Bring back the fear

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:17 AM ET

When Darryl Sutter arrived in Calgary, the first thing he talked about was establishing an identity at home.

While no one knew exactly what he meant, the team's 'Dome dominance since he took over has been the backbone of the club's turnaround.

No one in the NHL enjoys coming here, where they know they're going to be smashed in the mouth repeatedly while one of the best crowds in the game goes nuts.

Not that many Stamps can afford to attend NHL tilts, but they would do well to learn a thing or two from their part-owners.

Fact is, unlike the mid '90s when the Stamps won 31 home games in a row (and actually had attendance problems because everyone knew the outcome was a given), the current crew hasn't made this a tough place to play.

Not just in the last handful of sorry seasons, but this year in particular there isn't a team out there that fears playing at McMahon Stadium.

They don't fear the host club or the fans.

That needs to change, starting tonight against Montreal.

If this club hopes to stay in the thick of the West Division dash for first or make some noise in the playoffs for a change, it needs to establish itself as a team that not only wins at home but dominates here.

"Teams shouldn't want to come into Calgary," agreed JoJuan Armour.

"We haven't established that. We haven't put enough fear in enough teams. We have eight games left, five at home, so it's time to establish that now."

After going almost two years without winning a game outside Alberta, the Stamps now seem to have found a way to win on the road, going 4-2 this year. However, their last two home tilts have been duds, which include a tough loss against Saskatchewan followed by a humiliating effort on Labour Day against Edmonton.

"You just see a different attitude this week because guys are embarrassed, losing on such a big stage on (Labour Day) and losing to Saskatchewan before that," said quarterback and team leader Henry Burris.

"Coming out here against such a good team from the east we have a good chance to do big things here. We put ourselves in a good position to make a run here with so many games left here at home -- five of the last eight are here at home (and five against east weaklings) -- and we've got to take advantage of that and use this energy to go and win for our fans."

In longer spurts than this organization has seen for many years, this team has shown it has the tools to be amongst the elite. Whether it has the heart, work ethic or mindset is another question the club will answer tonight.

"We've already established that we play well on the road. This game is time to establish that we play well at home also," added Armour, whose 6-4 club sits 2-2 at home -- worst in the west.

"I think it's our attitude. We rise to the occasion on the road and we love to face adversity on the road. At home, we haven't established that we're a dominating presence."

Even in victory one of the big problems at home has been the club's slow starts. Maybe it has to do with not being able to feed off the fans arriving late from the tailgate party where they're being written up for open alcohol.

"I think it's more important just to establish our identity as a team," said Burris.

"When we come out and we're playing flat, guys aren't flying around and acting crazy like we're used to, then we're putting ourselves out there to be beat. When we play with that energy, that's the type of team we are. But we've got to do that more consistently and until we do, we're going to hold ourselves back from what we truly deserve to accomplish."


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