E-town advantage turfed

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:59 PM ET

The home-turf advantage the Edmonton Eskimos use to own may have gone up in smoke.

That’s what happens when you cut out grass.

For years, the Eskimos were the only CFL team to play on a natural surface, and it meant opposing teams were given an extra challenge of finding their footing when going to Edmonton.

This season, as host of the Grey Cup, Commonwealth Stadium got a new artificial surface on par with the other seven clubs.

“I’m so happy not to play on that grass,” said quarterback Henry Burris, whose Calgary Stampeders will take on the Eskimos there Friday night (7 p.m., TSN).

“It’s such a disadvantage for both sides. Seeing guys slipping around wasn’t fun, especially on cold, wet days. When it got cold, the ground would freeze.

“Really, if it wasn’t perfect weather, everybody hated that grass.”

The Commonwealth monster bit Burris in 2005. On a rushing play, the QB lost his footing and hit the ground, but he tore thumb ligaments in his left hand breaking his fall.

He never was a fan of that surface before or after that.

“It’s disappointing because grass is where football is meant to be played, but to have this new field makes it one of the best places to play in this league,” Burris said. “We’re happy not to worry about playing on that dang grass.”

Usually in the week leading up to Labour Day, the Stamps would have a practice on the grass next to McMahon Stadium to prepare for their Edmonton trip.

After Labour Day, they used to do their one and only session there as well, and then they would try to sneak into Commonwealth the day before the Friday night rematch just to get a preview of the field conditions.

Most times, the field was locked, and security would keep the opposing team away.

This year, the Stamps aren’t even going to Commonwealth on Thursday afternoon, instead going straight to the hotel.

“When it rained, the drainage wasn’t good,” said Stamps running back Joffrey Reynolds about the Commonwealth grass. “If it was sunny, the field always ended up wet. I don’t know that happened.

“They used to slip all over just like the other team. It brought the game down in terms of speed. Everybody was worried about making slower cuts. The quality of the game will increase up there this year.”

Manipulating the field was part of Edmonton’s mystique. Their way of gaining the slightest advantage, which is now gone.

“The grass itself wasn’t the advantage,” said Stamps safety Wes Lysack, who dislocated a shoulder on the hard grass in 2003.

“It was a distraction to incoming teams. Every team I played on made such a huge deal about it. Every meeting you had, they told you to pack extra cleats.

“When you got there, they didn’t let you go on it. The grass wasn’t a big deal, but people made such a stink about it that is was a distraction.”

Smith player of the week

Stampeders halfback Brandon Smith was named defensive player of the week for his two interception, one touchdown performance against the Eskimos. A trio of Tiger-Cats picked up the other awards, as QB Kevin Glenn won offensive player of the week, LB Markeith Knowlton the special teams and receiver Dave Stala top Canadian.


Videos

Photos