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Calgary Stampeders revelling in rivalry over Grey Cup week in Edmonton

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The Canadian Football League’s Battle of Alberta runs deep.

And, while it’s far from the focus of the Calgary Stampeders as they prepare to play in the closest thing they have to a home playoff game outside of McMahon Stadium, undertones of the provincial rivalry can still be felt.

After the Stampeders complained of the sideline heaters not working during Saturday’s walk-through practice at Commonwealth Stadium, one Edmonton Eskimos employee jokingly replied they’d be sure to replace it with two fully functioning ones for Ottawa’s on-field session.

And you can bet the touchdown-horse-filled farm a Stampeders’ Grey Cup victory over the East Division champion Ottawa Redblacks would feel that much sweeter on enemy turf.

Heck, as West Division representatives, the Stampeders have already invaded the Eskimos home locker-room, which has had as much of its green-and-gold trimmings removed as possible, aside from the carpet beneath their feet and the wall-of-honour faces above their heads.

“We’re in the home locker-room, so we’re kind of making it our own home,” said Stampeders receiver Eric Rogers. “They have a nice locker-room though, they have a nice facility in there and it would be extra sweet to celebrate and have some champagne or whatever we drink in our locker-room knowing it’s theirs.”

It’s an unintentional, yet wholeheartedly enjoyable slap in the face of their northern counterparts.

“Ha, it’s going to be exciting,” Stampeders linebacker Alex Singleton said, laughing at the idea of celebrating not just behind enemy lines, but right in their home base. “When the season (schedule) comes out and you see where the Grey Cup is, that’s the first thing you think about. You want to be the home team in the Grey Cup.

“There’s no other way to do that except come into Edmonton and kind of make it home for the week. And I hope all those Eskimo fans are on our side tomorrow, we’re a West team, we didn’t do anything to knock them out this year.”

No. But Calgary didn’t do anything to not knock them out.

By not beating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Week 20, the Eskimos found themselves eliminated from playoff contention while watching helplessly on a bye, setting up a meaningless regular-season finale between Edmonton and Winnipeg that would otherwise have been for all the marbles.

“Oh,” Singleton said, before offering a sly apology apparently directed at Edmonton’s quarterback. “Sorry, Mike.”

Some Stampeders are all business, so focused on breaking whatever curse saw them finish first place the last two seasons only to lose the Grey Cup final in not-so-dramatic fashion that the ongoing rivalry – against an opponent whose players won’t get any closer to the field than the stands on Sunday – takes a back seat for the time being.

“I don’t really pay attention to all those things that are falling in behind the scenes, it’s just really about winning this game as a team and as a unit,” said Stampeders defensive tackle Junior Turner. “That’s really what counts, just being Grey Cup champs.

“It’s just literally about being the 106th Grey Cup champion at the end of the day. That’s all I’m concerned about. Locked in and ready to go. We’ve just got to get the job done.”

But let’s not kid ourselves. This is Edmonton, after all, (even if the Stampeders set up shop at a hotel way down on the south side of the city).

“This is everything,” said Stampeders receiver Davaris Daniels. “We come here and we’re always hated and it gives us a bit of fire. And we have the same feeling every time we step into this stadium that everybody’s against us.

“It’s the Alberta rivalry and we don’t anticipate any Edmonton fans cheering for us.”

That doesn’t mean Calgary won’t have their fair share of support from the stands, given it’s their province too.

“I expect there will be a lot of red here tomorrow being as close as it is, man, and it’s going to be fun for sure, covering the green seats,” said Stampeders cover linebacker Jamar Wall. “It will be amazing,” “If it’s the Lord’s will, we’ll win this thing tomorrow and get to celebrate. I’ve always wondered what it looked like in their locker-room.

“You know, I don’t really care about that stuff, but it is a nice little luxury. One of those little small things that you don’t really say but, of course, you’re thinking it.”

Email: gmoddejonge@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge

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Pospisil, Shapovalov engineer Canada historic win over U.S. at Davis Cup

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Canada is heading to the quarter-finals at the inaugural Davis Cup Finals after sweeping a pair of singles matches against the United States on Tuesday.

Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., clinched the victory in the best-of-three tie, beating Taylor Fritz 7-6 (6), 6-3.

Shapovalov, ranked a career-high 15th in the world, finished off No. 32 Fritz with an ace.

Earlier, Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil recorded his second major upset in as many days when the world No. 150 beat No. 36 Reilly Opelka 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7).

Later, Americans Sam Querrey and Jack Sock took the doubles match against Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime in a walkover.

Canada (2-0) has now clinched Group F after winning all four of its singles matches against the Americans and Italy.

Seven of the nine sets in singles matches went to tiebreaks, with Canada winning six of them.

It was Canada’s first win against the U.S., in 16 Davis Cup ties. Canada had a match record of 3-70 against the Americans entering Tuesday.

Vasek Pospisil celebrates his upset victory over Reilly Opelka of the U.S. on Tuesday at the Davis Cup Finals in Spain. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

The 29-year-old Pospisil, from Vancouver, beat world No. 12 Fabio Fognini on Monday en route to Canada’s 2-1 win over Italy. Pospisil was a late replacement for Felix Auger-Aliassime (recovering from an ankle injury) against Italy.

