NEWS
09/20/2011 07:10 EDT | Updated 11/20/2011 05:12 EST

Calgary Stampeders prepare for journey across Canada for CFL game in Moncton

CALGARY - The Americans on the Calgary Stampeders are about to get a geography lesson on just how big Canada is from west to east.

The Stampeders depart Wednesday for Moncton to prepare for Sunday's Scotiabank Touchdown Atlantic game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Some players may be amazed to find out they can fly for seven hours and still be in the same country.

"I looked on the map on my iPad and tried to Google some things about it," defensive back Keon Raymond said Tuesday. "I just know it's east. Don't know how far, but it's east."

Receiver Nik Lewis estimates 90 per cent of the Stampeders haven't been further east than their annual road trip Montreal.

"It's a long way, especially being from Texas where I'm two hours from Mexico," he said.

Quarterback Henry Burris travelled to Moncton in April for promotional appearances and says his non-Canadian teammates are about to get an education.

"A lot of guys don't even know what New Brunswick is," Burris said. "They think it's a company that makes bowling balls. For me, it was a great time out there.

"The size of the country, it's so much bigger than the U.S. You truly don't realize until you fly out there, but it's such a beautiful country out there, a beautiful province. To be able to have a team out there would be a beautiful thing."

By staging the regular-season game in Moncton, the CFL is not only looking to promote its brand in Eastern Canada but also gauge interest in a potential expansion franchise there. However, many challenges exist, not the least of which is the construction of a 25,000-seat stadium.

The Edmonton Eskimos beat the Toronto Argonauts 24-6 last year at Moncton Stadium, which sold out around 21,000 seats on the University of Moncton campus.

A Stampeder who will feel almost at home Sunday is Justin Conn, a linebacker from New Maryland, N.B., who Calgary signed Aug. 30. Conn's hometown is near Fredericton.

The Bishop's University product has been talking up the advantages of playing a game at a lower altitude — almost 1,000 metres lower than Calgary — to his Stampeder teammates.

"That's what I said to them, 'We're up high here and we're going to go there and feel like we're in the best shape of our lives,'" Conn said.

The Stampeders seem to feel most at home on the road this season. They're 5-0 in enemy territory and 2-4 at McMahon Stadium.

Calgary (7-4) is coming off a 32-19 loss at home Saturday to the B.C. Lions (5-6). The Stampeders have the same record as the Edmonton Eskimos atop the West Division, but the Esks rank first by virtue of winning the season series.

Hamilton (5-6) fell 38-23 to Edmonton on Friday and are losers of two straight. The Ticats are third in the East Division, but just two points back of Montreal.

The Ticats have a shorter distance to travel, will arrive Thursday and won't need much time to adjust to the time zone as there's only one-hour difference between Hamilton and Moncton. The Stampeders will feel more jet lag coming from the west.

"Three hours, that was horrendous," Burris recalled. "You get out there at 11:30 and you still feel like it's 8:30 and I wasn't able to get to bed until about three in the morning when I was out there.

"Your body is going to be out of whack for the first couple of days because of the time change. There's going to be a lot of adjustments we're going to have to make and make fast and make sure we're ready to go for Sunday."

Stampeder head coach and general manager John Hufnagel called a team meeting for Wednesday morning prior to boarding the plane "so they don't have a full day off of football."

With returner Larry Taylor sidelined with sore ribs, Hufnagel says he's taking both Landon Talley and LaMarcus Kocher on the Moncton trip and will determine this week which player will handle return duties.

The Stampeders practise Thursday and Friday at Rocky Field in Moncton before heading to Prince Edward Island. Calgary will hold Saturday's walk-through at the University of P.E.I. in Charlottetown.

"I have confidence in my football players that they understand the reason we're going out there and that's to win the football game and they need to be prepared to win this football game," Hufnagel said. "We do have responsibilities out there that we need to attend to, which is dealing with the community."

Burris said Tuesday his left ankle was still sore from a hit delivered by B.C.'s Khalif Mitchell in the first quarter Saturday.

"Hopefully lobsters help heal foot injuries because I'm going to need it," he said laughing.

But Burris turned serious about the incident saying when his feet and toes went numb, he feared broken bones. Mitchell was flagged for roughing the passer.

"I don't know if (Mitchell) is going to get fined or not, but I'm kind of wondering if that's going to happen," Burris said. "It's one of the craziest plays I've ever seen. It was about four or five seconds after I released the ball and all of a sudden, boom.

"Is that the type of play that deserves a slap on the wrist?"

Lewis complained to the media following Saturday's game about a lack of ball touches during the game. He addressed those comments Tuesday.

"I put it out there and I stand behind it," he said. "I talked to Huf, talked to the team. Everything is good in Lew-Lew land. I'm looking forward to playing Moncton and putting on a show out there for them. That's what they pay me for.

Burris says he and Lewis discussed the receiver's complaints.

"People voice their opinions in different ways after a loss and an embarrassing loss at that," Burris said. "Me, I'm a guy who gets silent and he's a guy who voices his opinion.

"He apologized to the team and I told him, as a leader, he's going to be held accountable for that. I expect him to come back and give his all for the team and you won't see any more of the bitching."