Defending champs ready to be targets

It’s always the first question that comes up when a team wins a championship: Can you do it again? The query came up again on Thursday as the Calgary Stampeders hosted their season-preview conference call.

There is a tiny bit of news emerging from the teleconference. The Stamps will add a north end-zone patio area that can hold around 250 people, and that should be a fun party area, plus ticket sales and sponsorships are up from last year.

Those are predictable outcomes after the Stamps won the Grey Cup and let their fans taste champagne again for the first time since 2008. What is unpredictable is the nature of the CFL playoffs, when you can have a bad day can get bounced, regardless of how well your regular season went.

Rider fans taunt the Stampeders during the 2009 West final at Mosaic Stadium. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Rider fans taunt the Stampeders during the 2009 West final at Mosaic Stadium. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

That is certainly what happened the last time the Stamps tried repeating a championship. The season ended in Regina that year during the West final. They opened a 10-point lead, but then saw it evaporate because of the Roughriders pressure on Henry Burris. A long Jason Armstead punt return hurt, then the returner hit on a long pass to Rob Bagg. Eddie Davis picks off Burris, and the Riders curse over their former QB kept going.

Was there a theme? A single thing to fix? Not really. As for anything that can be gleaned about that loss … maybe it would have helped to finish first and host that game instead of being in hostile territory, but that didn’t change anything in 2013 when the Riders beat the Stamps at McMahon Stadium.

“We examined things after the 2009 season to find out what took place and prevented us from repeating,” Stamps GM-head coach John Hufnagel said in Thursday’s conference call. “Eventually you have to get to the playoffs and do some damage and that’s what didn’t occur in 2009. I always say that you need good fortune, you need a good bounce of the ball occasionally, and you have to protect the football. To me those are the most important things about winning playoff games.”

Asked whether just winning or repeating is tougher, Hufnagel picked the latter. Only once (2009-10 Alouettes) has it happened since 1997.

“I think because of the number of times that people have been able to repeat — it’s not that great — I would have to say repeating is probably more of a challenge than winning it the very first time,” Hufnagel said.

The Stamps are returning a majority of the core group of players that led them to last year’s title.  There are a few names still on the team from that 2009 season — and the 2008 one — that have gone through this scenario. The likes of Charleston Hughes, Juwan Simpson, Keon Raymond, Brandon Smith (who missed 2009 with a knee injury), Rob Cote and Randy Chevrier are still on the team.

What is the key ingredient to repeating? Probably a combination of luck, desire and momentum, along with good players.

“I do have a group of core veterans that were a part of that 2008 team that had the experience of trying to defend a championship,” Hufnagel said. “They have been working very, very hard this offseason to get themselves ready for training camp. I believe the mindset of the core veterans will help the younger guys in the direction that we need to take as a football team to give us a chance to win some games and hopefully do some good things.”

Ian Busby

Ian Busby

Ian Busby has covered the Stampeders and the CFL since 2003, with eight years as a beat reporter. He is now a producer at Breakfast Television.
Ian Busby
Facebooktwitterredditmail
Ian Busby
About Ian Busby (175 Articles)
Ian Busby has covered the Stampeders and the CFL since 2003, with eight years as a beat reporter. He is now a producer at Breakfast Television.