'Don't mess with my team'

Henry Burris salutes the crowd during a Grey Cup rally in downtown Calgary on Tuesday. (Sun...

Henry Burris salutes the crowd during a Grey Cup rally in downtown Calgary on Tuesday. (Sun Media/Lyle Aspinall)

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

Sixty years after a trainload of over-served Calgarians arrived in Toronto to turn the Grey Cup into the party it is today, about 2,000 gathered at Olympic Plaza yesterday to celebrate its return.

And as part of a love-in that included speeches from the mayor and a provincial lieutenant governor who starred for the Stamps six decades earlier, few were surprised it was Henry Burris who stole the show once again.

"You can mess with me but don't mess with my team or my city -- then it becomes personal," was his crowd-pleasing opener, minutes after punctuating player introductions by walking in with the 96-year-old Cup and issuing a "Yee-haw."

"This is the hardest working city in Canada and is the reason why the loonie had all us Americans smiling when we went back home. This city has worked its butt off and we've given this country a whole heck of a lot. We're bringing this Cup home because we wanted to shut this city down for a number of days ... this drink is on us. Thank-you to the fans of Calgary and, get ready, because the Cup will be circling the city. And everybody, it tastes so sweet."

The crowd roared, as the son of an Oklahoma State Democratic Committee Member had the red and white gathering hanging on his every word under a sunny sky and temperatures well above freezing.

The flame atop the Calgary Tower was lit for the rally. With his teammates and the Cup next to him on risers facing a crowd that included city councillors, wives, team officials and even Flames prez Ken King, Burris wrapped it up by suggesting his club is not finished its magic just yet.

"I need to get off of here because I feel like I'm running for premier and sound like Barack Obama but hey, one and we're not done," beamed Burris, 33, the star in his club's first Grey Cup win in seven years, a 22-14 win over host Montreal Sunday.

"But right now the beautiful city of Calgary, Alberta is at one million feet and we're still climbing and riding this wave."

With only 180 days until training camp, the crest will continue to surge as next year's Grey Cup game will be right here, setting the stage for the first team ever to wrap up back-to-back CFL titles in their home town.

"We brought back the Cup so they don't need Purolator Courier," said Mayor Dave Bronconnier, whose popularity was overshadowed by ol' Smilin' Hank.

"I think he's been secretly running for office the last 10 years of his career," laughed safety Wes Lysack.

"Hank Obama," added receiver Jeremaine Copeland.

"All I want is to be on the staff -- maybe security -- but let's hope he doesn't run for several more years now."

With several in the crowd wearing white cowboy hats like the players, chants of "M-V-P" and "We're no. 1" peppered the speeches. Even coach John Hufnagel, a man of few words, riled the gathering by talking about how his squad went from a good team to great team, winning 10 of its last 11 games.

"I'm just wondering where all of you were in 1948?" deadpanned former fullback Normie Kwong, 79, who went from the 'China Clipper' to 'His Honour' in 2005 when he was named Lieutenant Governor of Alberta.

"A lot has changed in the 60 years but there's one thing about the 2008 final and the Stampeders first Grey Cup in 1948 and that's you, the fans."

Several veteran players thanked Stamps faithful for sticking with them through several lean years that included heartbreaking playoff losses each of the previous three seasons.

"As much as this city has done for North America and so many cities worldwide, now is a good time to overshadow all the problems going on in the economy right now. The timing is perfect," said the effervescent quarterback who was in the doghouse with many fans this time last year.

"I'm a politician at heart now."

And after years of debate, he's now the people's choice.


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