ULLRICH: Playoff payoff means Lions can author Wally’s final chapter

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As we count the show of hands who admit they saw all this coming three months ago, some points to ponder as the B.C. Lions booked their ticket into the CFL playoffs with a 42-32 win over the Edmonton Eskimos Friday:

Script rewrite: it’s sensible to suggest the Lions may still not get the storybook ending for Wally Buono as the winningest coach in league history is sent into retirement with a Grey Cup win even though as the 2011 season proved, miracles happen.

The truth of the matter is the last chapter can indeed now be scripted now that the Lions are in post-season play.

Buono, of course, has attempted to suggest he returned to coach this season as a favour to David Braley while the Hamilton owner went in search of new management. Not true. Or at the very least, partly true.

Buono came back because he knew he couldn’t turn the keys over with the franchise in such a mess. It’s well on the way to being repaired on the field, though the box office issues remain, but no matter what the Lions do in the playoffs it cannot be said he doesn’t have the operation pointed in the right direction, even if general manager Ed Hervey did most of the personnel repositioning.

It may have been a stretch to compare this team to the one which won seven years ago. It isn’t any longer. One more win in the home regular-season finale against Calgary and the Lions will match their 8-1 record at B.C. Place Stadium in 2006 which preceded Buono’s other Grey Cup win.

Pay them: It’s been a tradition with Lions offensive line coach Dan Dorazio to reward his position group with PayDay chocolate bars for stellar work but what Saturday’s game should show is that there are a couple more players who should get paid by the Lions next year by Hervey.

Hervey may choose to continue to housecleaning in the off-season and not offer a contract to Travis Lulay and would point to the quarterback’s medical history to make his point.

But as Lulay proved in the second half Friday that would be a miscalculation in the eyes of a fan base that continues to marvel how he can rebound each year from one disheartening injury after another.

You might not have wanted to pay the man after throwing for 37 yards in the first half, which might have been the worst two opening quarters of his Lions stay. But when Hervey’s team absolutely needed a push, Lulay reached back and got it done. So too did DeVier Posey (5 catches, 113 yards, 3 TDs), who’ll also be looking for a new deal at the end of the season as a possible alternative to Manny Arceneaux.

“(Posey) said to me this week  ‘ I feel my best game as a Lion is coming’,” Lulay told TSN 1040. “DeVier and I had a really good conversation the first day he got here about his mindset. I felt like we were going to develop a good rapport.”

They have, and the man in charge should take note.

Billy band-aid: A Mount Rushmore of Lions greats would be a crowded montage to be sure. Lui Passaglia has a spot. The late Bob Ackles should be alongside. We’ll allow the discussion to flourish as to others worthy of recognition.

No debate here: Bill Reichelt must make the list.

The only member of the organization who has smiled every day at work at least once during his 42-year run with the Lions Friday confirmed an open secret around the club by discussing his pending retirement at the end of the season.

“It’s time,” Reichelt said.

He’s listed as the team’s director of medical services, having ceded the job of head trainer to Tristan Sandhu and stopped travelling with the club this season, but Reichelt has been equal parts medical practitioner and father figure for years with the Lions.

He started when medical treatment often consisted of putting a bottle of Aspirin in the locker room and is ending in an era of major advancements in player care .

“It’s changed two or three times,” Reichelt said. “Before it was waiting for injury. Now its more about prevention. The athlete has changed so much. They’re so good now.

“After practice everyone would sit around and go to the Legion. Now it’s video games and social media. But that’s all sports.”

Lions colour analyst Giulio Caravatta knew Reichelt as far more than a medical dispensary.

“Bill talked a lot of guys off the ledge,” Caravatta said. “For so many of the players who have worn the uniform of this great organization we always knew him as a trainer but Bill was a friend.”

The feeling was mutual.

“If you ask players what they miss it’s the camaraderie. It’s going to be that way for me too,” said Reichelt. “It hasn’t even been a job.” And whoever gets the job of replacing Reichelt has an impossible task.

About the author

Lowell Ullrich

Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.

By Lowell Ullrich

3DownNation is a website dedicated to covering the CFL and Canadian football.




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