December 10, 2009

A decade of evolution for the Stamps

When the present decade started, the Calgary Stampeders were under the guidance of Wally Buono and the football club was on the verge of a fifth Grey Cup championship.wally_huff090919.jpg

As the decade is ending, the Stampeders are led by one of Buono’s proteges — John Hufnagel — and the franchise is one year removed from a sixth Grey Cup title.

As the 2000s began, Dave Dickenson was the Stampeders’ quarterback and he was putting together one of the best seasons ever turned in by a Canadian Football League pivot.

As the 2000s ended, Dickenson was a rookie on the Stampeders coaching staff and putting his keen football mind to work as an offensive assistant.

In between 2000 and 2009, there were two ownership changes in Calgary, five head coaches, 86 victories, five 10-win seasons, 11 post-season contests, two Grey Cup championships, eight major award winners, 59 West Division all-star team berths and 31 All-Canadian selections.


Following an award-winning 2000 season, Dave Dickenson left the Stampeders to try his luck in the National Football League. Calgary then turned to Marcus Crandell to take over the offence and the results were quite good — the Stamps ranked second in the CFL in 2001 with 478 points scored.Ring2001.jpg

However, the club as a whole had its ups and downs and the Stamps finished second in a parity-heavy West Division with an 8-10 record. That’s when the fun started. First, the Red and White downed the BC Lions, who were also 8-10, in the West Semi-Final. The Stamps then went up to Edmonton for the West Final and knocked off the 9-9 Eskimos.

That set the stage for a Grey Cup matchup with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who ruled the league during the regular season with a sparkling 14-4 mark. The underdog Stamps were undeterred, however, as Calgary claimed a 27-19 victory in the big game.

Crandell threw second-quarter touchdown passes to Travis Moore and Marc Boerigter on the way to claiming MVP honours in the game while Aldi Henry was top Canadian based primarily on his third-quarter punt block that led to a Willie Fells touchdown.


Seven years after the 2001 triumph, the city of Montreal was very good to the Stampeders again. With rookie head coach John Hufnagel calling the shots, the Stamps recorded a 22-14 over the hometown Alouettes.AndersonD.jpg

The Als’ home-field advantage notwithstanding, the 2008 result could hardly be classed as an upset. Calgary led the CFL with a 13-5 mark during the regular season and led the league in both points scored and fewest points allowed.

Henry Burris threw for 328 yards and connected with Brett Ralph for Calgary’s only touchdown as the quarterback captured the MVP award. Sandro DeAngelis, who booted five field goals, was top Canadian.

Calgary was one of four teams to win two Grey Cups during the past decade. The others were BC, Edmonton and Montreal.


Wally Buono spent all of the 1990s at the control for the Stamps and his reign spilled over into the 2000s by three seasons. In 2001, the man who would go on to become the winningest coach in CFL history added a third Grey Cup championship as the Red and White’s boss as Calgary downed the heavily favoured Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Jim Barker, Matt Dunigan and Tom Higgins all took their turns on the Stampeders’ sideline in the middle of the decade before former Stampeders quarterback and one-time Buono assistant John Hufnagel took over.

Buono is the runaway leader in every significant coaching category in the franchise’s history including games coached (234), wins (153), playoff wins (12) and Grey Cup titles (three).

Much like the Buono Era carried into the 2000s, members of the Stampeders’ great teams of the ’90s to play into the new century included offensive lineman Rocco Romano, linebackers Alondra Johnson and Darryl Hall, safety Greg Frers, receivers Allen Pitts, Travis Moore and Vince Danielsen, quarterback Dave Dickenson, fullback Duane Forde, kicker Mark McLoughlin and punter Tony Martino.

LOCAL GROUP TAKES OVERowners_091210.jpg

At the dawn of the new decade, Sig Gutsche owned the Stampeders. In 2001, the club was sold to California businessman Michael Feterik.

Four years later, a group of Calgary businessmen comprised of former players and community-minded individuals purchased the club from Feterik and started the methodical process of restoring the franchise’s lustre. Ted Hellard, Doug Mitchell and John Forzani were part of the group as were former Stamps Dave Sapunjis and Bob Viccars.

When the new group assumed control, the Stamps had missed the playoffs three years in a row but the team has since made five straight trips to the post-season while compiling a 51-37-2 record.


From 2000 to 2009, no fewer than 325 players — from Abdullah (Rahim and Khalid) to Zubedi (Farwan) — played at least one regular-season contest for the Stampeders.

It would be a time-consuming task to mention all the players who have passed through McMahon Stadium in the past decade, but three groups deserve special notice.

