CALGARY — The Saskatchewan Roughriders touched down Tuesday on what they consider friendly territory for the Grey Cup.
Given the number of people from Saskatchewan who live in Calgary and the car loads expected to arrive from that province this week, the players say McMahon Stadium will feel like Regina’s Mosaic Stadium when they face the Montreal Alouettes in Sunday’s CFL championship game (TSN, 4:30 p.m.).
”Even during the season when we come out here, it’s filled with green in that stadium,” Roughrider quarterback Darian Durant said.
“To play this game out here will definitely be an advantage for us.”
The ’Riders, 10-7-1 this season, got a taste of the support they expect this week when they were greeted Tuesday by a high school band and drill team, plus a few green-clad autograph seekers, at the Calgary airport.
“Ray Charles is going to be able to see the amount of green we have coming here on Sunday, so it’s awesome,” defensive back Stevie Baggs declared.
The Alouettes, 15-3, were scheduled to arrive with less fanfare near midnight Tuesday.
The Roughriders feel they’ll need that home-field advantage.
They arrived in Calgary playing the underdog card and pointed to the Alouettes’ stellar record this season.
Montreal beat Saskatchewan in two meetings this season by a total score of 77-35.
“You look at their record, look at their statistics, look at just about everything and you would say, statistically and record-wise, they deserve to be the favourite in the game,” head coach Ken Miller said.
Saskatchewan advanced to its second Grey Cup in three years with a 27-14 win over the Calgary Stampeders in the West Division final, while the Alouettes dominated the B.C. Lions 56-18 to take the East.
The Roughriders moved into the Stampeders dressing room, which Calgary vacated Monday. Saskatchewan didn’t lose a game at McMahon this season with a win and a tie there against the Stampeders.
”It’s been a pretty good stadium for us this year,” Durant said. ”With the backing we have, even if you look back at the Grey Cup in Toronto (two years ago), it was full of green there, this will be twice as better for us.”
Veteran defensive end Eddie Davis, a former Stampeder who intended to reclaim his old dressing room spot, feels his team has appeal across the country.
“It brought the whole province together and it’s bringing all the Saskatchewan people from all over Canada together,” Davis said. “I guess you could say we’re Canada’s team. We’re just trying to keep this thing rolling and this could be like a Cinderella-type story.”
While the Grey Cup game is sold out, there were plenty of options online as disappointed Stampeder fans put their tickets up for auction.
Saskatchewan and Montreal will meet in the Grey Cup for the first time Sunday. Both rosters have players with considerable Grey Cup experience. The Riders won the title two years ago by beating Winnipeg in the title game.
It will be the Als’ seventh championship game since 2000. Their lone victory over that period came in 2002.