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BC Lions fans can officially start planning their summers as the 2017 schedule has been released. Orange-clad supporters looking to make a Leos road trip as part of their vacation plans will have plenty of options. The the club is slated to play six away games in July and August. As was the case in 2016, they will have made all four visits out east before Labour Day arrives.
The Lions were a perfect 4-0 in road contests against East Division last season and had an overall regular season record of 6-3 away from BC Place. The fun begins for real on Saturday, June 24 when Mike Reilly and the Edmonton Eskimos pay a visit. Buono’s troops will look to cash in with a big divisional home win to kick things off, much like last season when Chris Rainey’s electrifying punt return paved the way for an emotional victory over the Calgary Stampeders.
After week one, it gets interesting: The Lions will embark on a three-game journey through the East with stops in Toronto June 30, Montreal July 6 and Hamilton July 15. It will be a total of 27 days between home games before the Winnipeg Blue Bombers come to town July 21 for a rematch of last November’s epic Western Semi-Final.
The Lions will face the Bombers and Eskimos three times each with just a pair of meetings against other division rivals Calgary and Saskatchewan, along with the usual home and home against every East Division squad.
Here is a more thorough breakdown of the BC Lions 2017 schedule:
Many fans will probably be pleased to learn that the breakdown for home games is as follows: 5 Saturdays (all regular season) and 5 Fridays (1 pre-season included). It is a bit of a change from last season, which saw 1 Thursday night in week three, a 25-14 loss to the Toronto Argonauts. Thursday home games are clearly the least favourite amongst our great fans so this development should be fairly well received.
The Lions spoiled the party at Old Mosaic Stadium in 2016, winning the final ever CFL contest there 24-6 on October 28. Our first visit to the spectacular new version of Mosaic will take place on August 13, which is also the back end of a home-and-home series. That visit also marks the only Sunday game for the Lions in 2017. We had no Sunday games, home or away, last season. The Riders’ lone visit to BC Place is eight days prior. These are the only meetings against Chris Jones and company in 2017 after we prevailed in all three contests last year.
Lions players will have had exactly 272 days to lament the Western Final loss in Calgary when they welcome in the Stampeders for a Friday night clash August 18. The lone regular season trip to McMahon Stadium is set for September 16. The Leos were one of only two clubs to defeat Calgary in the 2016 regular season.
It will feel like playoff football one month early when the Lions invade Winnipeg twice in a three-week span. Sandwiched in between is a second visit from the Eskimos October 21. With all three clubs fighting for second in the West at that point last year, these games should no doubt go a long way in determining playoff positioning. The Lions finished 2nd in the division despite a 1-3 combined record against Winnipeg and Edmonton. The defending Grey Cup champion Ottawa REDBLACKS, now led by QB Trevor Harris, pay a visit on October 7. It will not be in the Lions’ best interest to be looking ahead to the Wild Wild West showdowns.
It can be argued that a bye week never comes at an opportune time. That being said, the Lions could benefit from being fresh heading into those big October games. The two bye weeks come on Labour Day Weekend and the final week of September. Last season’s bye weeks came in week four and on the same Labour Day weekend. On both occasions, the Lions won before the bye and lost in the first game back.
With an odd number of clubs, pre-season season now features an early-week game to kick things off. This year that will be our visit to Calgary on Tuesday, June 6. Our final pre-season tune up goes ten nights later with a visit from Saskatchewan. Last year the Lions opened their exhibition campaign on Saturday, June 11. The players should be excited to strap on hit someone on another team a few days earlier. Camp can be long and gruelling, especially for the veterans.
A backloaded home schedule should be an advantage for the Lions once the stretch drive really begins. The flip side of that coin means the onus is on for a fast start, particularly with the trifecta of road games following the season opener. They were 6-3 at the halfway point in 2016, with four of those wins coming in five road trips before Labour Day. It was a big reason they controlled their own destiny for a home playoff game despite losing both meetings with Winnipeg in October.
One area where Buono will have to ensure his troops are ready is the short week between the trip to new Mosaic and home date with Calgary in August. Having only four full days to prepare for a showdown with the Stampeders may cause some wrinkles. You can bet they cannot afford to overlook a Riders squad that is looking to improve in 2017 and should have a nice home field advantage in their new, state-of-the-art venue.
Speaking of Saskatchewan, how weird will it look to see Darian Durant in an Alouettes uniform at BC Place in September? He and Jacques Chapdelaine will try and reverse Montreal’s luck on the west coast. They have only two wins here since the 2001 season.
Matt Baker: email@example.com