NIAGARA FALLS -- Sandro DeAngelis is looking forward to bringing the Grey Cup back to his home town of Niagara Falls for a second year in a row.
But the elite kicker knows that before that happens, his Calgary Stampeders have a few obstacles to overcome. And the first is the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
"We're sitting here with a great challenge in front of us," he said. "We're going into a very hostile area, but it's a challenge that everybody's looking forward to, and hopefully we can be the team standing at the end and play for the Grey Cup at home."
And when DeAngelis refers to the Roughriders' home field as hostile, he isn't exaggerating. The hometown crowd in Regina is known league-wide as having some of the most dedicated, loudest fans in the CFL. That reality is something that DeAngelis and the Stampeders are not taking lightly.
"Saskatchewan's a fun place to play. The crowd there is pretty ruthless," he said. "They're very, very noisy."
And while the crowd involvement makes it a fun game to play, according to DeAngelis, it also provides very real, very difficult conditions under which to organize a team.
That extra level of organization has forced the Stampeders to adopt some additional training techniques.
"We've been practising with crowd noise here at McMahon (Stadium, the Stampeders' home field)," he said. "Standing around in that for a few hours gets pretty annoying, but it's a necessary evil."
The annoying distraction of heightened decibel levels is only one of the considerations the Stamps have had to factor into their training sessions.
"The offence and the defence, and even the special teams, we have to communicate using sign language, going on silent snap counts ... things of that nature."
Of course, adding extra fuel to the Stampeders' desire to train with a little more effort is the fact that despite the sign language and silent counts, the Riders beat the Stamps in their last regular-season game. The loss that cost Calgary a bye to the West final ... and a precious week off at a crucial time of year.
"That last game of the year against Saskatchewan, that's as big a game I have ever played in the regular season. They don't get much bigger than that," DeAngelis said.
"Of course, it left a sour taste in our mouth, but we were professional enough and mature enough to know that we had to take care of a very good Edmonton team with Ricky Ray. We got through that hurdle (defeating Edmonton 24-21) and now were back to where we wanted to be."