Calgary Stampeders optimistic as training camp nears

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There’s an optimism around the Calgary Stampeders right now.

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Rookie camp is still a couple weeks away and the team needs to get through two drafts next Tuesday before they know exactly who will be showing up at McMahon Stadium for the 2022 season.

But the Stamps are confident they’ll get some players who will improve their team in both the global and Canadian CFL drafts. They almost always do.

Get those pieces of business done, though, and it’s all systems go for the 2022 season.

And regardless of where the so-called experts might be putting the Stamps in their pre-season power rankings, head coach Dave Dickenson is very, very happy with the group he’s got.

Last year, a young Stamps group took time to gel. This year, the expectation is they can hit the ground running.

“I like what we’ve done,” Dickenson said on a media call on Thursday. “Our receiving corps, getting Reggie (Begelton) in the building again really helped that group. I think our offensive line, bringing Derek Dennis back and we have a good solid core in the inside. I think that’s a group that will come together, take a little time.

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“Quarterback, getting both (Jake Maier and Bo Levi Mitchell) back was huge. Like Ka’Deem (Carey) at running back, too, but it starts at QB. (President / GM John Hufnagel) did a great job finding path a path to keep them both on our team. ”

Now, it would be reasonable to point out that every head coach is generally going to express optimism in the weeks leading up to a season. It’s what they do.

But there’s a difference between the Stampeders of 2021 and this year’s edition of the Red & White.

Last year, Dickenson was open about how his team was young and would likely need a little time to gel. They did not anticipate going 2-5 to start the year, but nobody was expecting a completely smooth ride as they found their identity. The idea was always to be peaking going into the playoffs, and Dickenson was open about that.

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This year, the Stamps want to hit the ground running. They’re a year older and more experienced and they proved they could be a winning team during the stretch drive last season.

Their slow start meant they had to play catch-up, though, and the Stampeders want to avoid that this time around.

We still expect to do better starting the year off (in 2021). I do not want to sound like I’m making excuses, I just feel like we would have benefited a lot from pre-season last year. So would everybody, though, ”Dickenson said. “We expect to get off to a fast start and play (winning) football right from the get-go. We get a rookie camp, we get pre-season games, we know more about our players, all positives for us.

“We’m still young and that’s a good thing because football is a young man’s game. I think the excitement level here is quite high but we have to realize what it took to win, it’s gonna be a lot of close games. We’ve got to start finishing in the fourth quarter, that’s one of the things as a team we’ve got to do a better job of. “

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It does not sound as if season ticket sales have been particularly robust this off-season.

During Thursday’s media call, Hufnagel acknowledged that it’s been a “difficult” off-season when he was asked about ticket sales, although he later emphasized that the Stampeders were not in a bad position financially.

“Hopefully we have good crowds this year,” Hufnagel said. “It’s been a tough off-season, the economy probably hit Southern Alberta harder than most parts of the country. I’m talking about COVID, a lot of people lost jobs and those jobs aren’t back yet, so it has been a challenge but the ticketing people have been working very hard shaking the bushes, so to speak, trying to get as many fans in the stands as we possibly can but it has been a difficult off-season. ”

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Asked in a follow-up question about whether he was concerned about the ticket sales and what a slow winter might mean for the Stamps as an organization, Hufnagel said he was not.

“We treat the business side just like we treat the football side. We’re out there to win and we want to do our best and we have high expectations, ”Hufnagel said. “We have high expectations for our season ticket holders, how many season ticket holders do we have? We set targets and we’re working to get to that target. It’s been difficult, that’s all. We’re still out there slugging away. ”

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