June 15, 2022

Cold Snap

One would never guess it was mid-June based on the weather in Calgary this week.

In fact, the wind and rain have resulted in the Stamps practising at the Calgary West Soccer Centre, marking the first time in franchise history the Red and White have held regular-season practices at a full-sized indoor facility.

The conditions are looking considerably greater for this week’s game in Hamilton, but long snapper Aaron Crawford has much more to look forward to than simply some Southern Ontario sunshine.

“It’s going to be nostalgic as always,” said Crawford on his second appearance back in Hamilton, where he spent the first seven seasons of his career. “I’ve got some family there and my mom was born there so there’s a lot of sentimental stuff in Hamilton. But it’s going to be special going back. Up until I came here (to Calgary), I had played in every game that stadium had hosted. It’s going to hold a special place for me for a long time so it’ll always be fun going back.”

After playing the first two home games of his career in Guelph while the Ticats’ permanent home was being constructed, Crawford was suiting up at Tim Hortons Field on a permanent basis from 2014-19.

But that all changed in 2021 when the Medicine Hat native signed as a free agent with Calgary and, now in his second season with the Stampeders, Crawford is feeling more and more settled in the Stampeders system.

“I’ve got a lot more continuity and I feel a little more comfortable,” admitted the former Saint Mary’s Husky. “The schemes are all pretty similar (to last year) and the communication has cleaned up quite a bit now that we’ve had some time to work together. Football is all football but everyone has their own way of doing things but now we are on the same page. I got to work with (kicker) Rene (Paredes) in the off-season as well so we got even tighter, so this year there’s a little less unknown.”

This week’s matchup at the home of the Tiger-Cats will be a tall task for Calgary. The Stamps have dropped their last two visits to Tim Hortons Field and Hamilton went on to represent the East Division in the Grey Cup in each of those seasons.

“Hamilton is always a fast, physical group,” offered an insightful No 52. “They take pride in special teams and it’s a big part of their game, much like here. You’re always going to be in for a real test with them so we’re looking forward to it. I feel like it’s a very comparable squad to ours – they’re built the same physically with similar mentalities so it’s always going to be a good battle when we play them.”

Even with 113 regular-season games of experience, Crawford is still putting in the work to be the best he can be despite being closer to the end of his career than he is to the beginning. In fact, the positional specialist pointed out that his first two games in 2022 are against opponents with special-teams coordinators who were teammates of his in Hamilton – Byron Archambault of the Alouettes and Craig Butler of the Tiger-Cats.

“The big thing with special teams and the rule changes is just finding a way to hone my game and adapt it for whatever the rules may be and make myself valuable in as many ways as possible,” offered the 35-year-old. “I may have lost a little step in speed but picked up the strength a little bit and consistency with snapping and focusing on being able to help the punter with lines with the snap. Timing and laces on field goals are important, too. I’m still hanging in there with the fellas so we’ll see how long I’m able to keep the wheels on the bus.”