VANCOUVER -- Dave Mudge was not ready to leave Winnipeg.
The offensive lineman liked being a member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He was an active member in the community and worked with the Winnipeg Harvest Food Bank. He also had a girl there.
But in mid-season, the Whitby, Ont., native was traded to the Montreal Alouettes.
Now he's playing in the Grey Cup.
"I was sad to leave Winnipeg," said Mudge. "I made Winnipeg my home, I'd lived there for five years, I got involved in a lot of charities and a lot of functions there. Plus it made it difficult because I had a girlfriend there and a couple of properties there.
"So initially I was sad to go, but it's certainly working out for the better."
Indeed it is.
2001 MOST OUTSTANDING LINEMAN
Mudge, a two-time CFL all-star and the league's 2001 most outstanding lineman, was received with open arms by the Alouettes.
Already boasting one of the top offensive linemen in Brian Chiu, Mudge's addition to the unit made it arguably the best in the CFL.
"The guys on the team really welcomed me," said Mudge. "The guys on the O-line really stick together and they made me feel like a part of that right away."
Despite having to learn new blocking schemes, Mudge fit right in with his new team. The fact he was Canadian also made him a valuable commodity.
"Dave is one of the most intelligent and best athletes out there," Chiu said. "He's been a great addition to our team. It adds great depth to us and it made a good offensive line even better."
Despite five great years in Winnipeg, Mudge had a sense he was about to be traded.
The Blue Bombers informed the six-foot-seven, 305-pound tackle they were trying not to play him.
"As soon as that happens, you know you are in trouble," Mudge said. "Initially I was surprised, but by the time it actually happened, I knew something was up."
Mudge was dealt for guard Aaron Fiacconi in October. And while the Alouettes welcomed the addition of the all-star lineman, it was tough to see Fiacconi - a four-year veteran - go the other way.
"I was actually quite shocked when we traded for Dave," Chiu said. "Aaron Fiacconi was a good friend of ours. You don't want to see a good friend go, but at the same time you realize that it had to be done for the betterment of the team."
The fact the Als were able to get Mudge for Fiacconi and future considerations was also surprising. Fiacconi was not as experienced or as talented.
"Something seemed wrong there," Chiu said. "How could you give up such an elite offensive lineman just like that?"
The Bombers did and the Alouettes are reaping the benefits, making it to the Grey Cup game for the third time in the past four years.
The offensive line is one of the Alouettes' biggest strengths. There have been games this year where quarterback Anthony Calvillo does not remember getting touched.
It's one of the reasons Calvillo was able to stay healthy for the better part of the last three years. Calvillo has not missed a regular-season game since 2001, although he was knocked out of last year's Eastern final.
ABLE TO SACK CALVILLO JUST TWICE
The Edmonton Eskimos have only been able to sack Calvillo twice in their two regular season encounters.
But with the Eskimos tough front four, the Alouettes know they have to be on top of their game on Sunday.
"Joe Montford is still probably the toughest guy that we'll face all year," said Mudge. "He's different than any of the other guys we've played against. Guys are either fast or big, he's both. He's a very talented player and personally, that's what I have to get ready for."
EXTRA POINTS: Alouettes injured running back Robert Edwards said he was told yesterday that he won't play in the Grey Cup game. That would hand the starting job to Eric Lapointe, the Montreal native who scored three touchdowns in relief of Edwards last week.