Stampeders ready to shake off demons
After tough back-to-back Grey Cup losses, Calgary is determined to show it can finish the job
EDMONTON — This one’s for all the marbles.
It’s also to put behind two years of heartache.
And with it comes a chance to hoist a Grey Cup for not only themselves, but for those former teammates who aren’t around to take care of unfinished business.
“I’ve heard this week from (Rob) Cote, Keon (Raymond) … guys like that,” said Calgary Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell. “Deron Mayo just texted me like, ‘Hey, man … go finish the day.’
“When you get a text from an ex-teammate and a friend like that, it’s kind of their way of saying, ‘Go get it done for us, too.’ I think it’s good to get those texts — I like to hear from my close friends and know that we can go out there and help them out, too.”
So the search for victory in the ultimate game today isn’t just about the dozen or so guys who’ve suffered through two heartbreaking losses in the last two Grey Cups — a 39-33 overtime loss to the Ottawa Redblacks in 2016 and a 27-24 loss to the Toronto Argonauts a year ago.
It’s about this era under head coach Dave Dickenson that’s seen the Stamps put up a 41-11-2 regular-season mark over three CFL seasons without taking home the championship trophy and accepting the bragging rights that go along with it.
“Look at our roster,” Dickenson said. “There’s hardly anybody here that has been here for two years — it’s just so much turnover. That’s why I think it’s so great what we accomplished. We’ve done it with totally different teams.
“But I’ve gotta do something different. I mean … I’m pretty proud of our guys going to three straight Cups. The problem is if you don’t win one, it just doesn’t feel like you’ve accomplished anything. You look back and you really have. But it’s not enough.”
Like it or not, unfinished business dating back to the 2016 CFL championship and the bad mojo of two straight heartaches lines up as the game story coming in.
Dickenson took it upon himself to change up the way the team has prepared during this Grey Cup Week as compared to the previous two.
“As a coach, I think you’re stupid if you don’t look at maybe changing something up, doing something different … ” Dickenson said. “There’s got to be something there. You’ve got to solve this riddle.”
He made sure to get the team booked into a hotel in the hinterland of Edmonton, well away from the bright lights of the Grey Cup festival.
“Honestly, having our hotel outside the city and not being around all the fans and the festivities was kind of nice,” Mitchell said. “I think sometimes it makes you feel like you’re within the lights, I guess. Like you’re around the festivities the entire time instead of just thinking, ‘I’m here to play a football game.’ I think being in that hotel has felt like we’re just preparing for a football game, so that’s been pretty good.”
The head coach also moved his team into Commonwealth Stadium a day ahead of the Redblacks to get his side used to both the locker-room and the field, which could turn out to be another riddle to solve because of its hard, slick surface as of Saturday.
“I think that helped, too,” he said. “Two-sided, I guess, because we probably didn’t have a great practice (Friday) because the ground wasn’t amazing so guys were just trying to find their footing, but it was an extra day for us to learn how to find that footing on the field, and that’s going to be a part of that game.”