Maas fades to black

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 1:27 PM ET

The Jason Maas saga is finally over.

After months of trade rumours and speculation, the plug has mercifully been pulled on the football soap opera as Maas is officially a Hamilton Tiger-Cat.

Along with Edmonton's sixth-round college draft pick, the Eskimos dealt the quarterback to Steeltown yesterday for QB Danny McManus, OL Tim Bakker, DB Imokhai Atogwe and the first overall pick.

"I will always look back on these six years as an Eskimo as probably the best years of my life," said Maas with a heavy sigh yesterday. "Edmonton is where I have a true family ... and where (there are) people that I love and care a tremendous amount for."

And there is no doubt how much the Eskimos care about Maas.

"I am really going to miss him and I love him to death," said head coach Danny Maciocia.

"I am sure I am probably going to be the biggest Ticat fan in Western Canada now."

Maas gained countless fans over the last six seasons in Edmonton, especially this year.

He refused to drive a wedge through the locker-room when he wasn't playing while Ricky Ray struggled - and when he was asked to play, he bailed Ray and the team out of the fire not once, but twice in the West division playoffs.

"He's my best friend on the team and has meant a lot to my career," said Ray.

"I am excited for him, though. He deserves to play."

Hamilton head coach Greg Marshall is likely more excited, finally getting Maas after a long, long wait.

"The day after Ricky Ray signed (in May) I called Danny Maciocia and talked to him about the possibility of making the trade," said Marshall.

"I believe his best years as a quarterback are in front of him."

If that is the case, watch out for the resurgent Tabbies.

Maas threw for 5,270 yards in 2004, becoming just the second Eskimo ever to surpass 5,000 yards in a year.

The 30-year-old Wisconsin native sits eighth on the team's all-time list for yards and touchdowns.

Maas never thought he would leave those stats behind until late September, when ironically, he visited Hamilton.

"After watching us play in Hamilton ... with the electrifying crowd and my parents in the stands," said Maas, "I came to the realization I needed to play and needed to move on."

The deal to Hamilton couldn't have worked out any better for him.

With a new contract worth almost $300,000, he's going to the only other team he wanted to play for when he initially came to Canada.

And, believe it or not, the fire that burns inside of him will get even hotter when he steps on the field at Ivor Wynne.

"My favourite colour in the world is black," said Maas, wearing a black shirt yesterday.

"As hard as it is for me to move on, that is what I look forward to - the fire I am going to get when I put this colour on and play for an organization like Hamilton.

"I am so excited to play ... my adrenalin pumps all the time, but I can guarantee you it's never going to pump like it's going to the day I put on this colour to play for them."

The Eskimos have already approached the league, asking to play Hamilton in the first game next season.

"It is going to be a surreal experience (to play Edmonton)," said Maas.

And it will be a game that will likely be witnessed by one of the biggest crowds in years, welcoming back a favourite son.


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