No Labour Day Classic, no problem for Calgary tailgaters

On Sept. 2, 2019, more than 32,000 fans were packed inside McMahon Stadium to watch the Calgary Stampeders dismantle the Edmonton Football Team 25-9 while countless others gathered in the parking lot to take in the tailgating, music and atmosphere of the iconic Labour Day Classic.

Read more: Edmonton Eskimos lose 25-9 to Calgary Stampeders in Labour Day Classic

For the first time since 1957, the game wasn’t played this September long weekend but fans still went out to show their support.

“It hadn’t really hit me about not being able to see any live football games until today,” Stamps fan Scott McGowan said Monday. “It’s always an important day. The Grey Cup is one thing, but the Labour Day Classic… is a classic!”

That’s no joke.

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Players and staff know this particular game is a whole other beast.

“In Alberta, the Labour Day games are, people say, when the real football season starts,” former Stampeders coach Wally Buono said.

“The one thing I still remember that’s forged in my memory in 1992 they said, ‘[Winning] the Grey Cup was great, but you guys didn’t beat the Eskimos on Labour Day.’”

Even multiple blasts of rain and hail couldn’t keep the handful of hardcore fans at home.

“It’s when you get into the playoffs when you’re tailgating in -30 C, snow mitts and gloves — that’s when it gets tougher,” fan Morgan Melnyk laughed. “This is nothing! We’ve got all the supplies we need for a parking lot party.”

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“We still support the Stampeders even though they’re not going to play this year and just have some fun and connect with old friends,” fan Jaime Stasiuk added. “Because of social distancing, we’ve kind of been hiding out at home and wanted to get out for a little bit.”

Read more: Rick Zamperin: CFL looks ahead to 2021, but many questions remain

Stampeders defensive line coach Corey Mace and his family reminisced with fans and took in the atmosphere.

The 2014 Grey Cup champ said it didn’t feel right to stay at home.

“My kid is here, a born Stampeder, my wife was an Outrider, we got married on this field,” Mace said.

“It runs deep in the Mace household. These fans are enduring the weather with no game, so this is where we had to be today.”

At Stamps staple Nick’s Steakhouse & Pizza, fans in Calgary and Edmonton jerseys filed in.

“It’s our busiest game of the year,” owner Mark Petros said. “We get here early in the kitchen preparing everything and we all work late, but it’s fun, a fun day as well. It’s all our regular people who support us all year long.”

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While the 2020 season may be scrapped, fans hope to see the Labour Day Classic back and bigger than ever in 2021.

Read more: With no football in sight, Riders fans reminisce about Labour Day Classics past

Mace already has the keys to the game:

“Fireworks, flyovers and a Stampeders W.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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