Hank expects to get heckled by 'Riders fans

DAN TOTH, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 12:01 PM ET

REGINA -- Before the ink had dried on the 2005 CFL schedule, folks in Saskatchewan were already circling Oct. 23 -- Henry Burris's Taylor Field 'homecoming.'

His reception today, by most accounts, will be as heart-warming as dinner with your mother-in-law.

Soothing, like fingernails dragged across a chalkboard.

"Going to Taylor Field, the fans are right there on you so you expect a little more heckling but I know a lot of those people, expect it to be a fun time," the Calgary Stampeders quarterback said.

"We have to stay focused for 60 minutes and not let those kinds of things get into our heads. The fans are the 13th man just doing their job.

"Those fans in the section right behind the visitors' bench, doesn't matter if they're up or down by 60 points, they're still going to hassle you."

The playoff atmosphere surrounding the game is amplified as both teams are tied for third place in the CFL West with 16 points. The winner is guaranteed at least a crossover wildcard berth in the East semifinal Nov. 13.

Those passionate Roughies fans -- some 28,800 -- will jam their way into the venerable stadium determined to slap a frown on the face of the man known as Smilin' Hank.

"I don't expect it to be a nasty game, just hard-fought as it is any time two teams are fighting for playoff position like this," Burris said.

Adds Roughies defensive tackle Scott Schultz, a Moose Jaw native: "It's going to be a bunch of crazed dogs in the stands."

Burris, the former Roughriders pivot, is perceived as a traitor by many fans here for signing with the Stampeders as a free agent. Burris arrived at the Calgary press conference eight months ago wearing a black cowboy hat and he rode into Regina yesterday again playing the role of the bad guy.

"I'm taking it on as if I hear lots of boos, it's really cheering," said Burris, who led the Roughriders to the West final last season.

"We had a great relationship here in Regina and throughout the province and it was hard to leave. I had a great time here playing in front of the fans because it reminded me of Brett Favre playing in front of the fans at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. The experience I had here I'll cherish in my heart forever ... to me it's the best environment to play a game in Canada. The bottom line is you can't find a fan base like this anywhere else but now I'm a Stampeder, so let's get it on."

An additional twist of fate has former Calgary quarterback Marcus Crandell calling the signals for the Roughriders. He signed with Saskatchewan after four seasons in Calgary, a stint that included the 2001 Grey Cup title.

He was signed by Saskatchewan as a veteran backup to No. 1 pivot Nealon Greene but earned the starting nod after the team slid into a five-game losing skid earlier this year. Crandell's ascent to the No. 1 job sparked a five-game win streak, although the Riders have lost their last two. The QB shuffle has also spurred some critics to wonder why Kevin Glenn was traded last season to Winnipeg where he has steadily improved.

It all puts more pressure on Crandell's shoulders.

"Probably so, because the things that have gone on here the last couple of years with Hank leaving and Kevin also leaving, so I can definitely see that," Crandell said.

"But Nealon was the guy who brought this program back to where it should be and he deserves a lot of credit for that."

The many subplots make for an easy game for the head coaches, suggests Stamps boss Tom Higgins.

"This is going to be the easiest pre-game talk to give the football team," Higgins noted. "You just have to show them where the door is."


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