CFL Pass

Grey Cup rematch launches new CFL season for Redblacks, Stampeders

The Grey Cup rematch is on.

Sort of.

The Calgary Stampeders meet the Ottawa Redblacks, picking up where they left off last Canadian Football League season as the two finalists in the title tilt.

“Yeah … definitely anxious,” said Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson on the eve of his team’s 2019 CFL journey.

“The blood’s flowing already seeing the league open up (Thursday) night.”

Yup, the action’s live now … the bullets are flying for real.

But the opener just doesn’t feel like a rematch of that Stampeders 27-16 championship victory Nov. 27 at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium.

A bunch of personnel changes — on both clubs — has seen to that heading into the Week 1 contest Saturday at McMahon Stadium (5 p.m., TSN/News Talk 770 CHQR).

“It doesn’t, really, to me feel like it,” said Dickenson, when asked if a ‘rematch’ is at hand. “It’s just the start of an exciting season. When you get a lot of change and new players, you don’t fall into that trap of just assuming you’re going to be good. We know this is going to be one of those years that we’re going to have to go earn everything.

“That fresh feeling makes you feel a little more excited to see what you’ve got. We’ve put a lot of time and practise into this. Let’s see if maybe we can translate it into wins.

“That’s exciting to me.”

Indeed, the Stamps might roll into the season as reigning CFL kings, but that doesn’t make them de facto front-runners to repeat as Grey Cup victors.

It’ll matter how they come together after a flurry of off-season moves — mostly due to the departure of key players to other CFL clubs or to NFL squads — making it a case of not resting on their past success …

This year more than ever, beginning with Saturday’s effort.

“Start of the 2019 season,” said Stamps veteran defensive back Brandon Smith. “We’d like to pick up where we left off, but we do understand it’s a new season. Anything can happen this year, but we just have to take it one game at a time, one step at a time …

“We approach this season with the same approach as every year — we know it’s going to take hard work,” Smith continued. “We’ve just got to come out and trust in each other and trust in our system and trust in the system, and we play together.

“Unselfish football.”

With so many new names on the roster and fresh faces comprising at least half the starting positions, the Stamps recognize that coming together in such a selfless way to achieve unbridled success is unlikely to happen fast — if at all.

“I just want to see first what we’ve got,” Dickenson said. “Who’s going to make plays?

“There’s still going to be roster changes and shuffling,” continued the head coach. “We need to see what our team’s all about, and we hope these guys show me that they’re the right guys.”

True enough that only time will tell if they’re the right guys for the repeat.

But enough Grey Cup talk already.

That was last year.

Both teams would rather put that out of mind for now.

“I know we’re doing some kind of Grey Cup celebration right before the game starts,” said Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, the MVP of the 2018 Grey Cup game. “It’s funny because their team is so different and our back half is so different, it’s kind of like three-quarters of the people doing it don’t care that much. I’m not even a fan of doing that right now. It happened last season.

“I’d rather forget about it and move on to this season. We’ve got our memories and our rings and all that. Right now, it’s about going out and winning Game 1 of the season.”

The Stamps say they’re ready for that — whether it’s labelled a ‘rematch’ or not.

“It was fun watching the game (Thursday) night,” Mitchell said. “It was good just to remind yourself that mistakes happen, bad plays happen, bad calls happen and injuries are going to happen. It’s not going to go how we planned. We have to go out there and be ready to execute, have good half-time adjustments and have good communication on the sidelines and it’ll come out the way we want it to.”

It should for the Stampeders, given their pedigree.

Through all the off-season smoke can be seen another season of success.

They are, after all, the Grey Cup champs.

“That didn’t happen by surprise or by mistake,” Smith added. “We came in and worked hard each and every day. We know we can’t just step on the field and say, ‘We’re Grey Cup champions.’ We have to show it each and every game.”