By DONNA SPENCER
The Canadian Press
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
CALGARY -- The scene in the Calgary Stampeders locker room after last year's Grey Cup is imprinted in Alex Singleton's brain.
A rookie experiencing his first CFL championship game, the devastation after falling in overtime to the underdog Ottawa Redblacks in Toronto remains fresh in his mind.
"It was the worst feeling ever," the middle linebacker said on Monday. "They set up both locker rooms to win because it was overtime. I remember the plastic and the tape getting ripped off our lockers.
"The champagne and beer and everything sitting in the middle of the room, we walked in and people were physically sick. I remember people throwing up and you could hear grown men crying. You don't forget that."
After losing to Ottawa in Toronto in last year's Grey Cup, the Stampeders face Toronto in Ottawa on Sunday for the CFL title.
Calgary posted the CFL's best regular-season record at 13-4-1, while the Toronto Argonauts topped the East Division at 9-9.
Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson doesn't want to dwell on last year's 39-33 loss, but says lessons in how to manage time and energy during a hectic Grey Cup week were learned.
The Stampeders fly to Ottawa on Tuesday to start the whirlwind.
News conferences, luncheons, awards, family, friends and fans in what is the CFL's showcase event place unusual demands on players' and coaches' time when they're also trying to prepare for the game of the year.
"It's just a crazy week. A fun week," Dickenson said. "I'd love to be part of it every year, but there's a lot of things that go on in a Grey Cup week that you'll never see.
"Let's focus in on what we can do better. Hopefully we learned a little bit. Hopefully our players learned about how to manage their time."
Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell says he did.
"I'll probably turn down a couple more media requests this year," he said. "Stay in my room a little bit more and just kind of focus on the game plan that much more."
Four Stampeders are finalists for CFL awards that will be announced on Thursday: Singleton (defensive player), Roy Finch (special teams), Marken Michel (rookie) and Dickenson (coach).
Singleton will have more microphones in his face as a prominent player on the Stampeders, but says his road roommate Mitchell can help him stay the course.
"I'll understand the expectations of the week and everything that you have to do and how to prepare better," Singleton said.
"The little things that as a rookie you're not used to, to be able to have that experience will definitely be really helpful this year."
At the other end of the spectrum is defensive end Charleston Hughes who will play in his fifth Grey Cup in a decade as a Stampeder and owns Grey Cup rings from 2008 and 2014.
"We've got a different approach going into this Grey Cup. Last year, I felt like we just weren't all the way there," Hughes said.
"That approach is to be focused on one goal. Each and every player in this locker room knows that we're going to win this game.
"When you've got the type of approach where every player believes and knows we're going to win this game, the sky is the limit."
The clock is ticking for 32-yearold running back Jerome Messam to get a Grey Cup ring.
"I've been grinding hard for it," Messam said. "I'm blessed to have the opportunity to play in the Grey Cup again. Some people never make it there. Second year in a row, so I just want to finish the deal man and be able to put that stamp on my career."