Cold barn, warm feeling

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:35 AM ET

WINNIPEG -- An icy cold wind whipped through Canad Inns Stadium yesterday, reducing the temporary aluminum bleachers at the south end of the complex into a deep freeze for 15,000 butts.

With the city hosting the 2006 Grey Cup game in four weeks, the aged facility has been jury-rigged to fit 45,000 die-hards for Canada's largest single-day sporting event.

The old barn also holds some warm memories for a pair of Calgary Stampeders, who face the Blue Bombers tonight (5 p.m., TSN) in the Horsemen's regular-season finale.

Both Henry Burris and Jay McNeil won Grey Cup rings here in 1998, a scene they'd like to re-enact next month.

Burris, was the third-string QB that day behind Jeff Garcia and Dave Dickenson but revelled in the moment as though he'd tossed the winning touchdown pass.

"It was so cold that entire week, with a blistering wind chill every day of minus-15, and then all of a sudden on game day it was above zero," Burris said, recalling how the mercury rocketed up to 10C on game day.

"It felt like a Chinook had blown into town and that seemed significant with us being from Calgary. I remember that and The Kick, of course."

The Kick was Mark McLoughlin's 35-yard field goal with the scoreclock showing zeros.

It was the first of two Grey Cup titles for McNeil and Burris' only ring ... so far.

"I'm 31 now and it's still the only ring I have," said Burris, who left Calgary for Saskatchewan in 2000 before a brief stint in the NFL.

Burris returned to the Roughriders, piloting the team to a couple of West final losses but has never been back to the CFL showcase.

The Stamps blew the West semifinal last November and now Burris would like to guide the team through the playoffs for a return date in Winnipeg. Calgary hosts the Roughies in the West semi Nov. 5.

"When guys lose they always say, 'We'll get one next year' but I don't want to wait until next year," Burris said. "The now is here and tomorrow's never guaranteed.

"With this team we control our own destiny but to get out there (in the stadium) and feel the atmosphere, it's a great stadium to play in and just to get a feel of where The Show's going to be and how it's going to feel ..."

While Burris never played a down in the '98 title game, he lapped up the joyful moment when McLoughlin's boot split the uprights.

"I was like a kid in a candy store," grinned Smilin' Hank. "What I remember is looking at the hold and when we got the hold down, I knew Mark would make it and I starting running onto the field. Such elation, people dropping their helmets and gear. I threw the clipboard down and ran onto the field."

The Stampeders have temporarily set up shop tonight in the visitors locker-room, just as they did in 1998.

The post-game scene was unforgettable, McNeil said, with linemate Rocco Romano climbing aboard a horse on the field before bedlam broke out in the cramped quarters beneath the west grandstand. Family and friends had crammed into the room while media from across the country tried shoving their way into the mob scene.

"Obviously I remember The Kick and then the celebration in the locker-room afterwards," McNeil said.

"It was so great.

"I wasn't even thinking about what Mark was doing on the play, I was just making sure my guy didn't block the field goal, making sure I do my job. I looked up and watched it go through ... I had pretty high expectations of what it would be like to win the Grey Cup and that surpassed everything. It was so much better than I anticipated."


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