December 17, 2018

A Tough Decision

CALGARY, AB - JUNE 16, 2018: The Calgary Stampeders won 28-14 against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at McMahon Stadium on Saturday's Home Opener. (Photo by David Moll/Calgary Stampeders)

Once upon a time, back on the farm in Kelvington, Sask., deep in the flatland forest of Rider green, dwelled an outsider, of sorts.

“There were these dice games, board games, you could get in those days. One specifically, I remember,” Mike Petrie is reminiscing. “Made in small-town Alberta. Westaskiwin, maybe. Somewhere like that. Can’t remember, exactly.

“You’d roll the dice and every player in the CFL had a card. “

Inside a dusty binder he still keeps somewhere in the house are pages upon pages of statistics of that era in the three-down game and results of those dice games he loved.

“And I’d always – I mean always – be the Stampeders. I was a Stamps’ fan from the time I was a kid.

“Because they didn’t come out with a new game every year, you’d need masking tape to put over, say, James Sykes, when he wasn’t playing anymore, and write Ray Crouse on top of the tape. Or Keyvan Jenkins.

“Same game. Just that the players kept changing.

“I played that damned game for hours.”

Eleven years after leaving the newsroom of the Calgary Herald, as fine a CFL beat writer as to be found anywhere across this land, to actually live that boyhood reverie, the Stampeders’ assistant GM has decided to audible away from football.

Over those years, Petrie trended from media relations/community programs to director of football operations and into a right-hand-man role to GM John Hufnagel, working on football strategy, budgets, expenditures, contracts and player evaluation.

“This decision,” he stresses, “is strictly personal. I had my dream job.


“There is no other reason than the time is right. There are a lot of other amazing things in the world that I’ve sampled and want to experience a lot more of.

“I’ve thought about this for quite some time. It’s never going to be easy leaving a job you love but I’m also excited to see what else is out there.

“I want to travel. A lot. I’ve got 13 nieces and nephews. I want to spend time with my parents. My wife (Tyla) is amazing. We’ve been married 26 years and she’s been so supportive through all of this.

“And, I mean, over the past 11 years I’ve probably spent more time talking to Huff than my wife, right?”

Hufnagel certainly understands the size of the hole now in need of filling.

“Mike,” praises the big boss, “was always reaching to know more. He wasn’t satisfied. He wanted to know more and more about the ins and outs of the game. He watched a lot of film on players.

“He just wanted to get as involved as he possibly could. And so when the opportunity arose to get him into the football operations side, it was a very smooth transition.

“He’s done a great job, handled so many facets. He’s highly-interested in the game, which is why he worked so hard to become as well-rounded as possible in the position he had. Salary cap. Player relations. Everyday football operations. He did such a good job, reliable job, dependable job that I never had to look over his shoulder. I knew things were going to get done properly.

“He’ll be missed. But we’ll move on.”

Petrie went in with a bang, collecting a first Grey Cup ring that initial season in the media/communications role, at the Big O in Montreal following a 22-14 conquest of the Alouettes, and exits after earning a third, courtesy the 27-16 title takedown of the Ottawa Redblacks at Commonwealth Stadium three weeks ago.

A lovely symmetry there.

“It’s hard because I care about the guys and I’m proud of what we’re doing,” says Petrie.

“It’s been so cool, being able to actually work on the inside of football after wondering what it’d be like. And I know it’s completely unorthodox to leave a good job, a secure job, a job you love, to do nothing but have fun and be a 16-year-old kid. But that’s what I’m kind of doing.

“It’s a cliche, I know, and difficult to verbalize but it’s like having this amazing meal and knowing there’s a great dessert coming at the end of it.

“You’re loving the meal, course after course, but it’s always in the back of your mind that you want to leave room for dessert.

“Well, I’m still having the best meal of my life but, well …”

There’s no time like the present to indulge his sweet tooth.