Burris ditches monkey

ERIC FRANCIS

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

CALGARY -- Hank didn't Tank, the D didn't break and somehow the Calgary Stampeders left B.C. in their Wake.

It wasn't a masterpiece, but despite facing Cameron Wake's vaunted defensive line and a long line of critics who said he'd never win a big game, Henry Burris is off to the Grey Cup.

And he's taking 42 of his closest friends with him.

"I did not want to get on any airplane without any of my compadres," said the Stamps quarterback who was off to La Belle Province as a finalist for the Most Outstanding Player award regardless.

"I'm so excited all of us are going out there to get that champagne bath."

No, not at the strip clubs.

At the Big Owe, where the Montreal Alouettes and Anthony Calvillo play host to the type of game some figured Burris would never reach.

And while a litany of first-half penalties, dropped balls and missed assignments made it look for a time that Burris was about to have the Stamps' fourth-straight playoff loss land right on his shoulders, second-half heroics saved the day.

And his reputation.

"Until you win it people are always going to question it," said Burris, at the helm for 15 playoff turnovers over the last three years before yesterday's 22-18 win.

"We've been through our growing pains and we've learned from what happened in the past. It was tough but as a leader you have to stay in that zone necessary in order to get that offence going."

That couldn't have been easy as the Stamps headed into halftime with four first downs and 96 yards offence. However, despite the fact the Lions had 248 yards, the Stamps were only down 12-9 thanks to a 22-yard touchdown strike to Ken-Yon Rambo with nine seconds remaining.

And while Burris' lone interception early in the second half stymied momentum, Burris rallied to gain 186 yards in the air the rest of the way. More importantly he punched in the game-winning touchdown plunge from the one-yard line and made a key 10-yard run in the dying minutes to help run out the clock.

"He won the game with that last little boot when he ran -- that's what he does," said Rambo of his pivot who rushed for 32 yards and was 17 of 27 for 236 yards, one pick and one touchdown.

"He wasn't perfect but made plays today. I've been here four years and everybody's been talking bad about Hank when it comes to playoff time. I'm so happy for Hank -- he took a whole bunch of crap. To all his doubters and his critics ... take that."

Eluding the rush and spreading the ball around to eight different receivers against a Lions defence that featured five all-Canadians, Burris avoided the mistakes that have plagued his playoff career.

"We wanted to get that monkey off Hank's back -- we as a defence took pride in that," said Mike Labinjo, who put in a defensive effort for the ages. "I feel like guys laid it on the line for him. He's the leader, the heart and soul ... I love Hank and it sucks what he's had to go through."

So did Burris feel vindicated?

"I don't think I'll feel that until we get to the Grey Cup," said Burris, who had only won once as a playoff starter in Saskatchewan.

"Unless we can get that win right there because that's the true respect you can earn by winning a championship. To win the west the way it was this year was tough but to go out and beat a great Montreal team in their home town... that would do it."

Of that there is no doubt.

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QUICK HITS:

"Boston probably won't win the Stanley Cup this season, but it already has laid claim to the C Cup."

-- Michael Farber, Sports Illustrated, after a bra was thrown on the ice to celebrate Bruin Blake Wheeler's hat trick earlier this week

"I was married once. No replays. I watched the births of my children just once. No replays. So I sure don't need to see a routine catch half a dozen times. Or all those cut-ins from other games. Like those 64-ounce sodas and Dolly Parton's ample front porch, instant replay is threatening to be too much of a very good thing."

-- Chris Erskine, Los Angeles Times, with a beef about NFL coverage on TV

"The New Jersey Nets are giving tickets to fans that are unemployed. And I'm thinking, haven't these people suffered enough?"

-- Cam Hutchinson, Saskatoon Star-Phoenix

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SAY WHAT?!?!

"I can't throw and catch the ball myself."

-- Terrell Owens, when asked about the Cowboys passing game in the absence of quarterback Tony Romo

NUMBERS GAME

$1.2 million

Dollars a man was awarded by a Florida jury after he was hit in the testicles by a 60 mph pitch while picking up baseballs in a batting cage two years ago.

HOT TUB NEWS

After the B.C. Lions beat the Saskatchewan Roughriders in last weekend's West semifinal, Leos offensive linemen Rob Murphy and Angus Reid tried to hop into the hot tub from which a few Rider fans get to watch the game. "They said, 'Get the (bleep) out of our tub,' " Murphy told the Vancouver Province. "Saskatchewan fans. They're ruthless and toothless."


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