Al the comforts of home

IAN BUSBY SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

MONTREAL -- They are enjoying the comforts of home, but being in your own Grey Cup is an uncomfortable position.

It must be, seeing as how no host team has won the championship game since the B.C. Lions did it in 1994.

When the Montreal Alouettes kick off the 96th Grey Cup today against the Calgary Stampeders, they will have the crowd on their side, but plenty of pressure comes along with that.

Is that the reason why host teams don't win, or is there a better explanation?

"It's a great question," said Alouettes right guard Scott Flory, who's playing in his sixth title game.

"I have no idea. In 2001, when we were hosting the game, we kind of choked in the second half of the year.

"It's the dream way to end the season, to have it in your backyard and be able to win.

"I'm not sure why teams don't get there. It's not easy to get there. People think in an eight-team league it's easy to win, but it's not."

Flory and the Als should know. Of their six Grey Cup appearances since 2000, they only have one win; in 2002 against the Edmonton Eskimos.

Coincidentally, it was the Als who spoiled the home party at Commonwealth Stadium, as the Eskimos lost the Cup on their own turf.

That is the only year a host team has even made it to the big game since 1994, so there is no way to figure out a trend.

Veteran Stampeders defensive lineman/long-snapper Randy Chevrier played for the Eskimos in the 2002 loss and remembers the overwhelming stress of the situation.

"It's not just fan pressure but from the organization," Chevrier said. "They are spending a lot of resources to put on that party. There is pressure from fans. They want you there. You can hear them say, 'I got my tickets and you guys better make it.'

"Once you are there, OK we will win because you believe you have played with pressure all year. But it adds another weight on the host team's shoulders.

"The only thing you can do is make sure you are prepared. All the distractions don't mean anything on game day."

This year, the Alouettes have appeared to adapt to the challenges the Grey Cup festival can provide.

Head coach Marc Trestman put the words 'Everything Matters' on each player's locker to remind the team their actions off the field affects what happens on it.

"Who we are and what we do doesn't just take place in this building but outside the building," Trestman said. "How we prepare and do things with our personal lives relates to how we perform on the field.

"There has to be some semblance of a priority but not necessarily before family or other issues. Everything we do counts."

For a four-year stretch earlier this decade, the Grey Cup host won the title the following season, which makes for an interesting scenario: If the Stamps win this one, will the Alouettes come back next season and win in Calgary?

This year's matchup couldn't be any better. Both teams are division winners, and the offences finished one-two in the CFL, with the Stamps holding the edge.

There's an elite quarterback on both sides, as well as high-level receivers and explosive running backs.

Calgary may have the edge with its second-ranked defence. The Alouettes allowed more yards during the regular season than any other playoff team.

The only question is whether the Alouettes can feed off the crowd and not let the jitters take over.

"We have the pressure because we're in Montreal, and we're the host team," admitted Alouettes starting safety Matthieu Proulx.

"They have pressure because they have the best record in the league.

"We have a mutual respect for each other, and I honestly think these are the two most deserving teams in the Grey Cup. Whoever wins deserves it. It will come down to who wants it more and who makes more mistakes."


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