I was walking into the Calgary Stampeders locker-room Monday afternoon at McMahon Stadium.
I stopped in to buy my helmet and some footballs from George Hopkins, our equipment manager. As I opened the door, I had stumbled in on change.
Webster's Dictionary defines change in a couple of ways. One definition is, 'to replace with another.'
I happened to walk in on that definition as the locker-room was being set up to announce and confirm the Stamps had a new head coach and general manager in John Hufnagel.
As the various people were stirring about setting up for the conference, I wondered if I should stick around or not.
I have never been on a team that underwent a change in head coach, and as I was not advised in advance of the announcement, I didn't know what the etiquette was for such things.
I did notice there was catering at the back of the room. That and the arrival of Scott Coe and John Comiskey were enough to convince me to stay.
After indulging in some of the appetizers, I was ready for the main course: The introduction of the new coach.
After listening to managing partner Ted Hellard list his many accomplishments, I was very curious to hear what coach had to say. Would he be pumping his fist proclaiming a Grey Cup victory? Would he come in announcing wholesale changes? I didn't know what to expect.
He began with his very humble beginnings in coaching when he left the Stampeders and ended with what would seem to be his full-circle arrival back in Calgary.
Within the body of Huff's speech he made mention of his plan for the football team's style of play, his vision of a defence, and mentioned at least two members of the football staff were being retained: Offensive co-ordinator George Cortez and player personnel director Jim Barker.
After listening to him speak, I surmised Hufnagel is a man who knows exactly what he wants and he knows how to get it. His demeanor in speaking indicated he will take the time necessary to get things done properly.
He seemed methodical and quite calculated even in his first minutes as coach and GM.
He would not tip his hand as to any of the decisions he would have to make in the coming months, but did mention he will be evaluating everyone.
Obviously, this is an intense week in the organization. Shortly after coach Hufnagel's appointment, there would soon be interviews for all current coaches.
He will then decide who to keep and who to let go. There may be some changes in support staff positions in order to accommodate the new direction of the club.
The action around the stadium will be fast and furious, as a staff needs to be assembled as quickly as possible.
Finally, every player will be evaluated. This will take the longest to accomplish because there are so many of us. As everyone else in the Stamps organization, we too will be sweating it out a bit.
All we can do at this point is train hard in hopes we will be a part of the team come June.
In the meantime, coach will have to put in some long hours to get everyone and everything on the same page as him.
With a new coach comes a new vision. He has to begin the process of getting people to practise the habits which contribute to his vision and that his views are important for team's success.
In such an ego-driven business, it is sometimes hard to convince the people within to change their thought processes or habits.
Such is life. But with the new sheriff, it will be his way or the highway.
He alluded to that in his inaugural address by stating, "... if the players in the locker-room can accomplish that, great. If not, some changes will be needed."
With the great advances in communication technology, you're damned sure every player got the message loud and clear, no matter where they were when the statement was issued.
So, with change comes more change. Above, I had mentioned Webster's Dictionary had a couple of definitions of change. Another one is, "to make different in some particular way."
The Calgary Stampeders faithful will be paying close attention to this definition of change for two reasons.
Everyone will be curious to see how the 2008 version of the team differs from 2007.
And most importantly, to see if coach Hufnagel can change, in particular, our recent record in the playoffs.
Hits to the Head
* I noticed if you want to hold a press conference and want every possible media outlet to attend, just offer free food. In three years in Calgary, I have not seen that many reporters in the locker-room at one time. In fact, I did not even recognize a quarter of the people in the room. Everyone loves a free lunch.
* Currently, I am reading the John Grisham novel, Playing for Pizza. It is a fictional tale about washed up backup NFL quarterback that wound up playing in the Italian Pro League. Grisham spent time in Italy researching the league and consulted with former Stampeders QB Mike Souza, who spent two seasons in Italy with the Parma Panthers. Another interesting Calgary connection is former Stamp Samir Chahine assuming the role of head coach for Bergamo for this season.