The six-foot-11 Opelka, known for his big serve, fought off one match point against Pospisil in the second set to tie it at 6-6. But Pospisil rebounded to end it in two sets.

Pospisil, who reached a career-high No. 25 in the rankings in 2014, tumbled down the list after missing the first half of 2019 following back surgery.

But he has shown signs of progress in recent months, upsetting then-No. 9 Karen Khachanov at the U.S. Open before advancing to the round of 16 at the Shanghai Masters.

Playing a level down in Challengers earlier this fall, Pospisil captured two tournament titles in the U.S.

WATCH | Canada upsets Italy at Davis Cup: 

Denis Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil notched a pair of upsets to lead Canada to a win over Italy on the opening day of the inaugural Davis Cup Finals. 1:52

Pospisil is now 19-18 in Davis Cup play.

Shapovalov, 20, also has been on a roll. He captured his first career ATP Tour title at the Stockholm Open last month before reaching the final of the Paris Masters.

The winners of each of the six groups and the next two best teams advance to the quarterfinals. Canada will face either Belgium or Australia in the next round.

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Don Cherry comes back with a new show

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They may have knocked Don Cherry to the ice with a hit he didn’t see coming.

Now watch him get back up.

You people out there who want the 85-year-old Cherry back, here’s the news you have been hoping for.  You people who wanted him to fade away are out of luck as the former NHL coach of the year is going to be able to exercise his free speech, after all.

Don Cherry’s Grapevine is back once again. This time as a podcast.

Coach’s Corner may be “no more” as his one-time Hockey Night in Canada sidekick Ron MacLean announced on Saturday. Cherry was fired by Rogers and Sportsnet for his “you people” who “come here” comment that was misunderstood and later spun as discriminatory.

Cherry wanted his opportunity to properly explain it. Now he is going to get that chance.

You read it right: Don Cherry and his no-holds-barred views are coming back on the air.

The Toronto Sun has learned you won’t have to wait long for the first installment of the new Grapevine. It will drop Tuesday morning and be available on Spotify and other streaming services every Monday during the hockey season.

And yes, the very first one will address Cherry’s firing from Sportsnet.

“But that’s not all we talked about,” Cherry told me Monday. “We are talking hockey, of course. It’s going to be terrific. In this one I am talking about The Rocket (Maurice Richard), one of the all-time greats.”

One thing for sure about the new show is MacLean will not be in his foxhole.

So who will be?

You may have noticed the word “we” in Don’s comments and since so many scrutinize every word he says and what he means by it, I asked.

Turns out Grapes has a new co-host. And perhaps hosts.

“My son, Tim, is going to do it with me and my grandson Del,” said Grapes. 

At least he knows they won’t turn on him when the waters get rough as MacLean did.

“They did great,” Don said of Tim and Del. ”I think people are really going to enjoy this one and the ones we do down the road.”

Tim Cherry tells me the plan is to tape and post it every Monday.

“That way we cover off what happened on the weekend in hockey,” said Tim. “It’s going to be fun.”

For Don’s fans, who are already missing him and unlikely to tune into whatever Sportsnet comes up with to replace the 38-year-old segment, this will give them the opportunity to hear what he has to say. For Don himself, it will connect him with the hockey fans and players he loves while getting back on horse quickly.

It will be in audio broadcast to start with but Tim says it could grow into a TV-style show with cameras and sponsors.

If The Grapevine title sounds familiar it’s because Don’s television show, which Tim produced, was on the air from 1982-93 — filmed in Hamilton.

The new project will feature Don talking about the NHL and hockey and whatever he wants without any censorship.

If he wants to talk about poppies, he can do it without being fired. If he wants to talk about the troops or cops or firefighters or honour the fallen, no one can tell him to keep his nose out of it.

Mostly the plan is to talk hockey. And he won’t have just seven minutes to get it all out.

“The first podcast is about half an hour,” said Tim.

But if they ever find themselves in a position to need more time, or less, the beauty of podcasts is there are no constricting rules.

It also keeps Grapes in game shape while he considers other potential TV offers and opportunities.

Mostly it’s just the perfect outlet for Don Cherry to do what he does best: Be Don Cherry.

Yes Coach’s Corner is over: The new Grapevine has just been planted. Just call this the coach’s comeback! 

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Injuries sideline Habs Drouin, Byron indefinitely

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Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron will be out of the lineup indefinitely as the result of injuries they suffered in Friday night’s win over the Capitals in Washington.

Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron will be out of the lineup indefinitely as the result of injuries they suffered in Friday night’s win over the Capitals in Washington.

Drouin underwent wrist surgery on Monday, and Byron is scheduled to undergo knee surgery on Tuesday.

“We’ll a better idea of a timeline after the surgery,” coach Claude Julien said after the Canadiens practised in preparation for Tuesday’s road game against the Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio).

The Canadiens recalled Charles Hudon from Laval. He played Saturday against New Jersey and was sent back to the minors after the game.

Julien said Carey Price will start in goal, and he will wait to decide on a goaltender for Wednesday’s home game against the Ottawa Senators.

phickey@postmedia.com

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