to check back this afternoon as we will live blog from the afternoon session as well.
The BC Lions are not only taking their training camp to Kamloops this season, they’re taking their annual fan fest day there as well. The Lions informed us on Twitter today that the popular family event will take place at Hillside Stadium, home of the Lions 2010 training camp, on Saturday, June 12th from 9:00am to 1:00pm.
The event is usually themed towards families and season ticket holders, but clearly the Lions are trying to emphasize the “BC” in BC Lions. The day features a player meet and greet with autographs and pictures, and usually has a short no contact scrimmage for those in attendance.
There is no word if anything will be held for fans and season ticket holders in the lower mainland. The Lions play their first exhibition game on June 13th in Regina, and open up Empire Field the following weekend against the Edmonton Eskimos on June 20th.