No love lost

Edmonton Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia speaks to the media at Commonwealth Stadium about the...

Edmonton Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia speaks to the media at Commonwealth Stadium about the upcoming game against the Montreal Alouettes tonight. (Edmonton Sun/Jason Franson)

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

It's in the blood. It's part of their DNA.

When it comes to the Montreal Alouettes and the Edmonton Eskimos, it doesn't matter whether it's the first game of the year or, as so often has been the case, the last game of the year.

"There's bad blood," said Singor Mobley.

"When we play Montreal there is always something going on. It's just the way it is. It's been that way ever since I can remember," said the nine-year Eskimos veteran.

"The hype is there again. With Montreal and Edmonton it's always going to be there.

"This is going to be one of those games. It's going to be a tough one. They're coming in here trying to put us in a deeper hole than we're already in and we're trying to use them to get us out of the hole. We're hoping if they lose to us that will derail them a little bit. Montreal is always going good at this time of year. They're a top-notch team. They've been our equal. They've been just as good as we are. They're a great measuring stick for us," said Mobley.

This isn't Calgary-Edmonton.

That's about cities. This is about teams.

"It seems both teams are either playing each other for the Grey Cup or trying to gauge where they're at when we play each other in the regular season," said 15-year Eskimo veteran Sean Fleming.

SKEWED SCHEDULE

The Alouettes, 38-35 overtime losers to the Eskimos last November in one of the most exciting Grey Cup games ever played, are here tonight with a 5-0 record but, strangely, needing this game to validate themselves.

"We're a little bit of a mystery even to ourselves," said Montreal coach Don Matthews of the schedule which has had the Als play Hamilton three times and Winnipeg twice in both the pre-season and regular season.

"Our record is a little deceiving. Having only played two teams, we don't really know where we stand," said Matthews.

The defending Grey Cup champion Eskimos are struggling at 2-3 and, much like they were when they'd lost four of their last six and went up against the 11-0 B.C. Lions last year. It's a similar sort of credibility game.

"For the last few years we've been slow coming out of the gate," said Fleming.

"Montreal always seems to come out of the gate great," he said of the team which has been 5-0 in 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006.

"They're obviously playing well. We're obviously playing inconsistent at the start of a season again. This game will kind of let us know where we're at. We always seem to need that one game where we have to rise to the level of our competition and then go from there."

A lot of what's out there going into this game is history.

"The very first game I watched live as a kid in Montreal was against the Eskimos," remembered coach Danny Maciocia.

"There was a lot involved between the two teams back then and there's a lot involved now. We've had coaches cross over and a lot of players cross over. And we keep playing each other in the Grey Cup."

JUST A GAME

Matthews poo-poos the idea that this game is anything more than the next game on the schedule, however. And Maciocia agrees.

"For us it's the sixth game of the year. This week it's the Eskimos. Next week it's Toronto. We haven't mentioned last year's Grey Cup game. We have 15 guys on this team who didn't see the game."

Maciocia says they won't be presenting anybody with a Cup when it's over.

"It's what you do at the end of the year that matters," he said for his part.

But talk to people around the Alouettes and they'll tell you the one team Don Matthews wants to beat more than any other is Edmonton. And talk to the Eskimos and they know the one team Maciocia wants to beat most is Montreal. The players know.

Eskimo players say games always matter more between the two teams than any of the other East-West matchups without the coach crossover scenarios.

"I've played three years here and all three years we've played Montreal in the Grey Cup game," said Ricky Ray.

It doesn't matter to him that Montreal has played in 14 Grey Cups and that they've played Edmonton in 11 of them and only won three. It's the recent history.

"We've had some pretty good games against them. A lot of crazy things have happened. A lot of crazy things happened in last year's Grey Cup game alone."

There's always that in there as well. There's the anticipation that the next game is going to be as memorable as the last one.

In this instance, that would take some doing.


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