Happy trails, Stampeders!

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:22 AM ET

CALGARY - It’s one long road-trip.

They’re looking at it as two short weeks.

After Thursday’s practice at McMahon Stadium, the Calgary Stampeders will board a flight to Hogtown to prepare for Saturday’s showdown with the Toronto Argonauts, the second of three contests in a gruelling dozen-day stretch.

“I’m not a real fan of it,” Stamps head coach John Hufnagel admitted earlier this week. “To start the season off with three games in 12 days isn’t something I would petition for, but we’re going to make the best of it.”

The local football heroes are always on the road during Stampede week, but it’s rare to hit the field twice without returning to Cowtown.

The Stamps opened the campaign with Sunday’s 38-10 thumping of the Montreal Alouettes at McMahon Stadium, leaving less time than usual to prepare for Saturday’s matinee against the Argos at Rogers Centre (1 p.m., TSN, QR77).

There’s an even quicker turnaround before their rematch with the Alouettes at Molson Percival Stadium next Thursday, the final itinerary item on what will be a marathon nine-day trip.

For a few days in between, they’ll become the kings of Queen’s, setting up camp for a couple practices at the university in Kingston.

“We’re going to treat it the same as every other game — just go out there and make sure that we’re there for a business trip,” said Stamps middle linebacker Juwan Simpson. “If everybody understands that, I think we’ll be alright. When we’re clocked in for football, I think everybody needs to be all in. And with the team that we have this year, I don’t think that’ll be a problem.”

“The challenge isn’t the first game. It’s the second game,” added starting running back Jon Cornish. “It’s just keeping your mind right because you’re in a different environment. You’re not going home every night, so your routine is going to be different. I think if you can keep the same routine, then you’re going to be much more successful.”

That’s easier said than done.

Hufnagel and his position coaches have been logging long hours to prepare for the two-game sojourn to Ontario and Quebec. The equipment staff and video crew are also working overtime.

For the players, it’s business as usual until the final whistle of Thursday’s practice at their familiar digs. Then, members of the 46-man roster will dust off their full-sized suitcases — there’s likely too much stuff to squeeze into a carry-on — and head for the airport, while those stashed the practice squad or injured list will stay home.

If necessary, Hufnagel will call for replacements after Saturday’s clash with the Argos.

Now in his ninth season with the Stamps, star slotback Nik Lewis has been on three extended roadies — most recently, a two-game trip to Hamilton and Toronto in 2010 — and admitted it’s a whole different ballgame from what he and his teammates are accustomed to.

“It’s rough, you know?” Lewis said.

“You don’t have the practice roster guys there. In the practices, you don’t get the same looks and everything. You really have to focus, take as many mental reps as you can and just prepare your body. We’ve got two tough teams, a short turnaround. We’re staying on the road, so you don’t get to come (to McMahon Stadium) and get in the ice-tub or just hang around and do what you do on a normal basis.

“It’s going to be difficult, but it’s not going to be impossible. We have done it before.”

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: SUNGilbertson


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