The hoopla surrounding the 100th Grey Cup has already started, and now that the Toronto Argonauts were good enough to play their way in, the hype will only be magnified.
Toronto head coach Scott Milanovich knows this, having already participated in three Grey Cups as the offensive co-ordinator of the Montreal Alouettes before he took the top job with the Argos this season.
The 39-year-old realizes a big part of his job the week leading into Sunday’s game at Rogers Centre will be to try to harness the emotions of his players.
Playing in a milestone CFL championship game in front of what is guaranteed to be a boisterous hometown crowd can have an unsettling affect.
“It’s a hard one,” Milanovich said Monday at the team’s practice facility, less than 24-hours after the Argos dispatched the favoured Alouettes 27-20 in Montreal to secure the East Division title.
While he is still devising the game plan he hopes will unnerve the West Division champion Calgary Stampeders, Milanovich said he will try to keep the lead-in as low key and close to normal as possible for his players.
“That’s why I try not to get too emotional before playoff games,” he said. “They don’t need a speech, they’re ready to go, their emotions are already up.
“We just try to keep it similar to the regular season in what their day-in and day-out routine has been so, after the first two series, all that emotion is gone and it becomes a football game.”
The Argos players (who had Monday off) will be given a curfew, probably starting Wednesday. And, Milanovich said, they have already been drilled on what they can expect this week.
“What we’ve tried to do is be as organized as possible,” the coach said. “It started right after Week 18, we kind of went over the schedule throughout the Grey Cup so there wouldn’t be any surprises, so guys would know what to expect.
“There’s still going to be no stopping the distractions. That’s just the way the Grey Cup is, with the different times of practices, the media breakfast, all those things,” he said.
“We’ve just tried to get the guys to get all the little things, like tickets and hotel rooms for family and things like that out of the way now so that when they come back here [Tuesday], they’ll be ready to focus on the game.”
That the Argos have 14 players who are already Grey Cup battle-tested – including quarterback Ricky Ray, punter Noel Prefontaine, defensive end Ricky Foley and defensive tackle Adriano Belli – should make Milanovich’s task that much easier.
“It’s always good to have a core of guys that have been there,” he said. “I think it’s calming for the rest of the guys. They’ll kind of let them in on how things work and that pretty much nothing seems to run smoothly during Grey Cup week.
“And it’s just something you have to adjust to, I think.”
After last Sunday’s game, Milanovich said Montreal coach Marc Trestman, whom he worked under in Montreal, came into the Argos locker room to offer his congratulations.
“Very classy,” Milanovich said.
The Argos played Calgary twice in the first eight weeks of the 2012 season, winning both games. Milanovich says those outcomes now mean nothing.
“Once the playoffs start, I think the records, the head-to-head competition, is all out the window,” he said. “This is one game. It’s going to be 60 minutes for the 100th Grey Cup.”
Calgary has 12-year veteran Kevin Glenn directing the attack at quarterback, and when he is on a roll – as he has been of late – he can be a formidable opponent.
“He’s very streaky,” Milanovich said of Glenn. “He gets very, very hot – as hot as anybody, as hot as [Ray]. You have to disrupt him just like you would any other good quarterback.
“He’s playing well right now. He’s waited a long time for this moment, too.”