Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) smiles on the bench during the second half of CFL Football exhibition game action against the Toronto Argonauts in Hamilton earlier this month. Manziel, a former Heisman Trophy winner, will begin his CFL career this weekend on the Hamilton sidelines. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power

The tough slog that is the Canadian Football League season is set to begin


“Hey! It’s june. Time to play a little football.”


Hamilton quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) throws an errant pass during the second half of CFL Football exhibition game action in Hamilton on June 1, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power

“Yeah, it’s Canada.”

All true.

The Canadian Football League begins its regular season Thursday night in Winnipeg when Edmonton’s Eskimos face the hometown Blue Bombers (good names, eh?).

After a schedule that includes 18 games by all nine teams followed by a set of playoffs, it will all end in Edmonton on Nov. 25 with the Grey Cup championship game.

We don’t know who will be playing.

The Toronto Argonauts celebrate as they hoist the Grey Cup after defeating the Calgary Stampeders in the 105th Grey Cup, Sunday, November 26, 2017 in Ottawa. The Grey Cup remains one of the most watched events on Canadian television. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

What we do know is temperatures that evening will resemble not a whit this weekend’s forecasts.

Ah, this weekend.

On Saturday night Calgary’s Stampeders are hosting Hamilton’s Tiger-Cats, the new professional home of wayward American quarterback Johnny Manziel, winner of the Heisman Trophy as a freshman at Texas A&M in 2012.

Known as Johnny Football when he was a college star, Manziel’s life and career hit the skids after he left school.

Suffering alcohol and substance abuse problems as well as from a self-professed bipolar disorder, Manziel managed to play his way out of the U.S. National Football League in two frought-filled years, to the point that he was out of football in 2017.

Toronto Argonauts players hold the Grey Cup as the team holds a Cup winning rally in Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square, on Tuesday, November 28, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

He’s in Canada now and says he’s clean.

The real Johnny, he says, is back.

Trouble is, he’s said that before, then slipped badly.

Manziel is the brightest star from the U.S. football firmament to come to Canada since another Heisman winner, Doug Flutie, arrived in British Columbia in 1990.

Most observers will tell you Flutie went went on to establish himself as the greatest player to ever play in Canada.

Manziel has a tougher road.

He starts the 2018 season carrying a clipboard on the Hamilton sidelines, playing second fiddle to last year’s starter, Jeremiah Masoli.

What happens now is anyone’s guess.

It could very will turn into a very bumpy ride.

For more on Manziel and the upcoming CFL season, I spoke to author, sportswriter and media personality Bruce Dowbiggin, who hosts the website notthepublicbroadcaster.com.

Dowbiggin spoke by phone from his Calgary home.

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