Stamps eager to avoid Lions' den

Calgary Stampeders' Jay McNeil has a plan if the team finishes first: practice somewhere warm....

Calgary Stampeders' Jay McNeil has a plan if the team finishes first: practice somewhere warm. (Calgary Sun/Kevin Udahl)

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:25 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Not surprisingly, the CFL team with the best home record desperately wants to roll out the welcome mat for the West final.

The Calgary Stampeders, who are an unparalleled 7-1 at McMahon Stadium this season while also posting a putrid 2-5 record on the road, have plenty of work before they start shipping out invitations for the Nov. 12 showdown.

First, there's the not-so-small matter of sweeping the first-place B.C. Lions in back-to-back contests starting tonight at B.C. Place (8 p.m., Ch. 21).

That tall order would need to be followed by a win in the regular-season finale in Winnipeg against a Blue Bombers team fighting for first in the East.

The late run would earn the Stamps an unprecedented 21-day rest between games due to a quirk in the schedule in which they have a bye the last week of the season.

Although the Stamps are unanimous about wanting to finish first to set up a 60-minute fight to the Grey Cup, the lengthy respite between games could be a problem.

Jay McNeil, a 13-year veteran who lost two West finals in the 1990s after earning a bye to the final, has a plan.

"I'd suggest that if we finish first, (owner/president Ted Hellard) should just fly us someplace warm to practice -- good team building," McNeil chuckled.

"But somehow I don't see that happening.

"If you have just one game to get to the Grey Cup, guys should be pretty focused but history shows that the first place team has struggled sometimes."

Some players point to strong outings following bye weeks this season to suggest the team would only benefit from a long layoff.

The Stamps played well on Labour Day after a one-week rest and earned a win in the second game of the home-and-home series against Montreal in August after enjoying a string of off days.

"What would you rather do, play one game to get to the dance or two games?" said Sheldon Napastuk. "It's the million-dollar question but I imagine if we had the bye week and the extra time, we'd go back to camp. We'd have some rest, then some high-tempo practises to stay sharp."


Videos

Photos