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The new head coach and general manager of the Saskatchewan Roughriders Chris Jones speaks during a press conference at Mosaic Stadium in Regina on Monday December 7, 2015. Jones rounded out his coaching staff for the 2016 season on Wednesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Bell

Santa’s great Canadian CFL road trip

The new head coach and general manager of the Saskatchewan Roughriders Chris Jones speaks during a press conference at Mosaic Stadium in Regina on Monday December 7, 2015. Jones rounded out his coaching staff for the 2016 season on Wednesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Bell

 

By: Don Landry

Christmas in CFL cities will be a little different this year as Santa gets some help from the hardest working man in football. The following timeline illustrates how it will all play out.

11:45 pm, Greenwich Mean Time: As Santa pulls on his gloves and gets set to step out into the frigid North Pole air, a giant puff of smoke suddenly appears in the doorway of the front entrance of his cottage. As the smoke dissipates, Santa spies a solitary figure dressed entirely in black, legs spread shoulder-width apart, hands behind his back, head bowed. “Who ARE you?” Santa asks, cautiously. “Who, me?” comes the reply, as the figure pulls out a pair of dark sunglasses. Putting them on as he raises his head, a crooked smile creases the stranger’s face as he slowly drawls “I’m Chris Jones. And I’m your new Christmas Eve Coordinator.”

Explaining that the holiday season always leaves him bored and with nothing to do, football-wise, Jones says he’d like to fill the void of inactivity “with a little somethin’-somethin, if y’all don’t mind.”

At first skeptical, Santa glances at the resume thrust toward him by the man in black. “Impressive,” he responds. “But,” Santa continues, “the most important thing is whether you’ve been naughty or nice this year.”

“Depends on who y’all ask,” Jones says, with a thick as molasses chuckle. “Bet I’m on both lists.”

Now, it just so happens that Santa had been feeling that things around the North Pole were getting a little stale. He decides to take the plunge. “You’re hired,” he says, excitedly, punctuating the moment with a boisterous “Ho Ho Ho!”

“I was thinking we might lose the triple ho thing,” Jones says as he wraps his arm around Kringle, guiding him out the door. “A few other changes been on my mind, too.”

“Why are there just two reindeer?” asks Santa as he steps outside and sees only Rudolph and Blitzen in harness.

“I let a few of ’em go,” Jones replies casually. “We’ll round out the squad as we go.”

“And why is the Easter Bunny sitting in the sleigh?” asks a confused Saint Nick.

“We’ve worked together before,” says Jones, “so I brought him over to join the staff. Coordinator of Christmas Confections. Guy knows his chocolate.”

They board the sleigh in the middle of a howling blizzard. Jones reaches up and secures the top button of his golf shirt, snug around his neck. Santa asks if he’d like a coat or gloves.

“Nah, I’m good,” Jones answers, as he snaps the reins. And they lift off.

12:01 am, ET: Santa and his new Christmas Coordinator (as well as Vice-President of Elf Resources) land in Montreal, where Santa leaves Kevin Glenn a thank you note. When Jones asks why he’s thanking him, Saint Nick says “He sure knows Canada, Chris. Travel tips he’s given me have shaved a full 10% off my delivery times.” They pick up photographer Johany Jutras so she can document the rest of the trip in photos. Should be a great book.

12:13 am, ET: The crew touches down in Ottawa where they find Henry Burris wearing a bonnet, with a sash across his chest that reads “2016.” When they ask what that is all about, Burris responds “The New Year’s Casting Committee originally asked me to come in and read for the part of ‘Old Man 2015.’ But after my audition they told me they really liked my abilities in the area of time defiance, so….” Looking Burris up and down, Santa asks “doesn’t the New Year’s Baby usually show up in a diaper?” To which Burris replies “I think red and black plaid bicycle shorts are more flattering.” Jones asks if the New Year’s Committee needs a chairman.

12:20 am, ET: Just before they land in Toronto, Jones negotiates another position with Santa, becoming the new Director of Toy Shop Personnel. They drop off defensive lineman Andre Monroe, but not before Monroe successfully goads Santa into a “belly off.” The two of them bare their midriffs and slam into each other at full speed, over and over, for fifteen minutes, before declaring a tie. “Good thing we did this early,” Santa says. “After a whole night of milk and cookies… could’ve been ugly.” They leave the Argos a framed picture of Dorothy and her little dog Toto, superimposed in front of BMO Field. The words “There’s no place like home” are written underneath.

