Takin' care of business

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:05 AM ET

In the midst of yesterday's press conference announcing the re-signing of defensive stud John Grace, Denny Creehan made a statement sure to set off warning signals amongst Stamps faithful.

"Ted Hellard made sure this deal happened," said the Stamps' defensive co-ordinator of the new part-owner/president.

"I mean that in a good way, not a bad way."

In a city that watched previous owner Michael Feterik run the club into the ground by meddling with player personnel, it's only natural for Creehan's revelation to conjure terrifying flashbacks.

For a man proving to be so hands-on he cheerfully handed out press releases yesterday, fans need to know Hellard won't soon be breaking down game film, interfering with depth charts or, gulp, signing a son or two.

"The reality is it's my job to listen to what our needs are; hear the coaches' priorities; look at the financial constraints; and, when necessary, be aggressive," said the wildly successful entrepreneur, who has set up shop at McMahon Stadium.

"If I believe strongly in something, I'll make that call. I don't mind taking that role.

"I have an opinion but my opinion is not an overriding opinion. Running this club is a mixture of experiences -- signing John was more of a business experience and that's my expertise. We can meld business experiences with the coaches' football experiences because the key to success here will be working together from the coaching level right up to the marketing level."

Well aware of the demon(s) that haunted Stamps football before he and Hellard's ownership group arrived, head coach and VP football operations Tom Higgins laughed off any comparisons to Feterik's reign.

"It's absolutely, 100 percent different," said Higgins.

"Jim Barker and I have carte blanche but there are times you have to call the owner and say, 'We've got to get this done and make it a win-win situation.'

"In Edmonton, I had to call Hugh Campbell. There are certain restraints we work under.

"Teams that are responsible have a responsibility to the CFL and the fans to put the best product on the field and make sure something doesn't slip through the cracks."

Having watched the impact Grace had on the Stamps defence last year, Hellard makes no apologies for stepping in to secure what many consider to be the best defensive player in the league last year.

"As far as I'm concerned, he's our franchise player," said Hellard, a basketball player at U of C whose football experience is limited to assisting with his teenage son's team.

"I check the pulse of the fans in chat rooms and all over the Internet and Grace is the icon they talk about. He brings more to the team than just football. He was not going to another team."

Admittedly, the team and Grace "weren't even remotely close" when Hellard was asked to help bridge the financial gap that threatened to cost the club its most important free agent after Feb. 15.

The result: The Stamps have their best player and defensive leader back. No one can criticize Hellard for that. Nor should fans worry Hellard would do anything to compromise the integrity of Higgins, Barker or the club he helped save. He's there simply to help.

"One thing now is there are no agendas around here," beamed Barker, who constantly had his hands tied while coaching under Feterik.

"Now it's: 'How can we put the best team on the field?' That's all that matters."

As it should.


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