August 8, 2014

Stephen: Familiar ground for many Ottawa REDBLACKS


On Saturday, the Calgary Stampeders have billed their home date with the Ottawa REDBLACKS as Family Day at McMahon Stadium, which is very fitting considering how many former Stampeders are members of the REDBLACKS organization.

Of course, every Canadian Football League team will have various ties to the expansion REDBLACKS, but Calgary’s connections run a little deeper.

The first link starts with REDBLACKS bench boss Rick Campbell, who spent the past two seasons steering the Stampeders defence before becoming Ottawa’s first coach in December. In his two seasons with the Stampeders, Campbell helped the team earn a berth in the 2012 Grey Cup before guiding them to the West Division regular season crown last season.

When Rick Campbell began filling out his coaching staff, he didn’t look too far from his previous spot in Calgary.

To coach the offence, he brought in a veteran CFL coach Mike Gibson and for special teams, he recruited Dan Yanowsky.

The links between Calgary and Ottawa do not end there. Former Stampeders Marcus Crandell (quarterbacks coach) and Travis Moore (receivers coach) were both part of the Stampeders’ 2001 Grey Cup-winning team. The final connection on Ottawa’s coaching staff is Mark Nelson, who played for the Stamps in the 1980’s.

Now that’s just the coaching staff.

The playing contingent of the Stampeders-turned-REDBLACKS club is a large one as well.

The field general for the REDBLACKS, Henry Burris, spent seven seasons in Calgary where he owns virtually every important passing category for the franchise. Those records for Burris haven’t translated into wins as a visitor. Burris has a record of 1-3 as a visitor at McMahon Stadium.

During December’s CFL Expansion Draft, Ottawa poached safety Eric Fraser, offensive lineman J’Micheal Deane and quarterback Kevin Glenn away from Calgary when they were left unprotected. Amidst a flurry of activity on CFL Draft day, Glenn was traded before Ottawa flipped their first overall selection to Calgary for offensive lineman John Gott.

Later in the offseason, the teams consummated another trade with defensive lineman Justin Phillips being dealt to the REDBLACKS; Phillips will not suit up on Saturday after suffering a season ending injury in Week 5 against the Ticats.

The return of many ex-teammates and ex-coaches caught the eye of Calgary defensive lineman Charleston Hughes.

“You know what, they got a good team, “noted Hughes. “They’re building game after game. They’re trying to discover what kind of team they are and what kind of team they want to be.”

Hughes also sees the importance of having a veteran like Burris at the controls in Ottawa.

“I think it’s one of those things where Hank is trying to lead them and point them in the right direction,” said Hughes of his teammate for four years. “They’ve got a good head coach that I’ve played under. I know how he is and he wants to win very badly.”

Once all the hugs and handshakes are out of the way in pre-game, the Stampeders will be looking to bounce back after their narrow loss at home last week to the BC Lions. The Stampeders felt turnovers were key in the loss to BC.

For once, the Stampeders will be returning healthy bodies to the lineup – cornerback Buddy Jackson will be back after missing a couple of games with a groin strain.

No doubt the Family Day theme will be evident for the teams in the pre-game. Then, like siblings, they will squabble vehemently for the next sixty minutes