Third time’s the charm?
The Stampeders certainly hope so.
After a 22-14 Western Final victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Nov. 18, they are off to Edmonton to play in their third Grey Cup in as many years this Sunday against the Ottawa Redblacks.
Beating the Bombers to earn the berth was obviously a pivotal accomplishment.
But for the Red & White, it won’t mean a thing if they don’t finish the year hoisting the Cup above their heads.
“Yesterday I didn’t even go to the trophy ceremony,” said offensive lineman Derek Dennis. “Western Finals are common now here. It’s more so getting that Grey Cup – that’s what I’m focused on.”
It was two years ago he last played in the big dance, when the Stampeders fell 39-33 to the Redblacks in the 2016 championship.
Dennis, who played with the Saskatchewan Roughriders last season, said their Grey Cup opponent this time around makes things personal for him.
“I wasn’t here last year, I know a lot of guys are talking about last year,” Dennis said. “But for me, I feel like Ottawa took the Grey Cup from me.
“So being here in ’16 and being a part of it, and knowing what it was like I’m excited to get another crack at them.”
Plenty of other Stampeders will be in the same boat as Dennis, facing a familiar foe.
However, they all agree the upcoming tilt is a world apart from their 2016 opportunity.
“I want to do a lot different,” Dennis said. “It’s not very often you get a chance to play for championships in pro football, so for a team to do it three years in a row is a big thing. But I think the focus in the locker room is a lot different than it was in ’16.
“In ’16 we were just happy to be there.
“I think now it’s more so like it’s unfinished business.”
The Redblacks are coming into the game after making a serious statement in a 46-27 thrashing of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Sunday in the Eastern Final Sunday afternoon.
“I know a lot of guys on that team and they’re very confident in themselves,” Dennis said of his upcoming opponent. “It’s going to be one of those things when they’re going to show up and think they’re going to be able to beat us, so I’m focused on locking in.”
Focus on their game, playing Stampeders football and getting the job done this time around.
“Everybody knows we’re going to come out and put a good product on the field,” Dennis said. “It’s going to be hard to beat us”
While they’ll be playing in Alberta, the Red & White don’t expect a “home province advantage.”
Especially not in the Eskimos’ house.
“Of course not, I don’t expect that,” Dennis said. “Everybody in the league – they don’t want to see us win. We’re the big dogs on the block every year; everybody gets tired of seeing us playing in the big game so nobody wants to see us be successful.
“It’s like in the NFL, everybody hates seeing the New England Patriots win, but you know every year the Patriots are going to have a chance to play for the Super Bowl. It’s kind of the same thing – we are the Patriots of the CFL.
“Nobody wants to see us win, and the last two years everyone got what they wanted.
“Now it’s time we make sure we give them what they don’t want.”