Stamps were stooges

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:03 PM ET

CALGARY -- They're the Three Amigos. the Three Musketeers. But for a while there they were wondering if they were the Three Stooges.

Only three Stampeders go into today's CFL West semifinal who were here when the club won the Grey Cup in 2001.

Offensive line-man Jay McNeil is in his 12th year with the Stamps. This is his fifth semifinal to go with six West finals, four Grey Cup games and two Grey Cup rings.

He'd come to expect playing playoff games.

"The last year and the year before were as bad as you can get,'' he said.

"Tell you one thing, after having gone through that, I appreciate it more than I would have in the past. After what we went through, it's so much fun.

'IT WAS EMBARRASSING'

"We took a lot of abuse. It was embarrassing,'' he said of 6-12, 5-13 and 4-14 seasons, which followed the 1991 Grey Cup championship.

"It wasn't fun. We weren't having any fun. And it wasn't any fun for the fans, either.''

Offensive lineman Jeff Pilon is in his sixth year with the Stampeders.

"It's been such a hard time these last four years,'' he said of suddenly being part of the gong show featuring F-Troop under the ownership of Michael Feterik and management of Fred Fateri and others.

"We used to think it was bad if you had a 13-win season. It tested everything about you. It tested what kind of a pro you were.''

But now the Stampeders are back and the toast of the town as they go into today's test against the Edmonton Eskimos.

"It's awesome,'' he said.

"This is one of the best teams I've ever been on. Everything is positive. That's what this team needed.''

Tom Higgins was the right guy at the right time in the right place for his everything-positive approach to the game.

"For the most part I have to give our fans a lot of credit. For the most part they hung in. But if we hadn't turned it around like we have this year, I think it would have been tough to keep our fan base much longer.''

'SUCH AN UNSTABLE RIDE'

Scott Deibert became a Stampeder in 2001.

"It was trying,'' he said. "It was such an unstable ride. From the top on down, it was so tough I don't have words to describe what it was like here.

"When I signed here in 2001 I thought I was joining the Calgary Stampeders, which they'd been. I wanted to be part of that. To end up in the downslide there. It was tough.

"This is night and day.''

Deibert says he works downtown.

"I get it all up close and personal,'' he says of interacting with the fans.

"It was 'Why? Why? Why?' They kept telling me 'all we want is stability.' Now we have it again and it's been so enjoyable.

"It's amazing to look around after four years and see that only three of us survived it. This used to be a place you came and didn't leave.''


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