Grey Cup roster causing Stampeders coach Dickenson a little stress


OTTAWA — The final practice is over and gameplans have been set but it’s hardly the calm before the storm for Dave Dickenson.

The Calgary head coach conducted his team’s last walkthrough Saturday but still has plenty to ponder before the Stampeders kick off the Grey Cup game Sunday night against the Toronto Argonauts.

“The hardest thing for me right now is the roster,” Dickenson said. “I haven’t set my mind on a roster yet because we’ve had some guys get some small tweaks in practice so that’s causing me a little bit of stress.

“Weather would be the other thing. I’m anxious to see what we’re going to get because that has an impact on how you call the game.”

The game-time temperature is expected to be around -5C with 18 km/h winds. There’s also a 40 per cent chance of snow, with accumulations between 1-3 centimetres.

Regardless of weather, the game will be a sellout at TD Place. Capacity was expanded from 24,000 to 36,000 with the addition of temporary stands in both end zones.

Country superstar Shania Twain will perform at halftime, her second Grey Cup appearance in 15 years. Twain, 51, is the top-selling female country artist of all time and is scheduled to release her fifth studio album, “Now,” on Sept. 29.

Canadian hip-hop artist SonReal will play the pre-game show while Toronto-based singing group Choir! Choir! Choir! performs O Canada.

Dickenson will also have a meeting with his coaches to review situational calls.

“We brainstorm,” Dickenson said. “Just trying to think of some scenarios, what’s best for the team.

“I think it’s hard to be calm and excited but I think our team is looking forward to just seeing if we can get it done. An opportunity is knocking and we’re ready to answer the door.”

For the second straight season, Calgary heads into the Grey Cup the favourite after posting a league-best 13-4-1 record. The Stampeders had a stellar 15-2-1 mark last year before dropping a stunning 39-33 overtime decision to the Ottawa Redblacks (8-9-1).

Calgary appears in its fourth Grey Cup in six years. A win would make Bo Levi Mitchell the only quarterback in team history to register two CFL title wins. He was the MVP of the Stampeders’ 20-16 victory over Hamilton in 2014.

Mitchell has made winning a habit over his six seasons in Calgary, boasting a sparkling 61-12-2 overall record (.827 win percentage). But Mitchell was planning on a low-key Saturday night.

“Dave is going to create our down-and-distance thoughts . . . and if I have any glaring questions I’ll hit him up,” Mitchell said. “If Dave likes a certain play on second-and-medium compared to first down then I’ll maybe hit up one of the receivers and talk to them about it.

“Then, honestly, I’ll get my mind off it. I’ll probably watch a movie or something, lay back and kick the feet up and just let everything happen.”

Mitchell enters his sixth career matchup against Toronto starter Ricky Ray holding a commanding 5-0 mark. But in the five previous Grey Cup contests in Ottawa since 1939, the West Division club won just once (Winnipeg in ’39).

Ray, a three-time Grey Cup champion, will be chasing CFL history Sunday. A victory would make the 38-year-old the winningest Cup starter ever.

Calgary swept the season series 2-0 and is riding an eight-game win streak over Toronto. The Argos are 2-1 in Grey Cup matchups against Calgary, including a 34-22 decision in the 100th CFL title game at Rogers Centre in 2012.

Toronto has a CFL-best 16 Grey Cup wins, nine more than Calgary.

Mitchell had family arriving Saturday but wasn’t planning to spend time with them until after Sunday’s game.

“I’ve got brothers, my mom, my wife’s family flying in and I’ve told them, ‘Hey, I’ll meet you in the lobby and say hello then I’ll see you Sunday night,’ ” Mitchell said. “It’s very very easy to lose a little bit of focus, go hang out with family and all of a sudden you get caught in signing autographs and taking pictures with fans who meet you out there.

“You’ll see your family in three days when this is all over.”

Toronto head coach Marc Trestman was giving his players Saturday evening to spend with their families in keeping with his regular-season road practice.

“We’ve always turned them loose on the road to do what they want in the evenings to get ready to play,” Trestman said. “We ask them to get back to the hotel at a reasonable hour if they’ve gone out for dinner with their families.

“That hasn’t changed and it won’t change (Saturday night).”

Trestman won’t change his usual road practice of spending the night before a game quietly in his hotel room.

“My wife and daughters will go out to dinner with friends but I normally stay in, get some room service and go to bed early,” he said. “I don’t watch TV in the evening at all, it just distracts and wears me out.

“I’ll review the gameplans again and our callsheet and go to bed early like I normally do during the season.”

Bragging rights will also be on the line Sunday as Toronto Mayor John Tory and Calgary counterpart Naheed Nenshi have a three-part bet.

The loser will contribute $5 for each point scored by the winning team to the food agency in the winning mayor’s city. The losing mayor will also send the winner a selection of local craft beer, wear the winning team’s jersey and read a poem written by the winning mayor at their next city council meeting.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press