Sports

Stampeders are Grey Cup favourites, but all bets are off in big game

 KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

Calgary Stampeders' Hugh Charles (33) scrambles forward for a first down escaping the tackle attempt by Hamilton Tiger-Cats' Rico Murray in the first half of their CFL football game in Hamilton August 16, 2014. (REUTERS/Fred Thornhill)

Calgary Stampeders' Hugh Charles (33) scrambles forward for a first down escaping the tackle attempt by Hamilton Tiger-Cats' Rico Murray in the first half of their CFL football game in Hamilton August 16, 2014. (REUTERS/Fred Thornhill)

It won't be difficult for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to assume the underdog role this week.

Plenty of fans and observers are already anointing the Stampeders as winners of the 102nd Grey Cup in Vancouver on Sunday night, but we all know what can happen when assumptions are made.

The West Division-champion Stamps are a whopping 8 1/2-point favourites on most betting websites, making it one of the largest point spreads going into a Grey Cup in recent memory. Last year the Saskatchewan Roughriders opened as six-point favourites over the Ticats, and they ended up winning by 22.

The Stampeders had a better record than the Argonauts going into the 100th Grey Cup in Toronto two years ago, but Calgary opened only as two-point favourites. Toronto cruised to the 35-22 upset victory.

The Stampeders were 15-3 this year, while the Tiger-Cats were 9-9 and are the first team to get to the big game with a .500 record or worse since Calgary (8-10) in 2001. Even that week the Stamps were only 6 1/2-point underdogs, despite their opponents, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, boasting a 14-4 regular-season record.

Calgary went on to beat Winnipeg 27-19, of course, so all bets are off when teams meet on Canada's biggest football stage. There are too many variables to make it an open-and-shut case.

COMMISSIONER CLIMIE?

One of the topics in Vancouver this week will revolve around the search for a new commissioner. Mark Cohon is stepping down in the spring after eight years on the job.

One name that popped up early as a potential candidate but hasn't been heard much lately is former CFL receiver and current TSN analyst Jock Climie. He figures he probably doesn't have the big business contacts to get much-needed sponsorship dollars, but he's smart and he played the game.

Climie doesn't think he's on the search committee's radar given his lack of marketing experience, but the commissioner's role is something that has crossed his mind.

"It's the CFL, and I've grown up loving the CFL, and I've devoted pretty much the last 25 years of my life to it in one way or another," Climie said Monday from Calgary. "I don't think I'd ever say, 'Don't even talk to me' if they ever came, but I'd listen. It's sort of something that I've always had in the back of my mind, like maybe something when I'm older and winding down. It might be something, but at this stage I'd be hard-pressed to imagine how I'd give up the stuff that I'm doing now for that."

Climie is a lawyer in Ottawa and spends his summer and fall weekends shuttling to Toronto and around the country in his role as a CFL on TSN panellist.

"I've got a law practice and lots of clients who depend on me every day, and I've got my job at TSN," Climie said. "I wouldn't want anyone to think that I'd rather do anything else. Frankly, I'm not sure that it would interest me. It would basically mean taking a pay cut for less job security."

BATTING 1.000

That's three seasons as a CFL head coach and three trips to the Grey Cup for Kent Austin.

The Tiger-Cats general manager and head coach must just shrug these days when he gets to the CFL title game, but he evaded praise after Sunday's East final like Brandon Banks did tacklers on the field a couple hours earlier.

Austin guided the Saskatchewan Roughriders to the 2007 crown, but he lost to the Riders last year in his first season at the helm in Steeltown. Getting to the Grey Cup isn't easy, but Austin sure makes it look that way.

"The idea here is to put a staff together of better coaches than the head coach. That's what we believe in," Austin said. "I'm just a part of this. I am a part, but it's just a part. We've got a pretty big staff, players who care, believe in their coaches and believe in their preparation ...

"It takes a lot of people doing a lot of things right to accomplish this, the least of which is the head coach."

LATE HITS

Argos quarterback Ricky Ray, the East Division nominee for most outstanding player, had major shoulder surgery on Monday in Cleveland. Ray had the torn labrum and a small tear in the rotator cuff of his throwing shoulder repaired. It will be a six-month recovery for the 35-year-old pivot, but the Boatmen are hopeful he'll be good to go for training camp ... The Lions are the first host team since 2010 to not be playing in its own Grey Cup, but they made some moves on Monday to shore up their Canadian talent. The Leos signed defensive tackle Jabar Westerman, receiver Kito Poblah and long snapper Mike Benson to contract extensions. Westerman and Poblah were potential free agents ... Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly told reporters Monday the broken bone in his right foot was a six- to eight-week injury. He played on it two weeks after breaking it, and it showed.

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/PentonKirk

 


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