August 30, 2023

“If we just focus on our task, everything should fall into place.”

It is one of a handful of tell-tale signs the annual Labour Day Classic is looming on the horizon – the fake crowd noise piped into IG Field at Winnipeg Blue Bombers practice to mirror conditions in Regina on the weekend, while simultaneously making ears bleed and windows rattle throughout Fort Richmond.

And the Blue Bombers, to a man, collectively have one response: Bring it.

“You could say the Labour Day Classic is the start of ‘the push,’” said veteran receiver Nic Demski, who has experienced the game from both sides as a member of the Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders. “Obviously we’re already past the halfway mark, but Labour Day is one of those energy games all around the league. It’s about making your pushes into the playoffs and making your statements.

“At the end of the day it’s another chance to compete, but there’s a little something extra to this for sure. Labour Day always has these little extra storylines, but we just try to block out the noise and come out and play for our teammates.”

The Blue Bombers roll into this signpost weekend at 9-2, first in the West Division and with a four-point edge on the B.C. Lions who have unexpectedly dropped their last two to fall to 7-4. That October 6th matchup in Vancouver is still important for the season series – currently tied 1-1 – but the Blue Bombers now do have an edge.

“We obviously see it. We’re always watching the other games,” said Demski. “But it’s always how the West is – there’s always a lot of movement right to the end, right to the last week. You’ve got to just focus on yourself, focus on your week.

“That’s the beauty of just focusing on yourself and playing good football. You can do it yourself. You don’t have to rely on another team, you don’t have to go in at halftime and check the scores of other teams. If we just focus on our task, everything should fall into place.”

Remaining games

Winnipeg (9-2): Sept. 3 @Sask; Sept. 9 vs Sask; Sept. 16 @Ham; Bye; Sept. 29 vs. Tor.; Oct. 6 @ B.C.; Bye; Oct. 21 vs. Edm; Oct. 27 @Cal

B.C. (7-4): Sept. 2 @Mtl; Bye; Sept. 16 vs. Ott; Sept. 22 @Edm; Sept 29 vs Sask; Oct. 6 vs. Wpg; Oct. 13 @Ham; Oct. 20 vs Cal; Bye


The CFL posted the first of its weekly playoff scenarios this season and a Blue Bombers victory in the Labour Day Classic would send the team to the postseason for the seventh straight season.

These games – the Labour Day Classic followed by the return matchup with the Roughriders in the Banjo Bowl next weekend – are the matchups players dream about, including Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros. Worth noting here: Collaros is 6-0 in his career in Labour Day Classic games – 3-0 during his days with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 1-0 as the Roughriders QB in 2018 and 2-0 since joining the Blue Bombers. His numbers in those games including 13 TD passes to just three interceptions, three 300-yard passing efforts and a 400 yarder in 2015.

“Dating back to my time in Toronto and Hamilton, those Labour Day games were always big,” Collaros said after practice on Wednesday. “The year I was there in Sask and ever since I’ve been here you truly feel the magnitude of the game between the two provinces. It’s just really a special environment every time we get together and especially on Labour Day.

“During the week everybody’s got a little pep in their step when you see people around town. Everybody is very friendly here and says hello anyways, but it’s ‘It’s Labour Day… let’s go. We’re playing Sask.’ It’s a big deal. Obviously, it’s a great environment out there in Sask; the fans are really good. It’s going to take a great effort by us, but the adrenaline has definitely picked up for sure.”

More notes and quotes from the Blue Bombers return to practice in this week’s NEED TO KNOW:


Some positive news coming from Blue Bombers sick bay – defensive ends Thiadric Hansen, Celestin Haba and linebacker Malik Clements practiced while receiver/kick returner Janarion Grant was seen running sprints in the end zone. The timetable for their return likely won’t become clear until later this week or into next.

The news on all of them is promising, but especially for Hansen, who suffered an Achilles injury a year ago in the Labour Day Classic.

“All our guys, through the course of time, you realize they’re all very cognizant of a guy’s rehab,” said head coach Mike O’Shea on Hansen’s return to practice. “They try to stay as in touch with as much as possible, even though they’re in the building, they try to always stay involved with the guy. They really appreciate when that hard works pays off and it gets you back on the field.”


Collaros is still bothered by the two Pick-6s he threw in the win over Montreal, more so than the four TD passes he tossed.

“I’ll probably think about it for the rest of the year. Next season, probably. I’m not kidding,” he told a media throng on Wednesday. “It’s stupid stuff. Stupid things. You play the game in your head all throughout the week, you spend a lot of time – at least we do – where you walk the call sheet in the morning, you walk the call sheet at night, whether it’s first down, second down, the red area… all those situations.

“… You walk through it and say ‘I’ve got to bring the ball here’ and then you go out and do something stupid like that and put your team into a hole quickly. It’s a s—-y feeling.”

Asked if he was pissed off in the moment or more after the game when he was thinking about it, Collaros grinned and added: “I’m just always pissed off.”


Adam Bighill on the play of the defence lately:

“You get in the back third (of the schedule) here, you need to be noticeably a lot better than you were at the beginning of the season and we’re taking big strides. We’re not where we want to be yet, but we’re getting closer. We’ve been able to put some pretty good stuff on film the last few weeks and guys are playing really well and playing fast and playing physical. We’re playing with a ton of confidence because we come out here and earn that confidence every day with the work we put in and the results we get and we keep rolling that forward.”


Here’s O’Shea when asked about combatting the noise the team will face, especially on offence, this weekend in Regina: “I don’t know that you’re fighting it – that would be the wrong thing to do. We practise with it, so you have experience with it and don’t let it ever into the fact into your process or even into your mind that this is troublesome. You stick to the plan of how we operate in that crowd noise and just focus on that part of it. The rest of it gets tuned out fairly quickly.”… O’Shea was asked for any potential update on Canadian cornerback Tyrell Ford, who was released by the Green Bay Packers on the weekend and remains Blue Bombers property if he should return to the CFL. “You give him a minute to gather his thoughts,” he said. “I’m sure with a lot of these guys once they get down there and go through camp and unfortunately get waived, it doesn’t mean they aren’t going to be on the PR somewhere. I’m sure the advice from most of their agents would be, ‘Let’s just wait for a while and see how everything shakes down.”