Winnipeg Blue Bombers centre Obby Khan has a simple way of telling new teammates what it’s like to venture into Regina for the annual Labour Day weekend clash with the Riders.
“It’s just like a game,” Khan said. “Times 10.”
In three days, Bomber newbies will get their first taste of it, and to give them a little heads-up, head coach Paul LaPolice had simulated crowd noise pumping through the stadium speakers at practice Wednesday.
The idea is to get the players used to communicating during the bedlam around them, where they often can’t hear themselves think, let alone talk.
“It should be turned up a little louder,” Khan said of the taped noise. “It’s the loudest stadium in the CFL. But being Labour Day, it’s even louder. If you don’t practice it, and you go in there and hear the crowd noise for the first time, you’ll be blown away.”
Offensive linemen, in particular, can be thrown off by the roar, since they’re trying to hear their quarterback’s calls and making calls of their own.
“Our philosophy is, yes, there will be crowd noise. But we’re going to take them out of the game in the first quarter,” Khan said. “How do we do that? We score some points and the crowd will have nothing to cheer about.”
That seems to be the Bombers’ mantra this week: Start fast. For a change.
If Buck Pierce starts at quarterback, it’ll mark his first Winnipeg-Saskatchewan Labour Day Classic.
But Pierce, still dealing with a sore knee, says he knows exactly what to expect.
“I’ve played in Saskatchewan many times,” the former B.C. Lions starter said. “And they’re loud. I’ve played a playoff game there. But it’s all about focusing on your own execution. If we do what we need to do, they should quiet down.”
While quarterbacks in the CFL this season are hooked up to their coaches via speakers in their helmets, Pierce isn’t sure the how effective the device will be when the noise peaks.
“I really haven’t been in a situation where it’s been that loud,” he said. “We might have to do some signals. We’re prepared for that as well.”
Distractions aside, players and coaches seem to love the atmosphere this rivalry produces this weekend.
“It’s the truest thing to playing an Alabama-Auburn football game in the SEC, a big-time college football game,” LaPolice said. “The Ticats-Argos is always a great matchup, but boy, it’s just an exciting time when you play Labour Day.”
A former Winnipeg, Toronto and Hamilton assistant, LaPolice was Saskatchewan’s offensive co-ordinator the last two seasons, so he’s been on both sides of two big rivalries.
“I was here in 2002 and you would hear all the Bomber fans at night in your hotel room,” he said. “You’d hear them running down the streets and yelling at the Rider fans.”
Those fans will be giving the Bombers an earful on Sunday.
“I love that they have so much passion for their team,” Khan said. “And I love seeing our fans there. The greatest feeling playing for the Blue Bombers is when you go to Saskatchewan and you see tons of our fans there. It’s phenomenal.”
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