Saving faceStamps enter Classic game with same goal, same record
A year ago, the 2-8 Stampeders, mired in controversy and bogged down in a six-game winless streak, struck up a rallying cry on Labour Day. It went something like, 'We may not make the playoffs but beat Edmonton and the season is a success.'
The struggling Stamps did just that, posting an emotional 28-22 win while slapping smiles on weary fans not used to seeing the Red and White stuck in the CFL basement.
Afterward music rattled the locker-room ceiling, beer flowed and relieved players hugged in a celebration fitting a championship title.
That passionate victory didn't save the season but it preserved the sanity of not only the McMahon faithful but also coaches and players trapped in a franchise sinking like the Titanic, but without life rafts.
"That's the perception the fans always give you," claims veteran centre Jamie Crysdale, suiting up tomorrow in his 12th Labour Day Classic.
"They say, 'You guys are having a bad year but as long as you win Labour Day...' I don't know, I don't think anybody would want to go 1-17 and think if you win Labour Day, the season's OK."
Beating Edmonton last season was indeed an emotional game that many hoped would catapult the team back into the CFL West playoff race.
But five nights later in Edmonton, the Eskimos snuffed out any such notions with a 38-0 whipping, essentially ending any post-season dreams for Calgary and showing a glimpse of what was to come in the way of a Grey Cup title.
"You have a good game down here, then we went up there and got blanked," Crysdale remembers.
"We go from being in a position where we said 'Wow, maybe things are turning around,' to 'Oh oh, maybe not.'
"If we take care of Monday, then we'll worry about next Friday in Edmonton.
"We need something to light a fire under this team."
Crysdale thinks the Stampeders, again 2-8 on the eve of Labour Day, can still qualify for the playoffs even though it looks like a team that should only show up if it buys tickets. A win tomorrow against one of the clubs it's desperately trying to catch would be a step toward respectability and possibly the post-season.
"We've got a lot of work to do to become a good football team that could even compete in the playoffs," admits Crysdale, whose Stamps remain four points back of third-place Saskatchewan and six behind the Eskies.
"It's not so much that we don't have the talent but we have to come together as a football team. We're not a cohesive unit. I'm talking about in the locker-room.
"We've got a lot of work to do to get this team on track and it starts with winning football games.
"Winning Monday would get the confidence back in the locker-room and then we could go from there but we have to take care of Monday."
Jeff Pilon concurs with the theory a Labour Day victory can heal some deep wounds with the faithful while possibly spurring on a resurgence into the playoff race.
"It helps with the fans, that's the biggest thing, because the hatred for Edmonton has been around a lot longer than any of us have been on this team," Pilon explains.
"I hope it would cure a lot of things if the game turns out the way we hope it does.
"A win Monday could be the starting point for us because Edmonton's a damn good team, so hopefully we can win and build momentum off that."
Jay McNeil, preparing for his 11th Labour Day Classic, understands the mentality of fans soothed by a win over the Eskimos.
"If we go on and miss the playoffs, as long as we beat Edmonton, it doesn't make it better but it's still a nice feeling," McNeil says.
"To beat them Monday, we have to take our game to another level that it hasn't been this season."