VANCOUVER – It’s not like it was in 1980 when a loudly dressed Edmonton Journal football writer by the name of Ray Turchansky picked the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to lose the Grey Cup game by 40 points.
Tabulatin’ Turk, as he was known, was off by two.
That was the middle year of the Eskimos five-in-a-row dynasty. The final score was 48-10.
Nobody has picked Hamilton to lose by 40 this year.
These are the one-Grey-Cup-in-the-last-seven-years Calgary Stampeders. But, other than the lack of Cups issue, they’re the closest thing there is in today’s CFL to a dynasty.
They’ve won 15 more games than any other team in the league over that span in assembling a 73-34-1 regular season record under coach John Hufnagel. They’ve gone 16-3 to get here and beat the league’s No. 2 team with the league’s No. 1 defence 43-18 in the Western final.
There are a lot of people going into the 102nd Grey Cup wondering if there’s a game here.
When it comes to the question: ‘Do the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have a hope?’ the answer here is: ‘Nope.’
Having covered 42 Grey Cups, your correspondent has seen many strange things happen in the Canadian classic. And that includes the aforementioned Edmonton dynasty, the year after Turchansky picked the Esks to win by 40, needing to make a field goal with three seconds to play to beat a five-win 22½-point underdog Ottawa Rough Riders team quarterbacked by future U.S. Congressman J.C. Watts.
The line on this Grey Cup has held steady at eight points Calgary.
It’s the first Grey Cup in four years where the host city hasn’t had its own team in it to win it.
Hamilton has won two games on the road all year. Calgary has lost only one. And that one was a game in which neither quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, who is 16-2 in his career as a starter, or dominant running back Jon Cornish, played.
So there is that.
There’s the fact also that Calgary won both games against Hamilton this year. And Cornish missed both of them with a concussion.
The Stampeders led the league in scoring with 28.4 points per game, 52 touchdowns, 25 rushing touchdowns, gave up a league low in sacks and were the least penalized team in the league.
And Mitchell would love to be unleashed to pass the ball against a Hamilton team which was ranked eighth in the league in passing yards surrendered.
The theme of the dream for Hamilton is to do what the B.C. Lions did in this same stadium in 2011 after a very similar regular season.
Like those Leos, these Cats started the season 1-6. Hamilton finished up 9-9. But most of the Tabbies’ success was as a result of going 7-0 once they finally started to play in newly constructed Tim Horton’s Field.
They haven’t been the same team on the road and, other than the Box J Boys, their fans don’t travel well.
Calgary fans are here in force including the traditional horse in the hotel lobby.
There’s not much doubt that the Stampeders will definitely have home-field advantage.
But the big thing is that this Calgary team has stubbed its toe too many times in playoff games — including the 100th Grey Cup game against the Argos in Toronto two years ago — to spoil seasons since winning it in Hufnagel’s first year as head coach in 2008 to let it happen again.
They’ve gone 10-7-1, 13-5, 11-7, 12-6, 14-4 and now 15-3 with nothing to show for it.
During the week, the Stampeders have definitely sounded like a focused football team, exactly as they did the week before leading into the Western final against Edmonton.
“It’s more of a focus this year,” said receiver Marquay McDaniel. “Guys aren’t satisfied with just getting here, Getting here means nothing. You have to get that ‘W’ or this season is just like 2012.”
Hufnagel said it back on Wednesday at the coaches press conference.
“There have been lots of things said about this group of players over the years. Until they do something about it, it’s going to keep being said.”