Riders-Stamps rivalry begins with rosters

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:28 PM ET

Imagine this ...

Fifty-plus blue-collar employees report for duty at the same Calgary-based business and not a single guy hails from Saskatchewan.

Maybe that’s why the Stampeders and the Roughriders — opponents in Sunday’s CFL West final at McMahon Stadium — have hatched such an intense rivalry.

“It’s definitely our No. 1 rivalry,” said Stamps fullback Rob Cote, one of 20 Canadians — but zero stubble-jumpers — on the Stamps roster.

“I really think it’s a marquee matchup. Just because so many people from Saskatchewan have moved to Calgary, it makes it a lot more fun. It’s a lot of fun playing in front of those fans.

“They come out in full force, against us especially. But anytime the Riders are playing, their fans are cracking some Pilsners and getting loud.”

It’s not just the watermelon-wearing fans that make this the CFL’s best rivalry.

Although the invasion of about 10,000 green-clad groupies always prompts the McMahon Stadium faithful to up their decibel level, the teams seem to bring out the best in each other, too.

Just like the on-ice Battle of Alberta was at its pinnacle in the late-1980s, the Stamps-Riders rivalry has probably never been better.

“It’s just two good teams that go at it,” shrugged Stamps slotback Nik Lewis. “I think they play better when they play us, and we have to step up and play better when we play them. And we know that no matter what happens in the first 59 minutes of the game, the last minute can decide it all. Sometimes, the last second.

“I think it’s, by far, the most entertaining games that we play.”

With the Riders still riding the momentum of a double-overtime victory over the B.C. Lions last weekend, there’s no reason to think Sunday’s West final at McMahon Stadium (2:30 p.m., TSN, QR77) will be any different.

The chilly contest will mark the fourth playoff showdown in five campaigns between the two teams, and it’s been either the Stamps or the Roughriders representing the West Division in the Grey Cup for three straight seasons. This will make it four.

“If you’re playing in these types of games, whether they’re Western semifinals or West finals, that just naturally progresses the rivalry and makes it more of a hatred, I guess you could say,” said Stamps safety Wes Lysack. “Once you’ve been kicked out by a team, you’re not too happy about it. And once you’ve done it to them, they’re not too happy about it, so that’s definitely a huge factor.”

The Stamps didn’t beat their rivals last season, suffering two setbacks and settling for one tie in the regular season and then losing the West final in Regina.

It was a different story this summer, with the Red & White claiming a 2-1 edge in the season-series and earning the right to host the Grey Cup qualifier.

“Every game we’ve played has meant something,” said Stamps quarterback Henry Burris. “If we didn’t win one of the (two regular-season) games out there (in Regina), who knows where we’d be. We probably wouldn’t be in first place (in the West Division).

“Each game against those guys means something, and I think when you build a rivalry like that — which has their fans going after our fans, and then the on-field product is always for big-time stakes at the end of the day — there’s no better rivalry in this league. It’s probably one of the best in all of football right now.”

On Sunday afternoon, it could get even better.

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/WesGilbertson


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