Copeland trade kickstarts rivalry

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:30 PM ET

CALGARY — Perhaps the Canadian Football League's schedule-makers were staring into a crystal ball.

When the regular-season slate was released two weeks ago, the Calgary Stampeders' home-opener against the Toronto Argonauts hardly seemed like a marquee matchup.

That all changed Wednesday morning, when the Stampeders shipped fan favourite Jeremaine Copeland to the Argonauts in exchange for speedy receiver P.K. Sam.

"I think that matchup definitely took on a little morning meaning now, without question, from what it was in the past," Copeland said. "For me, 100 per cent, it's taken on more meaning. I'm really looking forward to it. It's going to be a blast coming back - it's just going to be weird to come back in a different jersey."

For five seasons, the two-time CFL all-star has been one of the most popular players wearing Red & White. On Canada Day, though, Copeland will hit the turf at McMahon Stadium wearing a blue Boatmen jersey.

Stampeders head coach/GM John Hufnagel met with Copeland Wednesday morning to inform the nine-year CFL veteran he'd been traded to Toronto, where he'll be reunited with former Stamps personnel director and new Boatmen boss Jim Barker.

A couple of hours later, Copeland, who turns 33 on Thursday, was trying to focus on the positives.

After taking a paycut two seasons ago to keep his job with the Stampeders, he expected to finish his career in Calgary. On the other hand, he was excited about the opportunity to playing a starring role at Rogers Centre.

"It just kind of feels like every year I've been here, I've had to prove myself year after year, that I deserved to be on the field, that I deserved to be a playmaker and I deserved to get balls thrown my direction," Copeland said.

"I've done everything that I could possibly do to stay part of this organization and I really think in Toronto, I'm not going to have that problem. I really think the whole reason for the trade is they need a No. 1, a guy that is a leader, a professional and a guy that can bring professionalism into that organization and get the receivers where they need to be, because there is a lot of youngsters there.

"I can't complain that the opportunity is there again that I get to be a go-to guy. I still feel I should be a No. 1 guy anyway, so I have to look at that as a blessing."

Copeland certainly looked like a feature receiver last season, when he counted 1,235 receiving yards and led all CFL pass-catchers with a dozen trips to the endzone ˜ several of the highlight-reel variety.

In five seasons with the Stamps, he racked up 5,297 yards through the air and scored 43 touchdowns.

"I hope everybody knows that I love this city, I love this organization, I love what this city has done for me. It's made me a better person and a better player all-around," Copeland said.

"I just want them to remember me as a playmaker. That's what we prided ourselves on, that's what we called ourselves and that's what I want them to remember me as - somebody that comes out and makes plays every time he steps on the field."

On Canada Day, he'll have a chance to remind them.


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