Canadian Hammer James Sneddon blogs about the matchday experience in his home country...
It’s a Labour Day in Canada during the regular football season. The biggest fixture of the season has everyone talking. The Edmonton Eskimos are set for a showdown with their provincial rivals, the undefeated Calgary Stampeders in the infamous “Battle of Alberta.” As the Eskimos are my local team, I anticipate an exciting game.
But there is a catch - this isn’t football played with a round ball and two teams of eleven. Instead, the players wear helmets and the atmosphere is totally different to watching West Ham.
In front of a sell-out crowd, the red and white Stampeders run onto the field to a chorus of boos by the home fans. The home side run out of their tunnel and the green and gold fireworks are released into the sky. Before kick-off, the fans stand to sing; not 'I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles' but the Canadian national anthem. The fans get along just fine and both know the next sixty minutes will be entertaining and dramatic for all.
The first quarter is dull to start with, but a kick by Edmonton’s special teams lands in the chest of the Stampeders’ defence to score the games first touchdown and silence the home crowd. The Eskimos get back into the game two minutes later through wide receiver AJ Guyton’s touchdown catch, and field goals by the two teams made the score 17-10. After the end of the first two quarters, the referee blows for half-time, and the score is 17-10 to the away side.
A matchday treat is more than just a pie and a pint. The fans are treated to pizza and cold drinks, along with half-time entertainment provided by the cheer team and a local musician. The teams emerge from the dressing rooms ready to go, and the second half doesn’t disappoint.
Within three minutes of play restarting, Stampeders quarter-back Bo Levi Mitchell runs thirty yards to score another touchdown for Calgary and extend their lead to 24-10, and he then threw a ball into the end zone for wide receiver Marquay McDaniel to catch. Rene Parades kicked three extra points with a 42-yard field goal and with 25 minutes until time, the Eskimos were losing by 24 points and a score of 34-10.
After a quick performance by the cheer team, the Eskimos began moving downfield and attacked more with the roaring green and gold fans behind them. Wide receiver Adarius Bowman caught a pass from quarter-back Mike Reilly to score a touchdown and a field goal by Grant Shaw pulled the score back to 34-20. The game was getting more interesting in the last few stages.
The last five minutes saw both teams score touchdowns. First, Edmonton’s Nate Coehoorn ran into the end zone to pull the game back to 34-27 and the Eskimos aimed to tie the scoreline. But it wasn’t to be and with thirty seconds left, the Stampeders scored their last touchdown and walked away with a 41-34 win.
The atmosphere here in Canada is different to a game at Upton Park. Fans of rival teams integrate well with each other, the halftime food is different and there’s plenty of entertainment on the field throughout the game. It’s a fun family day out for everyone and I would recommend going to a game if you want to visit Canada.
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of West Ham United