Esks, Stamps fighting for pride

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:09 PM ET

CALGARY -- The Labour Day Classic is an old-school rivalry in more ways than one.

Even those who are new to the Battle of Alberta, which reaches its annual crescendo on the September long weekend, can easily get caught up in its hype, history and emotion because it is often held as the CFL's version of an NCAA-like atmosphere.

"You compare it to a college rivalry because there's something special about that college rivalry whether you're at home or on the road," said Eskimos head coach Richie Hall, who played defensive back at Colorado State before coming to the CFL in 1983. "Where I was from, we played against Wyoming and we played for The Boot. The winner got The Boot, it didn't matter what your record was, it was just a fierce rivalry and that's the way it is going into this game."

While they don't have a Boot, winning the Labour Day Classic gives a team a leg up in provincial bragging rights.

"The thing that is very common in both situations is you throw away the records," said Hall. "You throw away what's happened up until that point because they're two teams that really don't like each other. It's a rivalry game, it's a hype game, it's a tradition game. This is the game of the year because there is only one Labour Day Classic and this is the game everyone gets up for.

"People make special plans to come home to do it, a lot of people from Edmonton go down to Calgary because it's the Labour Day Classic, so I think that's what makes it special."

But it's also important to stay grounded and focused on the task at hand.

"For me, it's just the experience of being in here," said Stampeders quarterback Henry Burris. "And with the veterans that we have in the locker-room, we've already talked to the young guys just to make sure that they understand the level of importance and the level of intensity that this game will carry.

"Of course, a lot of guys coming from the States, we kind of compare it to a lot of the rivalries we grew up watching as kids and played in in collegiate football."

Burris said both sides will be looking to feed off of the atmosphere.

"This is an intense game, so you will get caught up in it especially in the beginning because emotions are going to be running high," he said. "Just the importance of this game, because if we win this game here we can pretty much put Edmonton in a tough position as far as our season series against them. Beyond being the Labour Day Classic, which is the most important game with the rivalry between Calgary and Edmonton, it's also a chance for us to be where we want to be at this time of the year as well."

Win or lose Monday, the Stampeders will head into the second half of the season with the best record in the league next week. Whether they will earn bragging rights or not remains to be determined.

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca


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