Pinball returns to Prince Albert

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons shares a laugh Thursday afternoon during a meet and greet event put on by the Northern Lights Casino.

Whenever Canadian Football League legend Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons visits Saskatchewan, it’s a dramatically different experience from when he previously came to Regina as a player and later coach of the Toronto Argonauts to take on the Roughriders.

“Now when I come here, I don’t have guys chasing me down the field,” Clemons joked.

Having previously visited Prince Albert two years ago to speak at an event put on by the Chamber of Commerce, Clemons returned to the city Thursday afternoon as part of a meet and greet event that was put on by the Northern Lights Casino.

“I love the people here in Prince Albert,” Clemons said. “Everyone here is so nice and there’s a real sense of community here.

“Naturally you have more football conversations here in Saskatchewan than in most places in the country, but beyond that I think you find there’s a great sense of normalcy here. Back in Toronto, everything’s a little busier and you don’t seem to have as much time to chat, while here you can have a productive conversation about pretty much anything.”

In addition to his current roles as a special advisor with the Argos front office and serving as a team ambassador, the majority of the Canadian Football and Canadian Sports Hall of Fame inductees’ time is spent with the Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons Foundation, which helps provides educational opportunities to marginalized youth.

“We’ve built over 200 classrooms in developing countries and now our focus is on helping local youth in Toronto that find themselves in foster care or that are in a shelter,” Clemons said.

“We’ve had almost 400 people come through our program in recent years and they’ve been able to find full-time jobs in the trades or technology. It’s sustainable work and it allows them to double the average household incomes for their families.”

As he wore a Grey Cup ring from when the Argos’ won the 100th edition of the event in 2012 in Toronto, Clemons was quick to point his excitement of what was going on in the West Division this season.

“It really shows just how rich our league is,” Clemons said. “Saskatchewan and Winnipeg have both back and forth all year and Calgary was ahead of them, but now you can make a case for both of them being better than Calgary.

“Plus you have B.C. and Edmonton battling their way into the playoffs, so it’s been really wonderful to watch it all unfold. I wish I could say the same thing about the East Division, but it hasn’t been quite as exciting.”