TORONTO - Everything kind of came full circle for Tristan Black Friday night in Calgary.
The former Stampeder who had a blossoming career knocked off the tracks by a broken ankle that led directly to joint fusion surgery in the same foot, vowed when he was still a member of the Stamps to come back and “get his name in the paper” following a stint on the nine-game injured list.
Jim Barker made that vow hard to follow through on when he traded a negotiation list player from the Argos to Calgary for Black just before the nine-game injured stint was over.
Circumstances Friday night which saw Jason Pottinger leave the game with what is anticipated as a serious knee injury would open the door to allow Black to make good on that promise of nearly a year ago.
Black got into the game with about two minutes left in the first half when Pottinger appeared to hit a rut while running downfield on special teams and wrenched his knee.
Thrilled with the chance to play, Black didn’t like the way his opportunity came about.
“He’s a guy I have always been pretty close to,” Black said of Pottinger who was underwent medical testing on Monday to determine the extent of damage to his knee. “Growing up we played against each other and I’ve always tracked his career and now we’re playing together. He’s a real good guy so for him to go down is kind of a bittersweet thing. He’s my friend, but it’s a game of attrition and now this is my opportunity and I have to take advantage.”
Black did just that on Friday night stepping in when Pottinger went down. He finished the night credited with two tackles and an interception in just over a half of play. For his efforts he was awarded one of three game balls that are handed out after each game.
“I went in there and I was pretty assignment sound,” Black said.
In the second half he made good on his vow to make the papers when he stepped in front of a Henry Burris pass with the Stamps threatening, snuffing out a potential Calgary score.
But even without the interception, Black said it would have been a special night.
“You wait for your chance and the opportunity comes to make plays and you can actually make it happen, it’s just a dream come true,” he said.
It was big for Barker too and not only because it lessened the blow of losing one of his key guys. Barker and Black were in Calgary together before Barker came back to Toronto. He knows first hand how hard this former Toronto Central Tech standout works.
“It was exciting because Tristan has had a tough comeback from his injury and to see Willie (Pile) give him the game ball really touched me,” Barker said.
As for the middle linebacker position going forward, it does not appear Black will be given all of Pottinger’s reps. He will likely share the position with Kevin Eiben — who can shift over from outside linebacker if need be — and a pair of non-imports in Ejiro Kuale and Anthony Cannon, both of whom saw time at the position during the pre-season.
And because the Argos were already starting more Canadians and therefore fewer imports than they are allowed, the import ratio will not come into play regardless of who mans the middle. Kuale, who pushed Eiben hard for a starting outside linebacker spot in training camp, saw time in the middle at practice Monday along with Black.
Black isn’t changing his preparation for the game Friday in Winnipeg at all.
“It’s the same thing,” Black said. “I just prepare for the next team. Last week is behind us. As soon as it was over coach (Chip) Garber told me I had to put that game behind me because it’s a game of what-have-you-done-for-me-lately so I’ve pretty much already forgotten the last game.”
But if he does want to go back and re-live the moment his Blackberry is stuffed full of messages from former teammates and friends who saw the game and wanted to let him know.
“My Blackberry just blew up,” Black said. “It was a good deal that I got to shine on a big stage like that.”
The results of Pottinger’s tests are expected to be announced Tuesday, but Barker wasn’t holding out much hope Monday.
“It doesn’t look good,” he said.