Having kicks as a returner

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

The knees, quite frankly, are finished.

However, Tom Forzani's hands and his judgment of talent are as sharp as ever.

The former Stampeders All-Canadian receiver, a life-long Calgarian, is getting a first-hand look at the team's deep crop of pass-catchers as a training camp guest coach.

He likes what he sees from the group of players snagging passes inside McMahon Stadium, where Forzani's retired No. 22 hangs.

"With the talent on this team of receivers, I can't believe there will be a team in the CFL with a better bunch than Calgary," said Forzani, who toiled 11 years in Red and White before retiring after the 1983 season.

"Some great players are here, guys with a combination of speed, talent and veterans to help the younger players. It's special when you get a combination like that, along with that major item which is a quarterback as talented as Hank (Burris). Add a backup like Danny (McManus), who's been around 18 years and knows everything you need to know about the game. With that combination, you'll have an extremely explosive offence."

In addition to overseeing the daily workouts, Forzani occasionally passes on an anecdote from the good ol' days, even though most of the players are too young to remember the former star's heyday.

"It's great to come back and look around the stadium and say, 'I remember when ...' said Forzani, smiling.

"It's great to be around the guys again. That's what you miss the most, being around the guys and the scuttlebutt that goes on. The little cliques that form and the fun guys they have here, it's reminiscent of the way it used to be when I played.

"It's good to be back."

The St. Francis Browns product had the misfortune of beginning his CFL career just two seasons before the first era of rock-hard artificial turf was installed at McMahon. While 11 seasons of football takes a toll on anyone's body, the pint-sized pass catcher -- just 5 ft. 11 in., 180 lb., in his prime -- is noticeably banged up from the experience, with both of his 54-year-old knees in need of replacement parts.

Despite the painful daily reminder of his playing days, he has fond memories of beating defenders on the green concrete.

"It was hard, that's right, but as a receiver, you loved it," insisted Forzani, toeing the stadium's user-friendly new breed of FieldTurf.

"You could cut so quickly and really come off a break and make a sharp cut. This new stuff is heavier and slows you down but, obviously, it's 100 percent better on your body.

"If I had played on this, I wouldn't have retired until just last year."

Had he hung on for another decade or two, he certainly would have expanded his jewelry collection, noticeably short of even one Grey Cup ring.

The Stampeders were awful through most of Forzani's playing days, although he managed some sensational individual seasons. He remains second on the team's all-time list in receiving yards (8,285), career receptions (553) and TDs (62). He has yet to be inducted into the Canadian Football Hall-of-Fame and despite his efforts, the team finished below .500 in six of his 11 campaigns.

"We were always (crappy) and were that way until '78 (when the team ended a six-year playoff drought)," Forzani recalled.

The Stamps then lost the West final to Edmonton in consecutive years.

Forzani now owns Kelvieon Properties, a local real-estate and mortgage company. He was one of the original partners in Forzani's Locker Room in 1974, the genesis of sporting goods empire The Forzani Group, now controlled by brother John Forzani, also one of the principle owners of the Stampeders.

"I was one of the original guys in the early '70s but I was still in the middle of my playing career and wasn't in tune to spending the time needed and I really wasn't big on selling shoes," Forzani said.

"I liked to wear them, instead."


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