Make a date with Stamps

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:28 AM ET

CFL teams and their fans have a season schedule earlier than ever.

The league yesterday released its 2006 campaign and, although it won't please everyone, Calgary Stampeders head coach Tom Higgins is thrilled to have it in his hands four months before the opening kickoff.

"Nothing's ever perfect," Higgins said. "A lot of times you just want to get the schedule sooner rather than later and then we can put together our flights and hotel rooms."

Season ticket holders are also anxious to begin planning around when their favourite football team will be entertaining them at McMahon.

Of the Stampeders' nine home games, four will be played on Saturdays with just one late start, an 8 p.m. kickoff against the B.C. Lions Aug. 12.

As for rivalries, lovers and haters of the Saskatchewan Roughriders will see the Green and White just once this season -- Saturday, Aug. 5 -- a guaranteed sellout for the Stampeders.

The Labour Day Classic is also the only regular-season visit by the Edmonton Eskimos, another sensational draw fans love to hate.

"There are some things you get and some you don't get," Higgins said.

The schedule makers put the squeeze on the Stamps in just two stretches this season when they have four days between a game in Hamilton and a home date with Toronto (June 24 and June 29) and the annual back-to-back matches with the Eskimos (Sept. 4 and Sept. 8).

Unlike last season when the Stampeders were forced to accept a bye the first week of the season, this year off weeks will arrive after Games 10 and 17.

The regular season ends in Edmonton Oct. 27, a repeat of last year's season finale when the Stampeders clinched second-place with a win at home.

"That could very well have an impact on the playoff picture," Higgins said.


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