Bergman back on top

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Growing up in Teeterville, Shane Bergman heard all about the Buffalo Bills of the early 90s.
Buffalo was dominant from 1991-94 but came home from the Super Bowl empty-handed four years in a row.

Bergman and the Calgary Stampeders had finished first in the CFL from 2016-18 but the Grey Cup had eluded the club the last two seasons.

On Sunday though, the veteran offensive lineman and the Stamps flipped the script with a 27-16 victory over Ottawa before over 55,000 fans in the 106th edition of the title contest in Edmonton.

It was Calgary’s eighth championship in history and the second for Bergman, who won it during his first full season in 2014.

“It’s a feeling of relief,” the 28-year-old said from Calgary on Monday. “It’s been so long and you could tell everyone was nervous going into this game and it was like ‘we can not lose this game, we can not be the Buffalo Bills’, you know what I mean? … Even the rookies knew ‘we need to win this one’. It’s just a huge relief for everybody and was such a happy moment.”

Unlike past years, the Stampeders got ahead early and kept their opponents down thanks to a top-ranked defence that forced six turnovers and a vaunted offence led by Most Outstanding Player Bo-Levi Mitchell.

Bergman said he was most excited for teammates that hadn’t secured a ring before.

“There was guys like, for example, Bakari Grant who was with us in 2016 when we didn’t win and then he went to Saskatchewan,” said the WDHS grad. “He came back this year – we signed him late in the season and got him a ring – and it’s just special to see guys that have never gotten rings before win a championship … It’s such a cool experience talking with those guys and sharing experiences with them.”

It was evident early on that both teams would have to battle the conditions. Unlike most western Grey Cups, the weather wasn’t nearly as harsh as the slick turf.

“It was really slippery – where the Grey Cup logo is was just like pure ice,” Bergman said. “How we got through it as an offensive line, you’ve just got to take small, fast steps. If you step too far you’re going to slip and that’s the way you’ve got to handle it and it worked out to our advantage. Both teams had the same field and it just worked out.”

Now in his sixth CFL season, Bergman was key to Calgary’s win. Five minutes in, backup quarterback Nick Arbuckle ran behind “Big Country” for a short yardage first down. On the very next play, Don Jackson scored the game’s first touchdown on a screen pass.

“That was huge,” said Bergman. “When you’re big like me (6-foot-7, 345lbs.), you take advantage of short-yardage like that and can really get leverage and blow people up. On that touchdown, the whole defence just read the wrong play – we ran the screen and it was nice, I didn’t really have to block anyone out there.”

Bergman said he’s briefly thought about his day with the cup. Provided schedules aline, he’d like to bring it back for a meet and greet at the Teeterville Fire Hall, just as he did in 2014. The team will host a public celebration in Calgary on Tuesday.

“Like I said (last week), you start taking it for granted when you play so many games and you don’t get it,” Bergman said. “I’ve played in four Grey Cups now and have two rings, it’s just an amazing feeling.”

jrobinson@postmedia.com

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