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Taking sides

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
For the most part, Alex Burrows is a quiet guy.

Despite being an agitator on the ice, Burrows is typically quite calm and composed with the media. He answers questions graciously, dishing out insight left and right.

It turns out that’s all an act.

Burrows is indeed a wolf in sheep’s clothing, he’ll get loud, aggressive and passionate at a moments notice when one topic is breached.

Ask him about his beloved Montreal Alouettes and the intense Burrows roars his head.

Following Vancouver’s 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on the Nov. 15, Burrows responded to questions about the game, but there was really only one thing on his mind.

With his Alouettes having upended the Edmonton Eskimos 36-26 earlier that day, Burrows was already thinking about this weekend’s Canadian Football League championship. The Als hat he was sporting being proof of that.

The Eastern Division champion Alouettes will host the Western Division champion Calgary Stampeders in the 96th Grey Cup this Sunday at Olympic Stadium.

“My boys played really good,” a grinning Burrows said about his team’s East Division final win.

“I think the fans there in Montreal were really good, they were behind them the whole game and special teams were huge for the Alouettes to get a touchdown on the return there so it was nice.”

The product of Pointe-Claire, Quebec, has been an Alouettes fan for as long as he can remember and as hockey and football seasons don’t really overlap each other, Burrows had the time to form a strong devotion to the team.

“I follow them a lot. Every summer me and my buddies like to go to a few games and cheer them on and I think all the Canadian people are fans no matter where they’re from so it’s nice to talk about.”

Steve Bernier, a fellow Quebecer, isn’t quite the avid fan Burrows is, but he too grew up following les Alouettes.

“For sure they were my favorite team,” said Bernier. “I wasn’t a huge, huge fan, but big enough to want me to want Montreal to win for sure.

“Since I’ve been back in Canada I’ve had the chance to watch a couple of games so I’ve started to get into it a little more. I’m very happy that Montreal will play for the Grey Cup.”

One would assume that Montreal-born Roberto Luongo would also be enthralled about his hometown team advancing to the big game, yet that isn’t the case.

This self-proclaimed “NFL fan” isn’t a supporter of the Canadian game; he said he hasn’t watched a CFL match all year.

With Luongo out of the picture, the Alouettes have two Canucks on their side, although there are a pair of Vancouver players who are crossing their fingers that the Stampeders come out on top.

Mason Raymond and Lawrence Nycholat are prairie boys who grew up in Alberta. Both players call Calgary home so naturally they’ll be pulling for the Stamps, who advanced to the Grey Cup game with a tight 22-18 win over the BC Lions in the West Division final.

“I grew up pretty close to McMahon Stadium so I always followed the Stamps as a kid,” said Nycholat.

The defenceman wasn’t religious in his commitment to the Stampeders during his younger days, but he became a bigger fan when quarterback Doug Flutie joined the team in 1992 and led Calgary to a Grey Cup win.

Nycholat will be glued to his couch on Sunday hoping this year’s version of the Stampeders can win the championships again.

“I’m really excited to watch them in the Grey Cup."

“It’s nice to be back in Canada where you get a lot more coverage.”

The BC Lions, a team many had circled to compete for the Grey Cup this season, fell short of their goal and BC boy Willie Mitchell is still bitter about it.

“I caught a little of the game and it looked like we couldn’t really finish the deal off, they had to settle for a lot of field goals, they couldn’t get their drives into the end zone and that bit them in the behind a little bit.”

There was no hesitation from Mitchell when asked who he’ll be backing in the big game though. “I gotta stick with the West, I don’t want to hear Burrows bragging in the locker room.”

Burrows will certainly have his say if the Alouettes can get past the Stampeders this Sunday and it likely won’t end until the 2009 season kicks off.

Grey Cup Sunday coverage begins at noon Pacific Time on TSN with kickoff set for 3 p.m.
TSN's Grey Cup page
Calgary Stampeders
Montreal Alouettes

2 - Regular season wins for Calgary over Montreal this season

3.5 - Million viewers who watched the 2007 Grey Cup

5 - Grey Cup wins for the Alouettes

5 - Grey Cup wins for the Stampeders

24 - Combined wins for Montreal and Calgary this season (24-12-0)

1994 - The last time the host team won the Grey Cup

2001 - The last time Montreal hosted the Grey Cup

$42,000 - The cost of a 30-second add during the Grey Cup

700,000 - Fans expected to attend the game in Montreal (a CFL record)

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