1:10 am, ET: Jones and Santa are finally able to land at Tim Hortons Field, after spending a full ten minutes trying to evade the defences that Orlondo Steinauer has set up. “Why on earth would you try to keep Santa Claus from landing?” asks Jones. “I just can’t help myself,” says Steinauer, “Stop ’em. Stop ’em all,” he keeps muttering as he walks away. Santa asks defensive lineman Bryan Hall if he’d like to join them for the rest of the night. Hall agrees, but only if he can make the trip shirtless and Saint Nick does the same. Santa obliges. Jones, now Kringle’s Vice President of Digital Platforms & Social Media Engagement, posts a selfie of the three of them on Instagram, tagging it with #WWMO.

12:59 am, CT: Jones and Santa hit the city of Winnipeg, where they do a ceremonial fly by over The Palomino Club, standing and saluting as they circle it. After landing on the roof of The Rum Hut at Investors Group Field, they make their way inside where Mike O’Shea greets them and cheerily spikes their egg nog. Santa hands him a giant foam tube, some 20 yards long and bellows “Merry Christmas!” “What the hell is that?” a gobsmacked O’Shea asks. “It’s a beer snake koozie,” laughs Jones.

1:15 am, CT: Jones calls an audible, opting to fly right over Saskatchewan and head for Alberta. “Always gotta keep ’em guessing,” he chuckles, grinning at Santa. “Besides, if we hit Regina last I can head straight to the office and do a little film work before sunrise.” As they pass over Saskatchewan, they drop hundreds of thousands of green and white T-shirts, each emblazoned with a picture of a winking Jones wielding a light saber and the words “The Force Awakens” written underneath.

1:41 am, MT: They swoop down on Calgary next, just after Jones adds the title of Director: Naughty/Nice Scouting, to his portfolio. Jutras catches Bo Levi Mitchell doing a bang-on impersonation of Santa behind his back and posts an artful black and white photo of it to her Twitter account. They leave John Hufnagel a stocking filled with Sharpies and lineman Quinn Smith home and away jerseys with easy-to-change velcro numbers on them. Jones is named Santa’s Director of Gingerbread House Design just before they depart.

2:07 am, MT: Edmonton. As Santa and Jones enter the Eskimos offices at Commonwealth Stadium, they see light through the crack under the door to Ed Hervey’s office. They open the door to see Hervey with his feet up on his desk, drinking mulled wine from The Grey Cup. “Heard about your little ‘Force Awakens’ T-Shirt drop, Hervey says. “Cute.” He takes another big, lingering, swig and wipes his mouth, rising slowly to his feet. “But I’ve always preferred ‘The Empire Strikes Back,’ he says, fixing Jones with a steely gaze. “See you on the field, my friend.” Just then, another voice is heard from an adjoining office. “I’ve always kind of liked ‘Episode Four: A New Hope,'” says Jason Maas, stepping trough the door. Jones smirks, points at The Cup and says: “I’ma leave this right here, guys. For now.” After a few seconds of silence, Santa shouts “aaaawkwaaaard,” and away they go.

2:53 am, PT: Santa and his newly appointed Vice President of Candy Cane Distribution creep into the B.C. Lions’ training facility in Surrey. They expect that Wally Buono will be asleep by now but the all-time winningest coach is not. Instead, he is busy tending to his hydroponic starting quarterback grow op. “Working on a Garcia/Reilly hybrid,” says Buono. “Should be ready in 2018.” As Santa takes a step towards Buono with a present, out of nowhere comes Adam Bighill with a thunderous hit that separates Saint Nick from the package. Scooping it up, Bighill runs it all the way back to the North Pole, where he spikes it at the feet of a group of bewildered elves. Meanwhile, Buono has donned a black and orange T-shirt. “Fellas, tell me what you think of this,” he says as he spreads his arms wide. On the shirt is a picture of Wally wielding a light saber, with the words “The Force Awakens” written underneath. “Uhhh… don’t know how to tell you this, Wally,” says Jones, while Santa uncomfortably pretends to admire some photos on the wall.

With that, their CFL Christmas Eve is over and the crew heads skyward once again, with Santa pondering all the requests he got for healthy quarterbacks in 2016. “Haven’t had a run on a Christmas wish like that since Tickle Me Elmo, in ’96,” he says.

And I heard Jones exclaim as they rode out of sight: “Santa, I’ll tell ya why y’all need a Director of Yuletide Quality Control….”