MONTREAL -- Danny Maciocia gathered his players prior to a closed practice at an indoor soccer facility yesterday.
"We have a lot of interesting individual stories on this team, guys who weren't wanted by other teams, Canadian players who weren't drafted, a non-import middle linebacker you aren't supposed to be able to have in the CFL, a non-import tailback."
Maciocia was going around the room and reminding each Eskimo of their own stories.
"I told them that here we are, challenging to get into the Grey Cup with a chance here to make history."
In Montreal, Maciocia, for whom Much Maligned might as well be his middle name, would be the biggest story of them all if the Eskimos were to get to the Grey Cup where he grew up eight minutes away from Olympic Stadium.
If the Eskimos lose the East Division final today vs. the Alouettes (1 p.m., TSN/RDS), people will be back on the Maciocia's-gotta-go kick.
If he wins, he'll be the same great story he was in 2005 when he became the first Eskimos coach to win three playoff games on the road, including a Grey Cup.
Except it's here, in his hometown.
"I'm sure this is going to be a pretty emotional game for Danny," said CEO Rick LeLacheur who believed in the little guy and not only kept him as coach but promoted him to head of football operations so Maciocia could, for the first time, pick the groceries to make the meal.
"Danny worked his butt off. He made a lot of progress and we're not looking back now. We have a real good foundation and there's sure not many people who thought we'd be here, especially when we lost Jason Tucker, Dan Comiskey and Fred Perry to the nine-game injury list at the start of the season."
Having the support of QB Ricky Ray has gone a long way.
"When you miss the playoffs for the first time after 34 years, that upset a lot of people," said Ray. "Fortunately, we had people who recognized that Danny is a good football coach. He has a great knowledge of the game and a great way of dealing with players. They understood that."
Ed Hervey, now a scout with the team, said it's been lost on a lot of people what Maciocia has accomplished this year.
"He turned it around and is now one step from the Grey Cup. The team is headed in the right direction again. But I understand. Two years out of the playoffs is an eternity in Edmonton ... all the fan wants is that the team be competitive, be in the playoffs and have a chance to be in the Grey Cup every year because that's what the Edmonton Eskimos are all about."
And here they are, with with Danny Maciocia still the coach, with that chance, today.