OTTAWA – As the old adage goes, time heals all wounds.
The Stampeders, though, would respectfully disagree.
Even strongly disagree, you could say.
Every player and coach who stood on the sidelines at last year’s Grey Cup and watched the Ottawa RedBlacks snatch away a victory in overtime and then raise the CFL chalice above their heads in celebration, will tell you it cut deep.
Deep enough that it’s far from healed and may never be for some of them.
And while there’s no tonic they can take for what ails them, winning this year’s Grey Cup matchup Sunday against the Toronto Argonauts is about as close to medicine as you can get.
“There’s nothing that’s going to cure what happened last year,” said veteran Rob Cote, as TV cameras and reporters buzzed around the team at the annual Media Day. “But this, absolutely, is the next best thing.
“And the only thing that will make it remotely better is winning.”
In his 11th year wearing the Red and White, Cote certainly appreciates the opportunity his team earned this year.
He knows getting to the championship tilt isn’t easy, and returning the next season almost impossible.
During his first five years as a Stampeder, Cote recalls, they only made it to the big dance once.
Rob Cote (Photo by David Moll)
“I’ve been a part of four (Grey Cups) and we’re 50-50,” said Cote. “It takes a lot to get here and this is the first time we’ve gone back-to-back. That’s very special and very hard to do – to go back-to-back.”
The Calgary-born, Cochrane-raised running back, who played his 179th regular-season game in the Stamps’ Week 20 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, grew up cheering for the team he now plays on and has contributed so much to.
The team that will aim to get the job done Sunday, take care of the unfinished business, and give their fans and city a reason to celebrate.
Does he still have ‘pinch-myself’ moments after all this time as he gets prepared again to play for all the marbles and the bragging rights that come with.
“You know, it’s hard to answer right now,” said Cote. “Right now you have to be so in the moment, so focused on what’s right in front of us that you can’t really appreciate those things yet. I think many years down the road, looking back, I’m going to really, really appreciate the magnitude of the success we’ve had and what it’s meant to me playing for the team I grew up cheering for.
“As for today, right now, I have my eyes on the prize and that’s all I’m thinking about.”
That said, Cote does admit that the wild Western Final win over their archrivals from Edmonton last Sunday at McMahon Stadium did have a profound impact on him.
“Last week was very special for me,” said Cote. “Driving to the stadium, being at stadium, seeing everybody before the game, the way the crowd showed up for us – the place was rocking.
“I had a lot of fun and in that moment (at the end), it was very special for me. When we won it it was almost overwhelming for me – in that moment. Just soaking it all in. But then you kind of have 20 or 30 minutes of that and then it’s on to this week and the Grey Cup.”
Yes, on to the Grey Cup and that golden opportunity to make good.
“We have the chance in front of us and we can go make ourselves feel pretty good on Sunday night,” said Cote with a grin.
“It’ll make you forget some stuff … forget a little bit of the past.”