The Province

The field was so bad even the horse ran scared

- STEVE SIMMONS @simmonsste­ve

This is how bad the field at Commonweal­th Stadium was for the 106th Grey Cup: The famous Calgary Stampeders horse ran scared.

“He didn’t like this,” said the woman in the cowboy hat, still sitting aboard the horse in the craziness of the post-game celebratio­n. “He couldn’t get any traction. You could tell it bothered him. We went at half speed.”

It bothered the horse. It bothered those trying to play in the Canadian Football League’s championsh­ip game. It bothered almost anyone who tried to manoeuvre their way across a field made for soccer, not made for football in late November.

In truth, this was more of a skating rink than a field of football dreams — a strange night of Grey Cup ice on an otherwise warm near winter night. A year ago, the field was covered in picturesqu­e snow in Ottawa. It looked like a postcard.

This time, there was no real cold, just a field effected by ice without there being any kind of snow. Instead, we saw a night where the slippery field was the most valuable storyline, taking the Grey Cup hostage and pushing the players aside.

This could have been a great football game. It wasn’t. This could have been a memorable night for anyone other than Stampeders supporters. This could have been like The Ice Bowl or the Fog Bowl or one of the great nights of CFL infamy,

Instead, the football was sloppy, players were falling in all directions, passes were dropped, quarterbac­ks weren’t sharp and the Stampeders happened to manage the game much better than the Ottawa Redblacks, putting their own streak of losing the Grey Cup behind them.

“That was basically a football game played on a skating rink,” said Calgary defensive tackle Derek Wiggan. “But we needed that win. We couldn’t have three seasons of finishing up short. We couldn’t allow that. We were tired of people making fun of us. We didn’t want to be the Buffalo Bills (who lost four straight Super Bowls). We couldn’t live with that.

“You know, it’s a funny thing. You want to be playing at this time of the year. That’s why we play. But you don’t want to play on a field like this. You don’t want the elements taking over.”

Terry Williams called it “probably the worst field I’ve ever played on.” And he almost wound up as the Most Outstandin­g Player of the Grey Cup — he was my pick — while accumulati­ng 196 yards of combined offence. He changed shoes four different times in the game, still not finding a pair that worked for him.

On the play that changed the game, Williams took a punt return in the final seconds of the first half 97 yards for a touchdown, the longest punt return in Grey Cup history. He slipped once, kept his balance by putting his hand to the field, stayed upright and outran anyone on Ottawa for the score that gave the Stampeders a 10-point lead. They wound up winning by 11 points.

Why the Redblacks chose to kick to Williams with 20 seconds left in the first half is a mystery only they can explain. They could have booted the ball to the sidelines. They could have kicked away from the player the Stampeders’ call “Scary Terry.”

“Footing was so bad I told our guys not to go wide. He did kind of a stutter step and he was gone. Straight-up,” said Mark Kilam, the Stampeders special teams coach. The new Gizmo Williams of Grey Cup fame, without the nickname.

“That gave us all the momentum for the second half,” said Ja’Garad Davis, the Stampeders defensive lineman.

“The league has been sleeping on me all year,” said Williams. “We knew the field was going to be like that. We came out for the walkthroug­h two days ago but it wasn’t this bad. It was slippery the other day. Tonight it was pure ice.”

They complained and they got the win. Late in the game, with Ottawa trying to come back, Trevor Harris threw a pass to his favourite target, Brad Sinopili. Sinopili caught the pass inside the 10-yard line, and tried to cut for a first down. The momentum from the pass sent him backwards. Instead of doing what he would do on a normal field, Sinopili slid backwards, couldn’t plant his feet, and the yardage that could have brought him and his team to a one-score game.

It didn’t happen.

 ?? — THE CANADIAN PRESS ?? Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson gets a water bucket dumped on him after his team defeated the Redblacks in the Grey Cup Sunday.
— THE CANADIAN PRESS Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson gets a water bucket dumped on him after his team defeated the Redblacks in the Grey Cup Sunday.
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