Missing in action

Longtime Edmonton Eskimos executive Hugh Campbell waves good-bye after announcing his retirement...

Longtime Edmonton Eskimos executive Hugh Campbell waves good-bye after announcing his retirement Wednesday night at an Eskimos dinner. (Edmonton Sun/Robert Taylor)

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

In an attempt to find some meaning to a meaningless game, a well-meaning media man asked Danny Maciocia the question.

"Is this a 'Win One For Hugh Campbell' game?"

Nice try. But nope.

"To me he's not leaving us. He's still going to be there. He'll be around," said the Edmonton Eskimos head coach of the morning-after reality of Campbell's retirement as CEO to move into a consulting role - which in reality is what he's been ever since Maciocia took over as head coach. Nothing is going to change, except now Campbell isn't going to take heat for missing Labour Day games because he's at the lake.

"I love having him still around and as long as I'm around I'm still going to be calling on him," said the second-year coach.

With that, Maciocia launched into his own favourite Hugh Campbell story.

"Five minutes after I was hired as head coach, Hugh asked me a question. 'How do you want to be fired?'

"I didn't really understand what he was saying then. But I do now."

SEARCHING FOR MEANING

He could have broke into singing 'I did it my way' but instead he morphed into the idea that in there somewhere is his meaning in this meaningless game tonight between the out-of-the-playoff Eskimos and the left-most-of-their-starters-at-home Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Maciocia may be the first coach in 35 years not to get this team into the playoffs, but he will also be the first coach to have two late-season pre-season games for next year. Ironically, his two pre-season games were also against Saskatchewan. And the Roughriders arguably put a better team on the field for that game than they will for this one.

"It doesn't bother me one bit," he said of the lineup, missing as many as 11 starters, for tonight's tilt where the Riders' game plan with the people they brought is mostly 'Don't Get Hurt' prior to next week's semifinal against the Calgary Stampeders.

"I know I want to play. To me the game we had against Montreal last week was huge. It showed me what kind of character we had being officially out of the playoff race. There were four or five guys I really wanted to see what they could do.

"This game is a chance to get confirmation of some things we thought we learned.

"This game is all about where we're headed for next year. We've got another game to see it."

Danny Maciocia is coaching for next year, knowing he has his coaching job and probably the player personnel job as well.

Ironically, Danny Barrett is coaching for his job this year considering he's the one who made the playoffs and Edmonton's Danny boy didn't. Barrett may have to get to the Grey Cup to not follow his boss Roy Shivers out the door.

NO APOLOGIES

He's making no apologies for leaving Kenton Keith, Matt Dominguez, Jason Armstead, Eddie Davis, Tristan Clovis, Jackie Mitchell, Nate Davis, Terrell Jurineack, Corey Grant and Fred Childress in Regina.

"It's the first opportunity I've ever had to rest a few guys," said Barrett of his 125 games as head coach in Saskatchewan.

"Last week was a very physical game. We want to be healthy going into the playoffs."

And don't expect to see the No. 1 quarterback either.

"There is still a question if we're going to play Kerry Joseph at all," he said.

"I just want to get through this week, to be honest."

Funny. Edmonton and Calgary always fight at the schedule meetings to have Saskatchewan as their last game on the schedule because all those Roughrider fans in Alberta and from the other side of the border come in any weather to watch their team. And this year, they've got no reason to come when they can spend their money on tickets in Calgary next weekend instead.

Been that kind of year for the Eskimos, hasn't it?


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