Stamps kick off fan-tastic year

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:02 AM ET

Football fans by the hundreds filled their bellies and the seats of McMahon Stadium to share the first day of training camp with their beloved Calgary Stampeders.

Some 600 supporters, including Stamps season-ticket holder Andrew Major, thought making the team's inaugural practice open to the public -- and having a barbecue, to boot -- was a great kickoff to the 2006 CFL season.

"It's great to be here," said Major, who brought his wife and two young daughters to the practice and picnic yesterday morning.

"It's a beautiful day, I'm always eager to see what's new with the team, and the barbecue appeals to the kids."

Fuelling the football fire of fans, especially families, is exactly the aim of the Stampeders, said team president Ted Hellard.

So the organization figured what better time to bring them in than during training camp and feed them hot dogs, smokies, potato chips plus the promise of a successful season.

"Everything we're trying to do revolves around engaging the fan to get to know the players," Hellard said.

"It's really important to us that we get out into the city -- we try to do it year-round."

On this day, Calgarians came to them and gave a thumbs-up to what they witnessed on the practice field.

In between bites of his hot dog, fan Gene Venini cheered the thought of a Grey Cup campaign.

"The team looks pretty good -- it's nice to see a contender," Venini said.

Fan favourites such as quarterback Henry Burris and running back Joffrey Reynolds stopped between practice and meetings to chat and sign autographs, which thrilled the likes of faithful followers such as 11-year-old Chet Cornwall.

"Getting their autographs and watching them practice and goof around on the field is the best part," said Cornwall.


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