The Blue Bombers owe Toronto some payback.
"These two teams have been able to return 'favours' to each other over the years," Bomber president/CEO Lyle Bauer said yesterday.
The Argos, Bauer, recalled, kept the heavily favoured Winnipeggers from advancing to the Grey Cup back in 1987. Toronto later prevented the Bombers from advancing to the Grey Cup in 1991, the first time Winnipeg ever played host to the CFL championship. Although Winnipeg has also bounced the Argos from the playoffs, the ones the Argos win seem to smart the most. For example, Toronto eliminated the Bombers in last year's Eastern semifinal, preventing them from advancing to the Grey Cup game the third time Winnipeg played host.
Now, the Bombers have a chance to prevent the Argos from advancing to the Grey Cup game, which will be held in their own hometown, by knocking them off in this Sunday's East Final.
Trouble is, the Bombers must overcome the Hogtown Blues to do so. The Bombers are 1-6 in their last seven forays into the Big Smoke, including playoffs, and are 3-7 there since the start of the 2003 season.
"We lost a big-time playoff game last year in Toronto, they beat us when we had a must-win situation this year for first place," said placekicker Troy Westwood. "They're a hell of a tough team. We've got our hands full going in there to try and steal one."
But the Bombers have been determined to overcome this mental block since barely losing their last game there.
"To go into Toronto and win the game is going to be a real tough challenge for us, but I think we're capable of it," Westwood said.
"We're confident we can win," asserted offensive lineman Alexandre Gauthier. "That's not true that nobody wins over there.
Maybe it's just the Bombers who are 3-15-1, including the playoffs, since 1995.
But the Bombers did win in Toronto (24-17) just last season and never mind that Spergon Wynn was the starting Argo quarterback.
"We've done it, so we should just ride the wave that we're on right now," said defensive end Tom Canada. "We've definitely got momentum right now. They've been sitting on the couch for a week. I'm sure that could either benefit them or be a downer for them, I don't know. But like I said, we just gotta take this momentum into Toronto. I definitely know we can win there."
The Argos will ride a seven-game winning streak into the final.
"We know it's going to be a difficult task.," said veteran slotback Milt Stegall. "They're confident right now. They're at home. They'll have some fans at the game. I always say it can't be too hostile in Toronto, but they'll have some fans there so, it's going to be a little bit more hostile atmosphere than it's been in the past."
The Argos beat Winnipeg by scores of 16-8 and 31-23 the last two times the Bombers dared enter what they once knew as "SkyDoom."
"That's a big rivalry for both of us," said cornerback Robert Bean. "We beat them (at home), they beat us. I think we'll play them a lot tougher than Montreal would ... so, it's going to be a big game."
Toronto quarterback Michael Bishop said he wanted to play the Bombers on a TV show last week.
"Michael Bishop called us out," said Bomber defensive tackle Doug Brown. "He requested us and we're going to go out there and hopefully make a home delivery for Toronto."