At this year’s Grey Cup, Eskimos fans are cheering: ‘Anybody but Calgary’

The Calgary Stampeders are set to compete for the biggest championship in the Canadian Football League this weekend — the team’s third Grey Cup appearance in a row — but the battleground’s on the home turf of the Edmonton Eskimos.

The idea of the Stamps getting ready in the Esks’ locker room and heading out to face the Ottawa Redblacks at Commonwealth Stadium on Sunday has inflamed tensions in the age-old Battle of Alberta, and has put Edmonton fans in an awkward position.

The question is: Should Edmonton fans still support the team representing the West? Or do they adhere to their age-old philosophy — ABC (Anybody But Calgary)?

Many are choosing the latter.

“(The Stamps) have been at the Cup the last two years and haven’t won, so hopefully they don’t win this year, either,” says Linda Smith, a longtime Esks’ fan who, together with her husband Dennis, has attended every Grey Cup for the last 11 years. The pair will be at Sunday’s game in yellow and green T-shirts they special-ordered with the letters “ABC” blazed across the front.

“ABC has kind of been a motto for diehard Eskimos fans since forever,” she said, adding that they’re both inherited a passion for the green and gold growing up in northern Alberta.

“That’s who our families have cheered for when we were growing up. And we keep cheering for them because of their legacy. They are one of the winningest team in CFL history and they have some of the greatest players.”

Compared to the Smiths, Carly Chartier is new to the Esks fandom, getting on board a year and a half ago after her two sons joined their school football teams. She bought tickets to the Grey Cup months ago, hoping to see the Eskimos on home turf.

When Edmonton was eliminated from the hunt, she pinned her hopes on Saskatchewan. When the Riders were beat by Winnipeg, she got excited about seeing the Blue Bombers in the final. She didn’t bank on Calgary making the Grey Cup.

“Not going to lie, I was pretty upset,” she said. “You just don’t cheer for Calgary.”

It would appear loyalty to Edmonton trumps loyalty to the West, even for longtime Esks fans who live in Calgary, like Jim Stallings.

Stallings moved to, as he describes it, “enemy territory,” in 2000. And despite having lived in Calgary for 18 years, he still refuses to cheer for the Stampeders.

“It’s kind of the football thing. If it was Winnipeg or B.C. in the Grey Cup, I would be cheering for the West, but I’m not a fan of Calgary,” said Stallings.

The “unhappy” fan will be driving up to Edmonton on Saturday to join all the other Eskimos fans who are ready to cheer on the Redblacks.

Last year, the Stampeders lost to the Toronto Argonauts in Ottawa, and in 2016, lost to the Ottawa Redblacks in Toronto.

Since the Grey Cup is taking place in Calgary next year, many Eskimos fans hope it will be their team in the Stampeders’ locker room.

“That is the hope,” Stallings said.

Whether Eskimos fans will get the satisfaction of seeing their rivals get beat for a third Grey Cup in a row, or if the Calgary Stampeders will prove that the third time is indeed the charm, Edmontonians will find out Sunday at the 106th Grey Cup game at Commonwealth Stadium.

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