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April 11, 2018

Finch Relieved to be Back

Roy Finch returns a punt for a touchdown in the 2017 Labour Day Classic (Photo by Canadian Press/Jeff McIntosh)

On any list compiled of Happiest Calgarians for the date of Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, Mark Kilam would rank…

“Let’s just say it was a good morning,’’ replied the Stampeders’ special teams coordinator, very likely resisting an overpowering urge to hot-tail it outside and execute a few cartwheels into a snowbank.

“A very good morning.”

Roy (In a Puff of Smoke) Finch is back.

So not only does Kilam have the pleasure of watching the CFL’s reigning Most Outstanding Special Teams Player drive rival cover units absolutely bonkers, he needn’t lie awake nights wracking his brain trying to devise schemes to try and stop him.

Finch, of course, is as easy to pin down as a drop of mercury on a linoleum tabletop.

So as free-agency day drew ever closer, re-signing the 5-foot-7, 165-lb., stick of dynamite always seemed fundamental to the Stampeders’ plans moving forward.

And GM John Hufnagel got it done.

“I’m excited,’’ said Finch early Tuesday afternoon, from his off-season home in Oklahoma. “There’s no other place I wanted to be.

“Free agency and contracts are my least favourite part of the business. This is kinda my first time going through the process and it’s been a crazy/fun ride but I’m just glad it’s over.

“A sense of relief, for sure. No more stress.

“Now I can just focus on preparation for the season.”

In just 13 games last season, Finch piled up a franchise-record 1,200 yards – third highest in league history – and three TDs, tacking on another 696 via kickoff take-backs. Pro rate that over a full 18-fixture slate and the mind positively reels.

You’d have to believe the single-season record of 1,440 punt-return yards, set by Henry (Gizmo) Williams of the Edmonton Eskimos 27 seasons ago, will be in serious peril heading into late October.

“Roy is the best vertical returner in the CFL,’’ praised Kilam. “He’s tough as nails. You know every time he touches the ball he’s dangerous. And he makes everyone else around him better.”

And the pre-re-signing prospect of maybe being on the wrong side of the tracks with the Roy Finch bullet-train?

“I guess that’s a bridge we would’ve crossed when we got there,” he said.

“Fortunately we don’t have to cross it.

“Yeah, I was working him a little bit. But it’s a process that they as players have to go through, exploring all options so they know they made the right decision.

“I think he’s happy about it. And I know we are.”

The return explosiveness is a given. But Finch sees his role expanding in 2018, as a tailback out of the backfield and in a receiving capacity.

“I want to better showcase my talent in different ways, different aspects, to help my team win each and every week,’’ he said.

“Going into each year, I determine where I’ve got to step up my game. Personally, I want to be a little more clutch for my team in pressure situations this season. Make smarter decisions.

“Marc Mueller, my running backs coach, told me at our exit meeting that if I re-signed he saw my role increasing.

“I had some packages later in the year, specifically in the Western Final, where I got about five touches at running back and probably another five at receiver, as well as the returns.

“Whatever they want from me, I’ll give them. Me coming back to Calgary, it sounds like they have a lot more they’re going to put on my plate and I’m excited, I’m ready.

“I’m just happy.”

The knowledge that No. 14 will be back nestling underneath punt returns, leaving cover teams in his wake and providing the Stamps with instant field position will doubtless be slapping smiles on lot of folks around this town, especially down at McMahon Stadium.

“These are people I have great relationships on and off the field with,’’ said Finch. “We’re like family, man. So let’s just pick up right where we left off.

“I know now where I’m going to be for two years. And I know where we’re going to be – in the hunt.

“Once again. Like always.”