The Calgary Stampeders would prefer if rowdy Roughrider fans stay home this weekend, rather than come to McMahon Stadium for Saturday night's first-place showdown between the Riders and Stamps.
Calgary Stampeders play-by-play man Mark Stephen was on CKRM's Sportsline last night and although he doesn't speak for the Stamps per se, he is the "Voice of the Stamps". I asked him if he's looking forward to Saturday night's game.
"Uhhhhh, a little bit," Mark answered skeptically. "But I'm not gonna lie to ya. The small element, and let's underline 'small', that come over here to cause mayhem definitely do spoil it for people. I don't mind the fun back-and-forth stuff but it is a great environment when you have enormous cheers whenever the Riders do something on the field."
I've heard Stampeders' players on Calgary radio admitting that the stands are at least a 50/50 split of Riders and Stamps fans if not 60/40 green. There's always been a heavy component of Rider fans at road games in Calgary but the past few years the atmosphere as gotten out of control as the number of Rider fans has risen.
"Those that are coming here to cause trouble, and there seems to be a persistent minority, they're going to be looking for you," Stephen warned. "It's a little testy there at times in McMahon Stadium. But it is a great environment when these two teams get together."
I'm sure if I was in the Stamps' shoes, I'd feel the same way. It wouldn't be a great feeling to have the OPPOSITION come into YOUR park and take the place over. Where else on earth does this happen in sports anyways?
A Stamps' fan visiting Regina last weekend said he's giving his tickets away for Saturday's game because when the Riders come to town, it's simply no fun. He also said Rider fans are the direct reason that pregame tailgating around McMahon Stadium was banned in 2009. Another source in Calgary told me this to be true, but Mark objects to that notion.
"Nope," said Stephen (pictured). "That's something they were cracking down on before. I mean, that was part of it, but not the single reason. There's a big tailgate party this weekend off the McMahon Stadium grounds that they're going to be watching but this policy wasn't put in place specifically because of Rider fans."
One point on this; the Stamps are right in that the incidents that have ocurred over the past two seasons have gone over the line. The incident where a Calgary police officer was assaulted by Rider fans in a YouTube video was stomach-turning. The fights are unnecessary. No one should ever go to a sporting event and have to feel afraid for their personal safety.
If we keep it fun Saturday night (no knuckle-chucking), it's going to be GREAT weekend.
Kickoff is set for 7:00pm MT.
I asked Riders' head scout Joe Womack on Saturday's Roughrider Warmup Pregame Show about the status of GM Eric Tillman, who's running the team from home while on administrative leave. Here's his response:
"I'm so glad you asked that. Eric is great, he's doing really well. He's very upbeat about our team and the season. He's loving the weather, and he's getting out more and I've encouraged him to do that. We are really looking forward to Eric being back with us physically. He's certainly running the team now and doing a great job of that."
"Getting Graham Harrell in here was such an accomplishment, in working with his agent. The new UFL in the States, and Denny Green who's the head coach at San Francisco, was really after him. So Eric continues to work very hard on the personnel with myself. He's the backbone of our football organization without any doubt."
(Rod Pedersen is the Voice of the Roughriders)