Road trips go wrong

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:05 AM ET

REGINA -- To a man, the CFL road trip is a great experience for players and coaches alike.

A team bonds, hangs out and explores a different city, spending more time together than they ever would at home.

But when 42 players and a dozen support staff load up and fly to an opposing city for a game, numerous things can happen.

The Calgary Stampeders found that out again this season when playing in Hamilton earlier this month.

Once they reached their hotel in Mississauga, Ont., they were told the air conditioning was on the blink during the worst heat wave of the summer.

The team quickly found a new hotel but that was 90 minutes from Ivor Wynne Stadium. They made due.

"We went to Plan B," said Stamps head coach Tom Higgins.

"We came up with one real quickly. It's a good chance to see people deal with adversity."

Stampeder players and coaches have experienced plenty of unique situations on road trips, so now they pack accordingly.

While with the Edmonton Eskimos in 2003, Higgins and defensive lineman Randy Chevrier and Rahim Abdullah were stuck in Toronto after a blackout.

The Eskimos were in Hogtown for the standard three-night trip, with the clothing, money and equipment necessary for only those days.

Suddenly, a three-night trip turned into a six-night stay and by the time the game was played, the team was out of spending money and needed the commissioner to bail it out.

While Sheldon Napastuk and George White were with the Roughriders in 2001, they found out plenty about their future CFL homes after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

Just like the rest of the world, the 'Riders were displaced when air traffic was grounded.

They waited days in Calgary for the game, only to lose and bus back to Regina.

"That was the worst one I've had," Napastuk said.

"We didn't know when we would play and nobody felt like playing anyway."

In 2005, the Stamps had to extend a trip to Eastern Canada for 10 days when the CFL was forced to move up the date of a game in Toronto.

Instead of coming home after playing in Montreal and heading right back, the team shuttled to Toronto by train -- staying a few nights in Kingston, Ont. -- before finally making their way home.

Those types of trips are challenging for equipment manager George Hopkins and trainer Pat Clayton.

They need to carry enough supplies to make sure any situation is handled.

Even on regular trips, Hopkins packs equipment for up to three extra players, just in case someone is flown in at the last minute.

Two games in one jaunt used to be the norm, which was part of offensive lineman Jeff Pilon's worst trip in his career.

In 2001, the Stamps stayed in Hamilton after a game -- which was a loss -- then played in Toronto a little less than a week later.

It was hot and sweaty and the team ran out of things to keep them entertained, which is why most players bring handheld video games and laptop computers to play movies.

Desperate times sometimes calls for desperate measures.

"I was so bored, I went and played bingo," Pilon said. "I actually got a dabber and went there and played for hours."


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