Buono likes local angle

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

Wally Buono thinks the Stampeders are a winner under the team's new ownership group.

The former Stamps GM-head coach, who earned three Grey Cups in Calgary, said the group led by Ted Hellard, John Forzani and Doug Mitchell gives the franchise an exciting start to a new era.

"When you sell it back to local ownership, everything will be fresh, everybody's apprehension will be over, so I think it will give them a better opportunity to succeed," Buono said yesterday from Vancouver where he's recovering from heart bypass surgery.

"The people I've heard are involved are all very well-respected business people in the community. It's not like some guy you never heard of.

"People will respect them for being willing to ante up and I think the fans will give them lots of support so they can succeed."

Buono was forced out of the organization after the 2002 season by owner Michael Feterik, a California businessman who bought the club the previous year from Calgarian Sig Gutsche.

Buono said hiring former Eskimos head coach Tom Higgins, rumoured to be in line for the Stamps GM-head coaching roles, is a strong move.

Higgins was an assistant coach in the Stampeders organization (1985-93) when he worked with Buono.

He also has ties to former Stampeders president Stan Schwartz, who is expected to regain that post under the new regime.

"If you look at Tom's background, what he's done, and you look at his relationship with Stan, if he's the guy involved, that makes sense," Buono said.

"He's done a lot in Edmonton that's helped him to grow. He's been a very good administrator, won a Grey Cup. I don't think there's too many people who can have that on their resume."

Buono led the B.C. Lions to the Grey Cup game in November in his second season with the Leos. He said he has no intentions of returning to the Stampeders organization but is excited about the club's potential.

"I'm happy where I'm at," chuckled Buono, who made his first public appearance yesterday since undergoing heart surgery in November.

"You'd like to see the league as strong as possible and obviously I have sentiments about a franchise that was good to me, so I'd like to see Calgary back as a solid, competitive franchise like the rest of us are.

"I can't comment on what's happened in the last two years because I wasn't there but when you look at it, all the turmoil, all the issues, their sales are up, the marketing is up, there are a lot of good things still going on.

"It proves again what a great CFL market Calgary is."


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