As the Saskatchewan Roughriders get set to welcome the Calgary Stampeders to Mosaic Stadium on Sunday afternoon, they are aware of the test in front of them.
Not only did Calgary get the better of Saskatchewan in two-thirds of their late-season series, but the Stampeders have the edge of having been in this spot many times before.
This is Saskatchewan’s fourth-straight appearance in the postseason, a mark that doesn’t come close to Calgary’s 16-year run of advancing beyond the regular season. There are Stampeders fans driving the streets of Calgary who weren’t alive the last time the CFL’s playoffs didn’t include the Red and White.
Riders’ head coach Craig Dickenson told the media he is impressed by the winning culture Calgary has built.
“It’s just the way it’s been for 20 plus years, they are extremely well-coached, they’re an outfit that comes prepared every week, they spend a lot of time in the film room, they don’t screw up the little things,” he explained.
“They do the little things right so when you play them they aren’t going to beat themselves and that’s one thing you know going in, they aren’t going to make silly mistakes and they are going to force you to make plays. Our guys know they are going to have to make plays on all three phases.”
This is the first time since 2011 the Stampeders won’t even host a playoff game. And since then they’ve been to the Grey Cup five times, winning two. That run of success doesn’t happen by accident. In Calgary, it’s a culture that was built at the top with John Hufnagel, though Dickenson says some of the credit should go to those who came before the Stampeders current president and general manager.
“I was there when Huf took over and I’ll say this, the group that hired Huf deserves a lot of credit. That was the group with John Forzani, that was the group with Ted Hellard. They had a really good plan in place when they went out and got Huf and they put their money where their mouths were. They really, really invested in the team and really got the team rolling again. I would give credit to those guys as well as John Hufnagel.”
Hufnagel took over the team’s head coaching duties after three straight West Semi-Final exits and won the 2008 Grey Cup with the Stamps, kicking off this modern-day dynasty.
It is a run that almost every team in pro sports would be envious of, and one the Riders hope to replicate. But first, they have to get past these traditional powers Sunday at Mosaic.