After a warm handshake the opposing coaches in this weekend's 100th Grey Cup game posed for pictures Wednesday beside the glistening silver trophy both men want to win.
Toronto Agronaut coach Scott Milanovich stood by tradition, and maybe superstition, and kept his hands off the Cup.
|100th Grey Cup Centre|
The 100th Grey Cup Championship matchup is set, as the Calgary Stampeders will duel the host Toronto Argonauts. Here is everything you need to know ahead of Sunday's game.
Click here to view page
Not so John Hufnagel. The Calgary Stampeders' coach and general manger had no problem grabbing the Grey Cup's handle.
"I think my name is on it,'' Hufnagel said with a smile when asked why he wasn't superstitious.
If Hufnagel has any nerves about the week he's hiding them well. Later in the day he was spotted outside the team's hotel taking slow puffs on a long cigar.
Like many successful men Hufnagel can be simple to explain and complicated to deal with. Former teammates say even when he played as a quarterback in the CFL Hufnagel thought and planned like a coach. There's an easy-going side to the man but he does have an edge.
Stampeder offensive lineman Dimitri Tsoumpas said the 61-year-old projects like a father figure.
"He's a little bit laid back but at the same time you don't want to cross your old man,'' said Tsoumpas. "There is a ton of respect for him in the locker room but he still manages the guys well.''
Hufnagel has found coaching success in the CFL, NFL and Arena Football League. While the budgets and media exposure have varied, the job has always pretty much remained the same.
"You coach your players or your position to put them in a position to succeed,'' he said.
"You can always learn from winning or losing. You have to learn from either situation. Each game that you play, the next game you want to play better, whether you finished that game as a loser or a winner. It's an on-going process.''
This is Hufnagel's second trip to the Grey Cup as a head coach.
The Stampeders beat the Montreal Alouettes 25-19 to win the CFL championship in 2008, which was his first year as Calgary’s head coach. That earned him the Annis Stukus Trophy as Coach of the Year. Many people are picking him to win coach of the year again this season.
Prior to the 2008 game, Hufnagel delivered one of the great locker room speeches.
"We are playing Montreal in Montreal,'' he told his players. "We are playing on the road; we are playing in a dome.
"We are playing in front of 65,000 screaming fans. Men, we've got them right where we want them.''
Hufnagel laughed when reminded of the talk, which still can be viewed on YouTube.
"I'm not a rah-rah type of coach, in my mind,'' he said.
Hufnagel plans to use that victory as a blueprint for success Sunday against the Argonauts.
"We know what the plan is, now it's just a matter of following it," he said.
During his five years in Calgary the Stampeders have finished first in the West twice and played in four Western Finals, but this season might have been one of the most challenging for Hufnagel, as a series of injuries resulted in Calgary using a total of 72 players.
The biggest blow came when starting quarterback Drew Tate suffered a shoulder injury early in the season. Veteran backup Kevin Glenn, obtained from Hamilton as an insurance policy in the trade for Henry Burris, took over and was 10-5 in the regular season.
Glenn credits Hufnagel for revitalizing his career.
"You have to respect the fact he's been around football for a long time,'' said Glenn. "He has a mind for offence.
"He's been around so many great quarterbacks you can't do nothing but listen to him and take heed to what he's telling you.''
Hufnagel has a hearing problem which means he sometimes misses questions, especially when dealing with the media. He can be viewed as grumpy, but does have a dry wit.
This week a CFL poll media poll conducted by the Calgary Herald and Winnipeg Free Press showed Hufnagel had lost his crown as the league's least quotable coach. Instead the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' George Cortez had taken the title Hufnagel had held for four years.