'One' goal in mind

Stamps coach Tom Higgins says the definition between what's acceptable and what's not on or off the...

Stamps coach Tom Higgins says the definition between what's acceptable and what's not on or off the field is now very clear. (Sun File/Darren Makowichuk)

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:16 AM ET

It's not just a marketing campaign, says Stampeders president Ted Hellard -- it's a pledge to live by: One.

As in, 'One team. One City. One Goal.'

You'll see it in every ad associated with the club this year and the hope is you'll see it every time the team takes the field.

"Obviously a lot of people think the goal is the Grey Cup," said Hellard at yesterday's annual camp kickoff luncheon.

"No, the goal is to be One. While we spent the last two years successfully turning the franchise around on and off the field, we lost focus of what we stand for. We kind of let the brand slip. Our players might not be as outspoken or entertaining -- their focus is going to be not on themselves but what we're doing as a unit."

In simpler terms, the focus is on making sure players stifle their candor, opinions, frustrations and individuality for the collective good.

They want a team emblematic of Tom Higgins and his cartoon twin Ned Flanders, which is to say a squad full of clean-living, politically correct, soft-spoken, hard-working individuals who eat vanilla ice cream, wear beige clothes and consider an afternoon at church 'living it up.'

We jest. Truth is, the inmates have been running the asylum here since Michael Feterik owned the club. That much was evident in their choreographed touchdown celebrations that had a city arguing over whether they were entertaining or classless.

Higgins said the low point came late last year when Nik Lewis and Jeremaine Copeland mocked B.C. Lions receiver Geroy Simon on TSN's Off the Record, prompting a verbal and physical assault the next week in Vancouver that saw the Stamps throttled 39-13.

"It was as embarrassing for me as I've ever been around that we would make comments about other people -- I think that was the start of this whole campaign," said the Stamps head coach, reiterating his stance of a week ago.

"This was the whole reason we were able to revamp what we stand for and believe. We're going to make some decisions based on, 'you embarrassed us or you can't do what we want you to do off the field.' "

Insisting every player has a clean slate going forward, Higgins said the definition between what's acceptable and what's not on or off the field is now very clear.

"That horse stands for community and not being an idiot," said Higgins, who is all for showing emotion after scoring but was opposed to the elaborate celebrations last year.

"There are strict standards you're going to have to stand by. This will put us in an elite category. We will be competitive and entertaining but it's about the horse. It's up to us to polish it and make sure it doesn't get tarnished in any way. It's been addressed with every player who has come to town. It will be addressed early but it will be brought home once the team is made and what the team stands for. It's about being in a community and living a good life representative of yourself, your family and the organization. We can't move forward unless we buy into the campaign. It's not necessarily a campaign but what the organization stands for."

Admitting it may sound corny to some, Hellard insists it's an attitude adjustment like this that will help the Stamps overcome playoff obstacles they've stumbled over of late.

It's a sound concept -- one that will be tested with every bad penalty, off-field transgression or over-zealous celebration.

How they deal with such infractions will tell the true tale of how 'One' this club really is.


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