• Let’s start with the hogs of the offensive line, led by Jeff Pilon — the only player to make an appearance in each season of the past decade. Pilon naturally was also the Stamps’ leader in games played in the 2000s with 147.

Two of the other men to play at least 100 games with the Red and White over the past 10 years were a couple of Pilon’s trenchmates — guard Jay McNeil (135 games) and centre Jamie Crysdale (101).Pilon_091022.jpg

• In the middle of the decade, the Stampeders went to a 3-4 defensive system that was reliant on the linebacking crew making plays. Well, the four-man unit of John Grace, George White, Brian Clark and Scott Coe certainly did that.

Over a two-year period — 2004 and 2005 — the four linebackers combined for 601 tackles, 45 tackles for loss, 39 sacks, 16 interceptions, 12 forced fumbles, 16 fumble recoveries and 40 pass knockdowns.

• It was at around this time that the Stampeders started assembling an outstanding crew of receivers that remained intact through the decade.

Nik Lewis, who was the CFL’s rookie of the year in 2004, was the first to arrive. The following season was critical as Jeremaine Copeland, Ken-Yon Rambo and Brett Ralph would all arrive on the scene. Ryan Thelwell came along in 2007.

All told, the Fab Five has produced 1,325 catches for 20,335 yards and 127 touchdowns. The man on the launching end of most of that aerial damage was Henry Burris, who returned to the Stampeders in 2005.

The Stamps’ long-standing offensive corps also includes running back Joffrey Reynolds, who came to Calgary in 2004.


Speaking of Reynolds, the Texan was Calgary’s top rusher for the final six years of the decade as he moved into second spo
t on the franchise’s all-time list in ground yards.AndersonK_091110.jpg

The only man he trails is Kelvin Anderson, who was the Stamps’ top ground-gainer for the first three seasons of the 2000s.

The transition running back between the two eras was Saladin McCullough, who joined the Stamps mid-season in 2003 after the team parted ways with Lawrence Phillips and wound up leading the team with 734 rushing yards in 13 games.


Henry Burris spent two seasons with the Stampeders in the late ’90s but with Dave Dickenson and Jeff Garcia ahead of him on the depth chart, the former Temple quarterback spent most of his time wearing a ballcap and carrying a clipboard on the sidelines.

As a matter of fact, Burris threw just 11 passes during his rookie season and 60 in his sophomore campaign before making to move the Regina in order to get an opportunity to be a starter.090816burris.jpg

After three seasons with the Roughriders, with some NFL time mixed into the equation, Burris returned to Calgary in 2005 and has promptly claimed top spot in most major franchise passing categories including career marks for passing yards, attempts, completions and touchdowns.

Burris threw for 22,947 yards and 141 touchdowns in the decade, well ahead of Marcus Crandell who was runner-up in both categories with 11,867 and 57.

Incidentally, 19 different players threw TD passes in the 2000s for the Red and White including three guys you wouldn’t expect — receivers Allen Pitts, Brett Ralph and Wane McGarity.

Some of the more unlikely recipients of touchdown passes in the decade were all-star quarterback Dave Dickenson, all-star defensive lineman Joe Fleming, defensive lineman Mike Labinjo, safety Trey Young and lineman/long snapper Randy Chevrier.


The Stamps produced a number of CFL award winners in the 2000s including 2000 Most Outstanding Player Dave Dickenson and a couple of Most Outstanding Defensive Player recipients — Joe Fleming in 2003 and John Grace in 2005.Anselmo_mug.jpg

Nik Lewis was top rookie in 2004, Sandro DeAngelis was the CFL’s special teams player of the year in 2006 and Greg Frers won the Tom Pate Memorial Award for sportsmanship and dedication in 2002.

A couple of Calgary bosses were presented the Annis Stukus Trophy for being the CFL coach of the year — Tom Higgins was honoured in 2005 while John Hufnagel got the nod in 2008.

Stamps were selected as CFL all-stars 31 times in the past 10 years and 59 Calgary players were honoured with berths on the West all-star squad.

Jay McNeil and Sandro DeAngelis top the list with five division all-star selections apiece while Joffrey Reynolds was recognized on four occasions. Fleming, who was Calgary’s sacks leader during the decade, was a three-time all-star with the Stamps.

Former Stampeders who were inducted into the Hall of Fame in the past decade were Doug Flutie, Allen Pitts, Alondra Johnson, Willie Burden, Rocco Romano, Danny Bass, Ray Nettles, Rudy Phillips and, into the builder’s category, former club president Tony Anselmo (pictured right).

>> The decade by the numbers