October 24, 2012
Chilly reception for new Stampeders
By WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency
Keon Raymond tried to warn 'em.
Saturday's setting at McMahon Stadium might've looked like a winter wonderland, but the Calgary Stampeders' fifth-year defensive back was advising anybody who would listen that it wasn't actually that bad.
"I've experienced what real coldness feels like, and that wasn't cold during that game," Raymond said. "I did tell a few guys that, but they didn't really understand. They thought that was cold, but I said 'Oh, no.' I told them it gets worse."
It got worse in a hurry.
Sure, it was snowy for Saturday's 34-32 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
However, Old Man Winter officially announced his arrival Tuesday, dumping several inches of snow on the city. When Raymond and his Stamps teammates tip-toed onto the field for practice, it was -7C and felt about 10 degrees colder with the wind-chill.
The special-teamers -- kicker Rene Paredes, punter Rob Maver and long-snapper Randy Chevrier -- pulled double duty, completing their own drills and then shovelling lines so the offensive guys could measure their progress.
"It was pretty wacky out there. Cold. Lots of snow," marvelled Stamps receiver Maurice Price, who doesn't experience a lot of flurries in his home state of Florida. "I'd never really seen anything like it before, and I'd definitely never played or practised in something like it."
For the rookies, it was an eye-opener.
For the veterans, it was a reminder of Alberta's relentless winter weather.
And for the coaching staff, who are trying to prepare their squad for Friday's battle with the B.C. Lions at McMahon Stadium (7 p.m., TSN, QR77), it was a hassle.
"It's a disadvantage," said Stamps sideline boss John Hufnagel. "When you have to practise slow, that's not good. The cold weather is one thing, but not having traction and practising slow is not good. When you do that during a football game, well, it's equal footing. But when you have to practise through it, it makes it tough."
Thing is, most of the big games this fall will be contested indoors.
The Lions (12-4) have already clinched top spot in the West Division, meaning the road to the Grey Cup goes through the controlled environment of B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver.
The championship trophy will be handed out in a dome, too, with the Grey Cup game slated for Nov. 25 at Rogers Centre in Toronto.
To get that far, the Stamps will have to endure another month of sharpening their skills under the wide-open prairie skies. Tuesday's storm won't be the last of their season.
"I knew it was coming. I guess what I hoped is that it stays away as long as possible," Price said. "I got some pictures I'm going to send (to family in Florida) later on. They're going to be in shock. They're really going to be surprised by what they see."
Raymond, who had two sacks and a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown in Saturday's win, was named the CFL's defensive player of the week. Stamps RB Jon Cornish, who piled up 133 yards from scrimmage and made two trips to the endzone, scored his eighth weekly nod, this time as top Canadian.
On Twitter: @SUNGilbertson