The field conditions quickly became the story of the 106th Grey Cup as a hard, slick Commonwealth Stadium turf made traction near impossible.
During pre-game warmups, many Calgary Stampeders wore shoes featuring short, traditional turf cleats or those with a flat rubber sole. Before the contest, Ottawa head coach Rick Campbell downplayed the field conditions, but it became apparent early that footing would be an issue.
That was especially clear with 38 seconds left in the first quarter when Terry Williams had both feet slip from beneath him while returning a missed 47-yard Lewis Ward field goal try.
“It (the field) was terrible, to be honest, it was really bad. I couldn’t get my footing on anything,” said Calgary receiver Lemar Durant, the game’s top Canadian with four catches for 30 yards and a TD.
“On a lot of stuff, yes (the slick surface was an advantage for receivers). But at the same time, you’re trying to bust out of your cuts quick because you feel you have that advantage and you don’t. Either way, if you slip, advantage other team.”
Ottawa running back William Powell, who ran for a game-high 94 yards on 16 carries, was more to the point.
“It wasn’t pretty icy, it was very icy. But both teams had to play on it,” said Powell, who opened the game wearing neon orange shoes before going to traditional white in the second half.
“Hopefully in the future we can make better conditions for the Grey Cup but that’s just how it was today.”
The field conditions nearly prevented Williams from delivering the game’s biggest play. After taking the punt, Williams nearly slipped heading upfield but an Ottawa defender engaged with a blocker slid on by. Once Williams regained himself, it allowed him to hit the open field, then run past punter Richie Leone to put Calgary ahead 21-11.
“I thought I was going to land on my butt for a second but I caught myself. I saw the opening, hit it at full speed,” Williams said.
“It was big because we needed a spark. We were battling all game and needed to make it happen and I’m happy we did.”
Calgary head coach Dave Dickenson said the slippery surface forced him to change his plan.
“We knew it was going to be tough to make sharp cuts so we had to try and adjust our play calling. For me, I didn’t think we ran as well as we could have and I thought they ran the ball quite well,” Dickenson said.
“It looked like we were a bit on a skating rink but we were both one the same field, same advantage. It seemed like we just made more plays.”