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Stampeders’ touchdown horse could be sidelined, but Calgary fans plan Royal York ride

Andrew Bucholtz
55 Yard Line

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Karyn Drake and Quick Six celebrate a Sept. 3 touchdown.

It's appropriate that a team with a horse for a logo has plenty of equine stories going around this week. Firstly, and perhaps most concerningly for Stampeders' fans, The Calgary Herald's Bryce Forbes writes that the Stampeders' traditional touchdown celebration, a horse galloping down the sidelines, may not be allowed in the Rogers Centre Sunday:

Rider Karyn Drake said she was told Monday afternoon that she would not be travelling to Toronto for the Sunday game against the Argos due to rules at the Rogers Centre , which has a retractable roof and 54,000-seat capacity.

"I've been told they don't have the room for a horse," she told the Herald late Monday.

A Stampeders spokesman confirmed negotiations are continuing with the Rogers Centre, the league and the Stampeders to allow a horse at the game. But no official decision has been made yet, he said.

The Stamps' regular horse, Quick Six, a staple at McMahon Stadium for about seven years, wouldn't have made the trip anyway, as the team typically uses a local replacement for road games.

Unsurprisingly, this has already sparked outrage from Stampeders' fans on Twitter. That may be premature, though; it really wouldn't be all that unexpected if the league finds a way to get a horse in and appease the red-and-white masses, and there's plenty of time left. Drake wasn't scheduled to fly until Friday with the team staff, and she said that a deal was made with Olympic Stadium only days before the 2008 Grey Cup, so something could still happen here.

Even if the Stamps don't have a touchdown horse present at the game itself, though, there will still be plenty of equine content at this year's Grey Cup. Keep in mind that horses played a critical role in Calgary fans' invasion of the 1948 Grey Cup in Toronto, one of the CFL's most memorable moments and an event that really kickstarted the Grey Cup Festival. One of the most famous 1948 moments came when Stamps' fans rode a horse into the lobby of the Royal York hotel, and Michael Platt of The Calgary Sun has a great interview with 87-year-old Bill Galiardi, who witnessed that:

"You better believe I saw it — I couldn't believe my eyes," he says.

"It was Henry Viney and Bill Batch."

Viney was a sportscaster for Calgary's CFCN, while "Bad" Bill Batch was a local wrestler who'd made the trip east.

If Galiardi has finally cleared up who actually masterminded the most famous stunt in Stampeder history, he's also got a pretty sound theory as to why the two Calgarians decided a horse suited the York decor.

"If you'd been drinking beer for eight straight days, you wouldn't give a damn where your horse went either," says Galiardi, chuckling.

Galiardi also played accordion for the dances on the legendary cross-country train trip that Stamps' fans took to Toronto that year (which is also being recreated!), and his Grey Cup experience doesn't sound too different from those of many fans today: "When we left, I was 22 years old, and I didn't even know what a bottle of beer looked like. ... By the time we got home again, I thought I was going to die."

The party this year should be just as rowdy. Apparently, Calgary fans are not only doing their famed pancake breakfasts (in Nathan Phillips Square, no less!), but they're also planning to recreate the Royal York horse ride on Thursday. We'll keep you up to date on how that goes, plus all the other equine developments sure to occur this week...

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