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Tait: These are a few of my favourite (CFL) things

The Banjo Bowl, Captain Blue and a fired-up Matt Nichols screaming at the crowd top Ed Tait's football season must-sees.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols (15) hands off to Andrew Harris (33) during the first half of CFL action against the Edmonton Eskimos, in Winnipeg on Thursday, June 15, 2017.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols (15) hands off to Andrew Harris (33) during the first half of CFL action against the Edmonton Eskimos, in Winnipeg on Thursday, June 15, 2017.

The curtain comes up on another Canadian Football League season this week – minus the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who have the bye – and that’s cause for a mammoth celebration among the three-down game’s diehards.

Yours truly, included.

And so, with the 2017 campaign opening Thursday, here are a few of my favourite CFL things…

-The signpost games throughout the schedule, including Saskatchewan in Montreal to face Darian Durant and a Grey-Cup rematch between Calgary and Ottawa in the opening week; Winnipeg at Regina on Canada Day and the official debut of new Mosaic Stadium; Edmonton at Calgary and Toronto at Hamilton on Labour-Day Monday and the Thanksgiving Weekend matchups that are springboards to the playoffs.

-The Labour Day Classic in Regina and the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg on successive weekends. No two games represent the CFL’s best rivalry than these two Prairie showdowns.

-Summer games in Hamilton and Montreal. If you haven’t, put one – or both -- on your bucket list.

-Off the cuff, off the record, sometimes not-suitable-for-all-audiences chit-chats with CFL legends like Wally Buono, John Hufnagel, Chris Walby, Mike O’Shea, Angelo Mosca and so on. Most of these conversations happen after the microphones and cameras are turned off and most include tales of this league’s grand ol’ past. Dearly missed in this department: the late Ron Lancaster, one of the loop’s wonderful storytellers.

-Listening to two of the best play-by-play guys ever in this game, CJOB’s Bob Irving and TSN’s Chris Cuthbert. They could make the parliamentary channel riveting.

-BMO Field in Toronto. Perfect size for CFL football. Hopefully a lot more fans in the Big Smoke give the game a shot, either again or for the first time.

-Captain Blue circling around the end zone after a Blue Bombers touchdown, Pigskin Pete doing the ‘Oski-wee-wee’ in Hamilton, Gainer the Gopher in Saskatchewan and Calgary’s Ralph the Dog, who lists his favourite movies as ‘Dog Day Afternoon, ‘All Dogs Go To Heaven’ and ‘The Bone Collector.’

-In no particular order… Andrew Harris carrying a pile of tacklers, Mike Reilly putting his head down for an extra yard, Bo Levi Mitchell’s precision, ‘Thick’ Nik Lewis signalling a first-down after a catch, Kent Austin’s seemingly-permanent look of disgust, a fired-up Matt Nichols screaming at the crowd, Robb Bagg playing every down like it’s his last, Jonathon Jennings ad-libbing, Simoni Lawrence trash-talking, Shawn Lemon and Odell Willis chasing quarterbacks and Chris Rainey in the open field.

-And, finally, Grey Cup week. Ottawa will kill it this year – the RedBlacks announced Monday fewer than 1,000 tickets remain for the big game. The build-up – with fans coming from all over -- is pure Canadiana and the game almost-always delivers.

Ed Tait is the Blue Bombers Director of Content. His columns will appear weekly in the Metro. Follow him daily at bluebombers.com

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