Calgary RB Jon Cornish donated $2,000 to the Red Cross thanks to his success Friday.Calgary's 44-32 win over B.C. Friday night served as an emphatic statement of the Stampeders' high ambitions for this year and as evidence that the betting-favourite Lions have lots of work to do in the weeks ahead, but it also proved important for a city that's been battling historic floods for the last week. The Stampeders said in advance of Friday's game that they were hoping it would be a cathartic moment for the community, and they also made it one with more than just an emotional impact, raising $83,968.50 for Calgary flood relief through in-person donations, a total that swelled to over $107,000 thanks to donations online and got an extra boost from players like Jon Cornish and Nik Lewis. Friday's game was about the city as well as the team, and the Stampeders' willingness to help out their community in a time of great distress is an admirable endeavour that shows the best side of the CFL.
It was clear right from the beginning that this was more than just a game, more than just a grudge match between last year's West Final opponents. A lot of that had to do with the pre-game introduction of Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, who's become a hero in the city thanks to his tireless work in the aftermath of the floods, and his speech (starts at 1:57) really summed up what's been going on in the city.
"It's great to be here tonight together as a community," Nenshi said. "This week, we have all seen a lot of things. We've seen those rivers that are part of the bloodstream of every Calgarian run higher and faster and angrier than we've ever seen them. We've seen neighbourhoods under water, we've seen our neighbours in a lot of pain, but we've also seen police officers in the 20th hour of their shift treating citizens with compassion and professionalism. We've seen public servants working their heart out to keep us all safe, and we've seen citizens of this great city come together like never before to lift up those neighbours of ours who have been dragged down. And I want to say to all of you, thank you, and I ask you to join me in saluting all of those, public servants and citizens alike, who have made such a difference for us this last week and helped us to come back even stronger. Onward! Are you ready for some football?!"
The Calgary fans certainly were ready for some football, and they couldn't have asked for a better performance from the Stampeders Friday. A particularly notable on-field tie-in to the flood relief efforts came from Cornish, who promised before the game to donate $10 to the Red Cross for every yard he gained. He certainly did his best to maximize that total, picking up 172 rushing yards and two touchdowns and 20 receiving yards Friday night while running roughshod over the B.C. defence, and then he showed his class by adding $80 to make that an even $2,000 donation. That may not sound like a ton in the professional sports world, but on a limited CFL salary, it's quite significant. Cornish told Stampeders.com's Bryce Forbes he hopes to do even more, though:
“I wish I could do more,” said Cornish after a convincing 44-32 win over the Lions in a rematch of last year’s West final. “But I mean to go down and do volunteer work.”
The Stampeders are lucky that McMahon Stadium wasn't affected by the rising waters, as those did tons of damage to other sports facilities in town, including the Saddledome used by the NHL's Calgary Flames and the Calgary Stampede's grounds. However, their survival has also worked out well for the city. Friday's game was one of the first major events held in Calgary since the floods, and it showed both that the city still has lots going for it and that its residents (and the Stampeders' players) are more than ready to do their part to help those in need. Good for the Stampeders, and good for players like Cornish and Lewis for stepping up financially as well. This game marked a perfect start to the CFL season for Calgary, but the money raised for flood relief may be even more significant in the big picture.