A different world

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 2:03 PM ET

What a difference six years makes.

The last time Vancouver hosted the Grey Cup, the Canadian classic was a dud.

There was no atmosphere, no buzz in the city - and B.C. Place wasn't exactly full.

In fact, 45,118 people found their way to the dome, leaving the stadium almost 25% empty.

It was the fourth-lowest Grey Cup crowd in the last 30 years.

"It really was a different world in 1999," said Scott Ackles, the general manager of the 2005 Grey Cup committee.

That is definitely true, compared to this year.

Although the game is still two months away, it's a smashing success at the box office.

More than 57,000 tickets are already sold.

"We expect to be sold-out in the first week (of October) or perhaps right after the Thanksgiving Day long weekend," said Ackles, who is the son of legendary Bob Ackles, the CEO and president of the B.C. Lions.

A sellout is 59,196 fans, which will rank among the top five Grey Cup crowds in nearly 20 years.

But will the town come alive?

That answer won't come until the final week of November, but the groundwork for success has been done.

"We are closing down three city blocks right on the doorstep of the stadium," continued Ackles, who is guiding 21 sanctioned Grey Cup festival events.

"Three city blocks for three days for all types of family-related activities and interactive games. It's the midway of our event."

The Grey Cup parade is also making a return to the West Coast.

"Vancouver got labelled as being a 'No Fun City' for a lot of years," stated Ackles.

"We want this to kick off the five-year countdown to the Olympics."

PLAYOFF DRIVE ALIVE

If the Saskatchewan Roughriders play deep into the playoffs this year, the team can look back at three keys plays in three straight weeks that kept the playoff drive alive.

Play 1: Eddie Davis picks off Winnipeg's Kevin Glenn in the final minutes on the Bombers' home turf to preserve a two-point win. The Bombers were driving for a game-winning field-goal attempt.

Play 2: Omarr Morgan's block on Hayden Epstein's field-goal attempt with 10 seconds left in Regina on Sept. 18 to give the Green and White a one-point win over the Eskimos.

Play 3: Damon Allen fumbles the ball on third down on the Rider one-yard line Friday night, giving the ball back to Saskatchewan. The Argos had three cracks from the one-yard line and couldn't score. It would have been 17-0 Toronto. Instead, the Riders gain major momentum, nearly scored 24 unanswered points and won their fourth straight.

SHORT YARDAGE: Offering guaranteed win night in Ottawa would be absolutely foolish, but the next three game-day Renegade promotions don't seem much better: Pajama Party, Halloween Party and Elf Night ... How much do you think the Montreal Alouettes miss receiver Jeremaine Copeland? Montreal had to beat lowly Winnipeg to get back to .500 yesterday. Signed as a free agent by the Stampeders in February, Copeland is almost over 1,000 yards and is a top-three receiver in the league this year. When Ben Cahoon was knocked out of lineup for six weeks this summer, Montreal's Anthony Calvillo was missing his top two threats from last year ... How good is the Saskatchewan ground game? The Riders almost had two 100-yard rushers Friday night against Toronto. Kenton Keith ran for 125 yards and Corey Holmes galloped for 98 yards.

HITS & MISSES

HIT

Tony Tompkins delivers the most important play of the Eskimo season so far, returning a kickoff for a touchdown against B.C.

MISS

B.C. returner Aaron Lockett was practically shut down by the Eskimos.

HIT

Argo Clifford Ivory returns an interception for a TD against Saskatchewan and causes a fumble.

NUMBERS GAME

44 - Number of points - on average - Ottawa is giving up per game during its five-game losing skid.

22 - Number of yards Lions' Antonio Warren could muster on the ground against Edmonton Saturday night.

4 - Number of wins Saskatchewan has since Marcus Crandell became the starting quarterback.

0 - Number of Rider losses with Crandell at the helm.

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

" I HOPE HE DOESN'T PASS FOR 4,000 YARDS AGAINST US."

- B.C. head coach Wally Buono on

Ricky Ray before Saturday's game.

" I'M SICK AND PISSED OFF. I'M TIRED OF LOSING."

- Ottawa quarterback Kerry Joseph after losing to Calgary last week.

" THERE'S NOTHING ELSE TO SAY; WE JUST FLAT-OUT OWNED THEM."

- Saskatchewan's Scott Schultz on the Argos' offence.

GAME OF THE WEEK

SASK. VS. B.C. LIONS

SASKATCHEWAN AT B.C., SATURDAY, 8 P.M., TSN

Saskatchewan lost two heart-breaking games at B.C. Place late last season. The first loss cost the Riders home-field advantage for the Western Division semifinal. The second loss was in the Western final. A loss this week could really hurt the Riders' hope of hosting a playoff game at Taylor Field for the first time in 17 years.


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