November 14, 2017

Peter Dyakowski’s journey takes him to Toronto

The Saskatchewan Roughriders take on the Toronto Argonauts in CFL action on June 10th, 2017 at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, SK. Liam Richards/Electric Umbrella

 OTTAWA — Peter Dyakowski can’t wait to face the Toronto Argonauts in the CFL’s East Division final.

“I’ve got a real chip on my shoulder against that Trestman guy,” the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ veteran offensive lineman said, referring to first-year Argos head coach Marc Trestman. “I’m looking forward to giving him a good thumping.”

Oh, who are we kidding?

Dyakowski was joking — as he often is — when he made those comments following Saskatchewan’s 31-20 victory over the Ottawa Redblacks in Sunday’s East Division semifinal. That win put the Roughriders into Sunday’s division final against the host Argos, who held Dyakowski’s rights (albeit briefly) in the off-season.

The 33-year-old product of Vancouver played 10 seasons with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats before they released him in February. Mere hours later, Dyakowski signed with the rival Argos — two weeks before that team hired Trestman as its head coach and Jim Popp as its general manager.

But Dyakowski never made it to Toronto’s training camp. On May 27, he was traded to Saskatchewan for receiver Armanti Edwards.

Six months after that deal, his Roughriders are to face the Argos at BMO Field with a berth in the Nov. 26 Grey Cup game on the line.

“I love playing in that field and I’m looking forward to it,” said Dyakowski, who’s set to appear in the fifth East Division final of his CFL career.

“It was a very interesting episode, that several-month interlude this off-season that I do not acknowledge, so I’m looking forward to playing the game against that team of which I’ve never been a part.”

One of Dyakowski’s teammates in Hamilton also is a former Argo who now plays for the Roughriders.

And slotback Chad Owens is eager to get Sunday’s party started.

“(The Argos) have got a lot of good players, good young players, great vets and they’re well-coached,” Owens said. “It’s going to be a tough game.

“But we’ve got a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Kevin Glenn. We’ve got a tough unit. Our defence is the best in the league and our offence right now is hitting on all cylinders. I can’t wait.”

Dyakowski played in 148 regular-season games, 10 playoff contests and two Grey Cup games for the Tiger-Cats from 2007 through ’16, earning East Division all-star honours in 2012.

His release by the Tiger-Cats in February was part of a movement to go younger and to cut costs. His decision to sign with Toronto — a move that no doubt was tough to swallow for diehard Tiger-Cats fans — was all about his wife, their young daughter and the family home in Hamilton.

The trade to the Roughriders may have thrown a wrench into Dyakowski’s plans, but he accepted the challenge.

“The reason I made that terrible misjudgment and signed with Toronto was because I wanted to make it easy on the family and be able to stay at home, but I don’t know if I would have been able to survive that hour-and-a-half commute each way on a daily basis,” he said with a grin.

“Going (to Saskatchewan) worked out. I went with a very positive attitude. I wanted to make the most of the chance that the Riders were giving me — and so far, so good.”

Dyakowski fit in perfectly with the Roughriders, who had a vacancy at right guard after the off-season retirement of Chris Best. Dyakowski started all 18 regular-season games at that position and, occasionally, filled in at left guard when Brendon LaBatte was injured.

Dyakowski has surrendered the right-guard spot to Dariusz Bladek at times as the Roughriders have attempted to give the rookie some much-needed seasoning through game action. But the veteran has proved to be a key acquisition for Saskatchewan — and he’s glad he made the move, too.

“Looking at the roster top to bottom, I knew that I’d have a shot and, at this point of my career, it’s about winning a Grey Cup more than anything else,” said Dyakowski, who also looked at what Saskatchewan head coach-GM Chris Jones did in 2015 when he guided the Edmonton Eskimos to the Grey Cup title.

“Through the ups and the downs (of 2017), I knew we had a team that could make it happen and here we are with a chance to give ourselves a chance at winning the Cup. Then that whole journey pays off big-time.”

Owens is hoping for a similar ending to his first campaign in Saskatchewan.

The 35-year-old product of Honolulu spent six seasons with the Argos, earning awards as the CFL’s top special-teams player (2010) and its most outstanding player (2012). He was a five-time East Division all-star and a four-time CFL all-star in Toronto.

But the Argos let Owens leave as a free agent in 2016 and he played 12 games for the Tiger-Cats last season before breaking a foot. A free-agent signing by the Roughriders this off-season, Owens now returns to Toronto to take on some former friends with a Grey Cup berth on the line.

“Last year in Hamilton, it was a little bit different for me because it was the same staff (in Toronto as when he played there) and it was a lot of the same people,” said Owens, who spent most of the 2017 campaign on the Roughriders’ injured list before being activated with three games left in the regular season. “Last year, I played with emotion.

“I always play with emotion, but this year, now that I’ve been playing for a few weeks, I feel like I’m in much more of a relaxed state. I still play with a lot of passion and emotion, but the game feels extremely slow to me — and it’s fun.

“It’s a lot of fun being on a good team and watching guys make plays.”