Burnin' rubberBest of three Grey Cups between Esks and Als?
By TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun
MONTREAL -- It's a best-of-three seasons.
Make that a best-of-three seasons series.
Whatever you call it, this year is the rubber match.
Montreal won 2002.
Edmonton won 2003.
Whoever wins this year is the, er, Team of the Century. Yeah, that's the ticket.
"Well, that's great for the media and the fans, but I'm not sure the players look at it that way," allows Ben Cahoon, the Alouette star slotback who came close to becoming an Eskimo in the off-season.
Well, OK. Maybe. But I'm the media, you're the fan and we both know for openers it's a second-straight Grey Cup rematch between these two teams. Except this time the Eskimos are Grey Cup champions and the game is here in Montreal this year.
I mean, we both know what's involved.
It's Edmonton and Montreal. 'Twas ever thus. It was like this in '54-'55'-56 when the Eskimos won three straight Grey Cup games against the Alouettes. It was like this in '77, '78, '79 when the Alouettes won the, er, opener and the Eskimos the next two. So why wait for November to start advancing it?
Work with us here, Ben.
"When you're a player you just want to get back there," said Cahoon.
"You really don't care who gets there from the West."
Quarterback Anthony Calvillo, the CFL's most outstanding player last year, does concede that maybe Montreal is a little like Edmonton last year after having lost the Grey Cup game the year before.
"We want to get back to the game this year. Our expectations are just as high."
Calvillo says if the Als get there, they wouldn't be surprised to see the Eskimos on the other side of the field.
But first you gotta get there.
"It's still a long road," said Calvillo.
"We know they're going to bring their 'A' game (to start the season)."
Centre Brian Chiu says he's not sure if the Alouettes motivation is directed in any way at the Eskimos. Mostly, he figures, at themselves.
"We remember what happened last year," he said of losing the Grey Cup game to the Eskimos in Regina.
"We didn't come to play. They played Eskimo football. They had a good game plan. They outplayed us. We didn't execute. We've had all off-season to think about it.
"But now a new season is about to start and it's time to forget about it."
Chui suggests that if there's a game to focus on from last year involving the Eskimos going into this one, it ought not be the Grey Cup but the Oct. 5 regular season game in which the Eskimos came in here and won 20-19 after losing the
lid-lifter to Montreal 34-16 at Commonwealth Stadium.
The Als, like the Eskimos, are big on defending the turf. In five previous trips to Molson Stadium - where the Alouettes have been 41-13 these past six seasons since they left The Big Owe to accommodate a U2 concert - Edmonton hadn't managed a win.
"We feed off playing at home," says Chui.
Cahoon agrees that losing the Grey Cup last year certainly hasn't hurt the motivation level to get back and win it this year. "There's a hunger. I think I sense that.
"We did what it took to get back there last year, but they were a better team on the day."
Can't beat 'em, join 'em?
"I was definitely looking West," said the resident of Utah. "I definitely considered Edmonton. But I decided to stay here," he said of signing a three-year deal.
He said the decision wasn't based on whether he figured Edmonton or Montreal had the best chance at another Cup.
"So much depends on staying healthy as a team. One year we were 9-2 and in first place and Anthony and a couple of guys got hurt ..."
There are those who think the Eskimos, by losing Ricky Ray, Bruce Beaton, Leo Groenewegen and Randy Chevrier, aren't going to be the team they were last year. And that the Als, by losing Adriano Belli, Pat Woodcock, Wayne Shaw and Keith Stokes are in the same boat.
But, add up the total number of new players on either team, Cahoon says. There's only a handful.
"In the CFL there is traditionally a lot of turnover. There hasn't been a lot of turnover on either team. On our team there is a great sense of familiarity. That translates to chemistry and execution."
That's true with the Esks, too.
The two teams have so much in common, it's too bad they only play three times a year.
The Eskimos don't play the Alouettes again until Oct. 11 in Commonwealth Stadium and ... Nov. 21 in Ottawa.