Taking a knee

Calgary Stampeders' Jamie Crysdale, seen here with his family last January, retired yesterday....

Calgary Stampeders' Jamie Crysdale, seen here with his family last January, retired yesterday. He'll be honoured Sunday at McMahon Stadium during half-time of the game against the Edmonton Eskimos. (Calgary Sun File Photo)

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

Jamie Crysdale cried just a little yesterday and who can blame him?

He earned the right to an impassioned departure after soaking a Calgary Stampeders jersey with sweat for 13 seasons, the longest-serving man in Red and White.

Wife Adrienne shed a few tears, too, sitting at her husband's side in the Stampeders locker-room as he confirmed he'll never again pull on a Calgary jersey.

But the most choked up of all was Jay McNeil, who grunted alongside Crysdale on the Stamps offensive line the last 12 years. McNeil spent countless hours on the turf with Crysdale while also rooming together on the road.

"During the season, I probably spent more time with Jamie than I do with my wife, right?" said McNeil.

"I have to admit his retirement brought tears to my eyes. I hate to say I took him for granted but you know every day you come into the locker-room and he's here and now that's something that just won't be the same.

"We'll be friends forever but this is something that will be tough to get used to."

Playing a key role in a decade-long dynasty that included Grey Cup rings in 1998 and 2001, Crysdale became the face of the team as other players drifted away through retirement and free agency.

Making retirement tougher for Crysdale is the 10-7 Stampeders' resurgence in 2005 after a handful of lean years tested his mettle.

"This is the part I'll miss the most -- being in the locker-room," said Crysdale.

Crysdale aggravated his left knee in training camp, playing through the pain until relenting in Week 6 and undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, ending his Iron Man streak at 210 games. After missing four games, Crysdale returned for the Labour Day Classic but walked off the field five games later for a second surgery knowing the end was near.

Godfrey Ellis, 23, inherits the role at centre.

Crysdale, 36, can now devote his full-time attention to his family, including daughter Grace, 31/2, and her ongoing battle with cancer.

He also enjoys owning a thriving oilpatch business.

"It was inspiring to me," McNeil said of Crysdale's constant drive and spirit.

"I'd come in here, bitching and complaining yet my wife and son are both healthy and it put things in perspective. He was an inspiration for everybody. You can't say enough about how he leads by example."

Linemate Jeff Pilon, who joined the club in 2000 as a rookie out of Syracuse, said Crysdale established a benchmark with his play on the field and demeanour off of it.

"He does things so classy," Pilon said. "He's done everything for this organization. It's too bad to see him go but he's still going to be around the team for the rest of this season so that's why we want to play as long as we can."

Crysdale will remain with the team, working with the o-line as the club prepares for the playoffs. He'll be honoured Sunday at McMahon Stadium during half-time of the game against the Edmonton Eskimos. It's expected his No. 67 jersey will be retired.


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