Greg Peterson: Sleeping With The Cup
As Legacy Night approaches Saturday at McMahon Stadium, with so many of the Stampeders’ drought-busting title edition of 1992 back in the house to be celebrated, another whirl seems entirely in order.
Sure that ’92 edition of the Red and White was loaded for bear. A 13-5 regular-season record, 607 points scored.
Doug Flutie, the pocket wizard, had arrived from B.C. as a free agent and threw for nearly 6,000 yards en route to the MOP award.
They had the angular Allen Pitts rising to the skies to pull down footballs out of the heavens. There was Will Johnson hunting down quarterbacks. There was slotback Dave Sapunjis, DB Junior Thurman, rookie O-lineman Bruce (The Big Tuna) Covernton, and so many more.
There was Wally Buono, the Calabrese Kid, of a much earlier vintage, prowling the sidelines, in only his third year as head coach.
Arguably, though, the best storyline of the day the belonged to Peterson, the Calgary kid graduated from E.P. Scarlett high school.
“I kinda knew it was my last game,’’ recalls the nine-season Stamp, now – of course – a long-time colour commentator on team radio broadcasts for News Talk 770. “After we’d lost the Cup in ’91 (36-21 to the Argos), I was very sad, very disappointed. That was tough to accept.
“But my law practice was starting to take off.
“I came back, though, for one more year because I really, really wanted to win a Grey Cup.
“Anyway, I was one of the last guys lagging around in the locker-room after the (Grey Cup win) at SkyDome. By the time I’d taken a shower, the team bus had already gone back to the hotel. Five or six guys – Kenny Moore, Stu Laird, Matt Finlay, I think – were still hanging around. I go to get a towel and there’s the Grey Cup, still in the back room.”
A forgotten favourite child.
“So I’m kind of stunned. ‘Hey, they left the Grey Cup behind.’ Everybody’s like: ‘Well, we won it, so I guess we should take it.’
“Guys cleaning the stands saw us carrying it out and started hootin’ and hollerin’. We jump into a cab and the driver kind of does a double-take and asks: ‘Is that the Grey Cup?’ And we’re like: ‘Yup.’”
The crew then headed to the team party at the hotel, to much acclaim. Then, heading out with their wives for further celebrations, it dawned on them: “It was Ken’s idea. He said: ‘Let’s go get the Cup again.’”
By now, the big silver chalice had been sequestered in owner Larry Ryckman’s suite. The group convinced a bellboy (“When about five guys about 300 pounds tell a bellboy to open up a room, he’s usually pretty good about it”) to aid in their kidnapping plot.
Mission accomplished, they hopped in another taxi and took off to a Chinese restaurant and off then off on the town.
“We got back late,’’ recalls Peterson. “So what do we do with it? The rest of the guys said: ‘Greg, we know you might be retiring, you take it.’ So (roomie) Stu and I kept the Cup that night. I had it in bed with me.”
A bauble the profile and value of the Grey Cup doesn’t go missing unnoticed (well, at least, not unless it’s immediately post-game).
“I’ll never forget getting up the next morning and giving it to Ryckman and Wally,’’ laughs Peterson. “They were extremely upset.”
That Grey Cup Sunday, Flutie had ripped the Winnipeg secondary asunder, throwing for 480 yards and the defence stifled Matt Dunigan and the Bomber attack.
Cup won, 24-10. Superiority established.
“Like most important games,’’ says Peterson, “it went by pretty fast. But I remember we dominated it pretty much from the start. At the end of the third quarter I began to think ‘Man, this is really going to happen.’
“The score, I don’t think, was an indication of how much we really dominated that football game.”
The compelling performance ended an agonizing 21-year run of Grey Cup frustration for this city, the longest in the CFL at the time.
“I don’t think we, as a team, felt the weight of those years,” Peterson reckons. “But after we won, it was … huge. Calgary is such a great football city and it had been such a long drought. The fans had been starving for a Cup.
“To finally get it, with the team we had, and in my final year, was a dream come true.
“Going in, we were very focused. A veteran team, guys that had been together a long time. Flutie added to it, of course, but along with Doug we had some amazing talent.
“The guys that were really aware of the 21-year thing were the guys who’d grown up in the city. Myself, Stu and others.
“We’d played really quite well the year before in Winnipeg and got beat by a couple special teams plays by the Rocket (Raghib Ismail).
“So to finally win one …”
A quarter-century has passed since that cameo-keepsake day in the Big Smoke. They’ve all gone their separate ways, of course, on to careers as police officers and lawyers, TV colour commentators and firefighters.
Still, the bond forged Nov. 29, 1992, the one to be celebrated Saturday, endures to this day.
That is the wonderful way of sport.
Photo by Scott Grant