Stamps have stiff competition

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:44 PM ET

CALGARY - For the first time in recent memory, there will be pre-season CFL football on the tube.

Question is, will anybody be watching?

With the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins facing off for a winner-take-all seventh game in the Stanley Cup final, Wednesday’s exhibition clash between the Calgary Stampeders and B.C. Lions (7 p.m., McMahon Stadium, TSN2, QR77) doesn’t exactly rank atop the TV listings.

“I’m sure my mom and dad will watch, because they’re not the biggest hockey fans,” said second-year Stamps safety and diehard Canucks fan Eric Fraser. “But my friends will all be downtown in Vancouver, watching the game or doing whatever, so I don’t expect any of them to watch.

“If the roles were reversed, I don’t think they’d expect me to be watching the pre-season game, either.”

Although the ratings and attendance figures will likely be a little underwhelming, Stamps head coach John Hufnagel and his assistants will be keeping a close eye on the action.

The stars — guys like Henry Burris, Nik Lewis, Joffrey Reynolds and Juwan Simpson — will likely see limited action, giving the coaches and player-personnel specialists an opportunity to evaluate the rookies and returnees auditioning for a larger role.

Lions boss Wally Buono will employ the same strategy from the opposite sideline.

“In the dog days of training camp, it’s nice to go out and get the adrenaline going, play in front of some people with the lights on and marquee what you can do and show the coaches what you can do,” Hufnagel said.

Since reporting for main camp June 4, the Stamps have hit the field for 16 practice sessions and hit the books in countless meetings.

Finally, they’ll get a chance to hit somebody in a black and orange uniform.

“In training camp, it’s hands-off. You can’t touch the quarterback. We only thud the running backs, so I can’t lay the wood to Joffrey like I want to,” joked defensive tackle DeVone Claybrooks. “You get tired of chasing Joff and Nik and hearing Nik’s mouth every day and hearing Hank saying, ‘You wouldn’t have sacked me.’

“Finally, we get to see if the hard work has paid off. So we’re excited.”

Excited about both games on Wednesday’s docket.

“I think I’m going to have my earpiece in so I can do the score check,” Claybrooks said. “It’s kind of a war of words, the battle of the border right now, because we’re cheering for Boston and (the Canadians) are cheering for Vancouver.”

Although training camp sessions are a big part of the evaluation process, Calgary’s hopefuls understand the importance of a strong performance in the pre-season tilts, too.

That starts Wednesday, even if most sports fans are watching the hockey game.

“I realize it’s still pre-season,” said rookie receiver Anthony Parker. “But it sets the tone for what the rest of the season is going to bring.”

And who’ll stick around to be a part of it.

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca


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