Magnifique!

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:16 AM ET

Before signing with the Calgary Stampeders this off-season, Alexandre Gauthier already had a connection to the club.

A French connection.

Old pal Pascal Masson put a bug in his ear about the virtues of the Stampede City and convinced his former teammate from the Laval Rouge et Or, a free-agent offensive lineman, to sign with the Red and White.

It turned out to be a great deal for Masson. He now has a close friend in the locker-room -- and a nice place to stay.

Gauthier and wife Shany bought a house immediately after signing with Calgary and they offered Masson, a second-year CFL defensive back, a room to rent.

Gauthier said it's a good arrangement.

"When you choose a team, you don't go there just for football," said the left tackle, who's expected to start for the Stamps.

"I needed to be in a great city with great teammates. When I signed here, I knew

everybody was working in the same direction. Having Pascal here was a plus."

The two may be opposites on the football field -- Gauthier, the immovable object on the offensive line; Masson, a firefly in the backfield -- but they spend most of their spare time together.

Masson came to the Stamps a year ago as one of only a few French-speaking players in training camp. Now the Stamps' locker-room is a bilingual area.

And Masson loves that.

"It was a big shock last year," he said. "I was a rookie, with not many friends. But I got used to the culture in Calgary.

"It really helped me grow up doing that. When you're all alone, you really see what's going on and I'm really appreciative of what happened."

Poor Shany.

Having one dedicated football player in the house is tough. Two could be a nightmare. So Gauthier is careful to leave the business stuff at the office.

"We actually watch a lot of film at home but, when you get there, you want to relax a bit," said the 6-ft. 7-in., 325-lb. lineman.

"We spend about eight hours here watching film and working out. So we'll relax and have a barbecue. We have a few Rouge et Or jerseys around the house but I have to keep it in the basement. My wife doesn't like all the football stuff sitting around."

The players are trying speak English a little more around home to help Shany become more fluent. But they could almost go the entire day speaking en francais.

In the off-season, the Stamps added several other French-Canadian players: Free agents Randy Chevrier and David De La Perralle, plus first-round draft pick Miguel Robede of Laval. Third-year linebacker Marc Calixte is from Montreal, while Stephane Fortin and Sebastien Roy joined the team in training camp.

Robede decided to return to school this season instead of coming to Calgary but Masson played at Laval with both Robede and Gauthier, the 2002 first-overall pick by Ottawa.

Masson said many players are coming out of the Quebec City university because the CIS team is run like a pro club.

"They have a great conditioning program there. It's almost similar to the pros," Masson said.

"After four years at Laval, you're ready for the pros."

Including Robede, five Laval players were taken in the first two rounds of the CFL Canadian College Draft.

So Masson figures he'll have plenty of his brethren in the league before long.

And he might have to share a house with some of them.


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