There was some added pressure - and incentive - all season long for the Toronto Argonauts to make the 100th Grey Cup. The story of Toronto loading up this season with an eye toward playing in the historic version of the Grey Cup they are hosting is well documented.
Now, all the moves have paid off and the Argonauts are exactly where they want to be. So too, however, are the Calgary Stampeders, and they're more than happy to be flying under the radar this week.
“The majority of the pressure is on them,” said Stampeders all-star Keon Raymond. “Because it's the 100th Grey Cup and it's in their city.”
“I played in the Grey Cup in Montreal when I was with the Alouettes in 2008,” kick returner Larry Taylor said. “You might not want to say it but some pressure comes with playing the Grey Cup in your backyard, being the home team. A lot of times you're seen as the favourite just because you're playing at home.”
“I'd rather be the outsider; I'd rather be the opposing team,” Taylor admitted. “There isn't as much pressure on you versus playing at home.”
But there is a big silver lining to the added pressure of playing at home: come game time, you have a big home-field advantage. That means the Stampeders are likely to face a hostile environment at the Rogers Centre on Sunday, but they say they like that too.
“I'd enjoy the Grey Cup anyway, but especially coming into a hostile environment, coming into Toronto,” defensive lineman Demonte' Bolden said. “I enjoy any environment where I know that they don't like us, it gives me energy.”
At the Grey Cup coach's conference, Stampeders head coach John Hufnagel said his team will be prepared for the unfriendly confines they'll face on Sunday.
“I don't think that you shy away from hostile environments because you see it numerous times throughout the CFL season,” Hufnagel said, adding that after travelling to Mosaic Stadium in Saskatchewan numerous times, nothing surprises him.
“This is not the first road trip that they take. I expect them to do the things necessary throughout the day and evening to give themselves a chance to win this game.”
Offensive lineman Dimitri Tsoumpas offered a slightly different outlook on the trade-off of home-town pressure for home-field advantage however, saying it is on the Stampeders to equal Toronto's excitement.
“No pressure on us but emotionally we have to match their intensity,” Tsoumpas said. “It's going to be an interesting dynamic come game time.”
At the end of the day though, Calgary said they know that in a big game like the 100th Grey Cup, pre-game pressure and perceived advantages mean little come kickoff time.
“No, no, no! This is the Grey Cup. The field is Argos vs. Stampeders,” said Bolden.
“It doesn't matter to me (playing as visitor or having home field advantage),” echoed Raymond. “Last week, nobody picked us to win and you see how that happened. I don't mind flying under the radar, if it's preferred it's cool, but you're going to get the same effort from us whether we're above the radar or below.”
The 100th Grey Cup goes Sunday. Coverage kicks off on TSN at 1pm et/10am pt.