Classic fueled by Gass

IAN BUSBY, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

A CFL arbitrator went and poured some Gass on the Labour Day fire, as if the Battle of Alberta needed any more heat.

But the last thing A.J. Gass wants to do is get kicked out of the second meeting with the Calgary Stampeders today at McMahon Stadium (2 p.m., CBC) the way he did the first one in Edmonton.

During that encounter, Gass finished off a scrap with Jeff Pilon by ripping off John Comiskey's helmet and hurling it 35 yards. It originally got him a one-game suspension, which was turned over on appeal.

Pilon has no argument with Gass getting the chance to play today.

"It doesn't matter if he's in there or not, as long as we win. He's playing. So what?" Pilon said. "(Esks head coach Danny) Maciocia can come in and play. We will be beat whoever is in there."

History shows that when the CFL teams from Calgary and Edmonton get together, tempers flare up, no matter what the importance of the game.

"We have to keep those emotions in check," Gass said yesterday upon arriving at McMahon. "Emotions and intensity have to be at a high level, but they have to be contained and channelled. If you can channel them to positive plays, you can become very powerful."

If the Stamps are extra fired-up to meet Gass, they're not letting on.

Quarterback Henry Burris even said the linebacker is a good thing for everyone involved.

Burris wants to prove the Stamps can beat the Eskimos squad that isn't beset by injuries, which is hardly the case for the beat-up club.

"We'd like it if they have all their leaders out there, and their biggest proven leader is A.J. Gass," Burris said. "A.J. is a big-time leader, and the opposition usually hates him. He will give every bit that's in his tank for his team on any given day."

The presence of Gass today only adds to the intrigue of this match that quite easily could turn ugly.

In 2004, Pilon, Jay McNeil and Taylor Robertson were all kicked out of a pre-season game for scrapping with Rahim Abdullah, who is back on the Eskimos side after two years in Calgary.

The 2003 Labour Day Classic turned vicious after a multi-player fight ended when Ed Hervey swung a helmet and hit an official.

That was Stamps safety Wes Lysack's first experience in the big game -- he was somewhere in the brawl -- and he always looks forward to this point of the season.

"Any time there is a big rivalry, things like that start to happen," Lysack said. "When there's a little more blood flowing in the body, the slightest little thing will set a guy off. There's more pressure and a huge anxiety about trying to win. It's more likely for the fisticuffs to start."

The key to victory today could very well be who can take being smacked in the mouth and not retaliate. No one wants to get ejected, which hurt the Eskimos in the latter half of the previous match-up because Gass and linebacker Kenny Onatolu were tossed out.

"We talked about it this week," said Maciocia yesterday. "I told the guys to let your pads do the talking. Don't even talk to them, just let your pads speak for you.

"Physically, we have to take it to them. There's going to be some extra curricular activities when these two teams meet. Just walk away ..."


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