Losing locker 'slap in the face'

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:05 AM ET

Mounted proudly in the middle of Burke Dales' McMahon Stadium locker stall is his nameplate from last year's Grey Cup game in Montreal.

Surrounded by photos of teammates and loved ones, it's a reminder of the success his Stampeders had last year and the goal they've spent the entire season striving for.

And while there are plenty of motivators for the Stamps as they march into Regina for today's West final, the mere threat of potentially having to remove that nameplate to make room for a Roughrider might be the biggest one.

That's the reality facing the Stamps today: Lose and the Roughriders not only relieve the Stamps of Grey Cup hosting duties but take over the Stamps locker-room next week.

"The last thing I want to do is let another player take over my locker -- it's a very personal thing," said the Stamps punter.

"I've had the same stall for five years. It's my private locker and I don't want anybody else taking it."

Especially someone from the team's top rival.

Given how hard it has been historically for CFL teams to secure a berth in Grey Cup games hosted in their respective cities, there are plenty of stories out there surrounding the indignity of having to vacate your stall so a hated opponent can occupy it for the week.

It happened here in 1993 when the Stamps lost the West final and had to clear out for the Edmonton Eskimos, and again in 2000 when the B.C. Lions authored the West final upset.

Former Stampeder Stu Laird said he had a long chat with Alondra Johnson two nights ago about that very feeling of having to hand your enemy keys to your home away from home.

"Oh God, that was painful," said Laird, a lifelong Calgarian whose No. 75 was retired following a 12-year Stampeders career that saw his Doug Flutie-led 1993 club falter one year after winning the Cup.

"There were a few low points in my career and that was one of them.

"The fact that it was Edmonton was part of that pain, but we had such high expectations. You spend so much time in front of that stall and it's your spot."

Same went for Dave Dickenson, who was part of the 2000 team.

"I remember B.C. definitely rubbing that in your face after that game," said Dickenson of the locker-room lending.

"I don't necessarily think that should be a motivator, but it sure is a slap in the face."

Dickenson suffered a similar fate five years later, when his west-leading Lions had to give up their locker room at B.C. Place for the big game -- a situation he said wasn't quite as bad as they only used the room for game days.

Here, the Stamps use their lockers all year long.

However, not everybody on the Stamps sees it as a motivator or something to fear.

"It's something I've never really thought about," said quarterback Henry Burris, echoing the sentiments of safety Wes Lysack.

"I'm thinking about the game and winning in (Saskatchewan's) stadium."

Dales has another fear that haunts him when thinking about the possibility of a loss today.

"I think the nightmare for me would be to see all those green flags in Calgary," said Dales, whose team is a 21/2-point underdog by virtue of their 0-2-1 record against the West-winning Riders.

"This city would be green all next week and I'd have to leave town."

That's what Laird wanted to do 16 years ago.

"I bought tickets for my family, but I couldn't go," said Laird, current CFLPA president.

"I just kept thinking, 'that could be me.' "

And wondering, "who is in my locker?"

ERIC.FRANCIS@SUNMEDIA.CA

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