Easy labour

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:31 AM ET

The Labour Day Classic is just around the corner and something doesn't feel right.

There's no electricity in the air, no talk on the street, no buzz whatsoever.

With the Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos -- two heated provincial rivals -- clearly heading in different directions these days, perhaps the apparent mismatch has many in town assuming victory is a given.

"Everybody knows Labour Day is coming -- I'm getting lots of calls from people who want tickets -- but I think fans think we're going to crush them," said Stamps guard, Jay McNeil, searching to understand why the game lacks its typical storylines and hype.

"We know in here you never take the Labour Day game for granted. In 2003, we beat them and we were terrible, so you can never tell."

Winners of three in a row and just one victory out of first place, the 6-4 Stamps appear to have finally found their stride, building on what many believe will be a second-half surge much like last year's 8-1 finish.

Meanwhile, only one game better than the laughable Hamilton Tiger Cats, the 3-6 Eskimos have put their head coach in the crosshairs by finding creative ways to blow games in the final minute.

Currently in line to be the first Eskimos team to miss the playoffs since leather helmets were the rage, all the pressure is building three hours north.

Former Eskimo Rahim Abdullah figures the relative calm in Calgary likely has a little to do with a schedule that hasn't seen the Stamps play here since Aug. 12.

It also stems from the absence of turmoil in Stamp camp, even with the recent release of linebacker George White.

"There's usually a lot more talk but it seems that's the case a lot this season -- not a lot of hype going into the games," said Abdullah.

"That's just with the media. For us, this is huge, we don't want them coming into our house and getting their season started."

Since Calgary's Labour Day win in 2003, the Monday afternoon hosts have lost two years in a row and six of seven, including a 2005 shortfall that saw Henry Burris sacked in the final minute while trying to tie the game with a two-point convert.

The Stamps bounced back a week later to kick-start a second-half run ended by the same Eskies who rode a Stamps playoff choke to an unlikely Grey Cup crown.

It goes without saying there's plenty of motivation in the Stamps locker-room to: Bury Edmonton Monday; have Danny Maciocia fired after a second win Friday; and eliminate all possibility of meeting again in the post-season.

However, that excitement has yet to rub off on patrons who have allowed a remarkable 2,500 tickets to go unsold as of yet.

"It looks like we're going to sell this place out and it looks like there's going to be a lot of red and white, not a lot of green and gold coming down," said Stamps boss Tom Higgins, aware Edmontonians are getting restless while Calgarians are settling into a comfort zone with a team finally realizing its potential.

"It's still is a little bit early. It could be back to school and football starting across the country and attendance usually starts to spike at this time."

Randy Chevrier agrees, refusing to read into the lack of anticipation citywide.

"Maybe it's not as big a story because they're not doing as well as they have in past years," he shrugged.

"They're coming in playing desperation football and we've got to keep them in the cellar. They're last year's Grey Cup champs and they're like a powder keg ready to blow."

An interesting analogy since it appears the excitement won't begin until the kegs hit McMahon's parking lot.


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