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Calgary Stampeders trample Redblacks to claim Grey Cup championship

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EDMONTON — They did it. They actually did it.

After suffering heartbreak on Canadian football’s biggest stage for the last two years, the Calgary Stampeders are Grey Cup champions.

This was a group that suffered through devastating injuries to its receiving corps and was picked by few at the beginning of the year to even be playing in late-November.

And yet, on Sunday night they left their demons in the past and defeated the Ottawa Redblacks 27-16.

Forget all the rest of it for a second, though, and just soak it in: The Stampeders are the 2018 Grey Cup champions.

That has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

With the win, the Stamps shed the ‘choker’ label that has haunted them for the past couple years. With two Grey Cup championships in the last five years, the Stampeders are the most successful organization in the CFL over the past half-decade.

A lesser team might not have been able to handle the pain of the last two Grey Cup losses, and we don’t know exactly how the Stampeders managed to do it.

They did, though, and now they’re the champions.

Yep, the Stampeders are the 2018 Grey Cup champions — just thought we’d say it again, why not?

“It feels surreal. I know we talk that way, that it didn’t mean anything because we couldn’t make the game bigger than it was,” said QB Bo Levi Mitchell. “I think the guys that were on those two teams or even on the team last year, the emotions at the 30-second mark kinda hit, you really started to feel it.

“It wasn’t about redemption against anybody else or against the league or fans or nothing like that. It felt like as an organization we’d been on top too much not to finish the job for them.”

It wouldn’t exactly be accurate to say the Stamps started strongly. It was more complicated than that.

The defence was great right from the start, but after a promising opening drive Stamps QB — who finished the game completing 24-of-36 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns as well as two interceptions — had a pass into the Redblacks intended for Bakari Grant intercepted by Ottawa DB Jonathan Rose.

A few minutes later, the Stamps struck first when Mitchell found running back Don Jackson, who leaked out of the backfield unnoticed and then took off for a 21 yard touchdown.

The Stamps defence was rolling and Redblacks QB Trevor Harris — who completed 20-of-38 passes for 288 yards and a touchdown, but also threw for three interceptions — was struggling to find his feet, although the Redblacks were able to put three points on the board when Lewis Ward hit a 30-yard fieldgoal.

On their very next drive, though, the Stamps offence looked as good as it has in six weeks. Mitchell spread the ball out among his receivers and Lemar Durant made up for a couple drops by storming into the endzone for a 17-yard score.

It was 14-3 Stamps, but Calgary fans have learned better than to take anything for granted in the Grey Cup. Things happen, and there was a lot of football left to play.

To their credit, the Redblacks started picking things up, too.

Harris seemed to find his groove a little bit, while Mitchell threw his second interception of the game – although Stamps linebacker Jameer Thurman forced a William Powell fumble on the Redblacks ensuing drive.

With a little over two minutes left in the half, though, the Redblacks struck when Harris found Julian Feoli-Gudino, who danced his way through tackles from Ciante Evans and Emanuel Davis for a 55 yard TD.

It felt, for a moment, like the game’s momentum had shifted.

Then, Terry Williams did his thing.

With only seconds left in the half, Williams took down a Richie Leone punt at the Stamps’ 13-yard line and started running down field. He didn’t stop until he got to the endzone and had returned the longest punt return touchdown in Grey Cup history — 97 yards — to give the Stampeders a 21-11 lead heading into the halftime break.

“The punt return to end the half has to be the play of the game,” said Stamps head coach Dave Dickenson. “One second left in the half, that’s big.”

Third quarters have been tough for the Stamps lately, though, and the Redblacks were the first team to put points on the board in the third quarter when Ward hit a field goal and cut the Stamps’ lead to seven.

From there, though, the Stamps began slowly but surely taking control, with Rene Paredes hitting two field goals and the Redblacks unable to move the ball when it mattered most and find their way into the Stamps endzone.

By the fourth quarter, the Stampeders weren’t doing anything spectacular, but they were playing largely mistake-free football and were able to run the clock down with the luxury of a 27-14 lead.

The Redblacks needed to be perfect, but instead they coughed up the ball deep in their own territory when Riley Jones forced a Diontae Spencer fumble and it was recovered by Wynton McManis on the Ottawa 25-yard line.

That set up Paredes’ second field goal and created a nearly insurmountable challenge for the Redblacks.

It was a mountain too high for the Redblacks to climb, as Tre Roberson and Jamar Wall – both of whom were immense – picked off Harris passes in the final minutes.

The clock ticked down, the Edmonton crowd began streaming out of the stadium as the Stamps began to believe that really, truly, this was their year.

When the clock hit zero, it was official.

The Calgary Stampeders were the 2018 Grey Cup champions.

“You see a lot of teams that lose with heartbreak like that, and they can’t get back, but to lose two times with heartbreak and be able to get back, it’s a testament to this organization and the structure of what we’ve got going on,” said defensive co-ordinator DeVone Claybrooks.

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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.

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NHL commissioner says Ron MacLean spoke from the heart

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TORONTO — NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says Sportsnet broadcaster Ron MacLean “spoke from the heart” during his monologue on “Hockey Night in Canada” over the weekend.

MacLean opened the first intermission segment on Saturday night — the first since Cherry was fired last week — by speaking alone on camera for nearly five minutes.

Bettman, a panellist at today’s PrimeTime sports management conference in downtown Toronto, says MacLean “obviously made his feelings clear.”

Bettman declined to weigh in on Cherry’s departure, saying he’s not going to start another news cycle.

Cherry used the phrase, “You people,” during the “Coach’s Corner” segment on Nov. 9 but later denied that he was singling out visible minorities.

MacLean, who apologized the day after, talked at length about his close relationship with Cherry but said he had to choose “principle over friendship,” adding “Coach’s Corner is no more.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2019.

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