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John Candy as Johnny Larue
John Candy as Johnny Larue

The Usual Suspects

Candy special underlines gloomy state of Argos Add to ...

Perhaps it’s appropriate that, with the whiff of formaldehyde hovering over the Toronto Argonauts, TSN has produced a Grey Cup portrait of the late John Candy, once a co-owner of the moribund Boatmen. The pretense for the fine piece is the 20th anniversary of the Grey Cup won by a Toronto squad owned by Candy, Wayne Gretzky and Bruce McNall. There are sweet reminiscences from former players such as Rocket Ismail, Gretzky himself and Candy’s Second City colleagues.

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But the message beneath that annus mirabilis is melancholy. Unless something changes soon to improve the team, there will be no repeat of the Argos’ 1991 triumph when the Grey Cup heads to the Rogers Centre in Toronto for its 100th anniversary next November.

The documentary (Saturday, 1:15 p.m. Eastern) highlights Candy’s manic efforts to make the Argos the coolest kid in class once again, reviving them in a Toronto market infatuated with the Blue Jays and Maple Leafs. Employing Hollywood pals ranging from Jim Belushi to Mariel Hemingway, Candy single-handedly lifted the team and the entire league for a brief moment of gridiron Camelot.

Watching him on the frigid Winnipeg sideline in November of 1991, we vividly recall looking up from our desk at CBC to see the ample Candy bounding across the newsroom toward us, massive paw outstretched as slack-jawed reporters sat stunned to see the movie star in their midst. As the many voices in the piece recall, Candy was everywhere in the brief years between buying the team and selling it days before his death in March of 1994. We were on his list and he made it memorable.

Producer Matt Dunn deftly captures Candy’s enthusiasm for a team that, as now, was being rendered passé by Toronto’s cultural elites. In those days, however, there was no NFL pressing at the gates of Canada’s largest market, threatening the viability of the entire league. As the CFL takes the Grey Cup game to Toronto next year, it’s hard not to lament the shabby condition of the storied tradition Candy so believed in.

Grey Cup lineup

There will be no melancholy this weekend in Vancouver. The CFL’s ratings dodged an arsenic cocktail of Winnipeg Blue Bombers-Edmonton Eskimos and instead the league has the hometown Lions in their beautifully refurbished B.C. Place Stadium as a centrepiece. While it won’t make up for the Canucks’ failure in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final, a win in what might be the final game of coach Wally Buono’s illustrious career will no doubt warm Vancouver’s rainy heart. (We can only hope that the Vancouver police are ready for this game.)

After a season in which TV ratings dropped dramatically, TSN is throwing everything but the Lions Gate Bridge at the game, with a full nine hours of content Saturday, including a replay of Thursday’s Gibson’s Finest CFL Awards at 3 p.m. Sunday, the pregame starts at 1 p.m. with kickoff more than five hours later. Plus the Vanier Cup final goes Friday night at B.C. Place with Laval and McMaster tangling for the championship of Canadian Interuniversity Sport. Fans can also catch the weekend’s antics on TSN Radio 1050 in Toronto and area and nationally on TSN.ca/radio.

Last year’s Montreal Alouettes-Saskatchewan Roughriders game was the second-highest rated Grey Cup in history. The presence of B.C. will guarantee a strong number in 2011, but CFL and TSN executives will be praying that fans east of the Lakehead tune in for what may be perceived as a Western event.

McSorry spectacle

It was yesterday once more in the NHL for one glorious Wednesday night. The Buffalo Sabres seeking cartoon revenge on Milan Lucic for a hit the thuggish Boston Bruins forward laid on Sabres goalie Ryan Miller. There were preordained fights, a line brawl and Boston’s homer announcer Jack Edwards braying something about his team grabbing the sabre and running Buffalo through.

Both TSN and Sportsnet devoted ample time to the adolescent antics. But Sportsnet emphasized its commitment to schoolboy scrapping with expert witness Marty McSorley, who once was in private security for the firm of W. Gretzky & Co. The insights of the old pugilist were ballyhooed by the network all night.

And what cutting-edge comment did McSorley offer? That Buffalo was unserious about its revenge because it used Paul Gaustad to do the ritual dance with Lucic. Gaustad, said McSorley, wasn’t a real fighter. The Sabres needed to bring up some recidivist from the minors to clobber Lucic. By offering Gaustad up for pummelling, the Sabres only added to the disgrace of not originally challenging Lucic when he deliberately conked Miller.

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