Let the gamesmanship begin.
The McMaster Marauders are stepping into a maelstrom for the 50th Vanier Cup, as the opposition from Ontario for a national championship game in Montreal against the hometown Montreal Carabins. While having the Carabins in the game is almost too good to be true for Canadian Interuniversity Sport and the Vanier organizers, Mac coach Stefan Ptaszek seemed to imply that the situation is suspiciously too tailor-made for the U de M.
The Vanier festitivites begin with a Wednesday morning press conference. Meantime, Ptaszek contended during a FAN 590 intervewi that the Carabins can remain on campus, shielded from some of the Vanier hoopla, until the eve of Saturday's game at Molson .
"It's very daunting — it's not fair, frankly," Ptaszek said during an interview on Tim and Sid with Tim Micallef, who will be on the call for Sportsnet on Saturday (Sportsnet/Sportsnet 360/Radio-Canada, 12:30 a.m. ET/9:30 a.m. PT). "They're not reporting to the hotel until Friday. So they're going to all their clases, doing their regular football routine, on their campus, up until Friday. They'll probably come around the mountain to get the walk-through at McGill's stadium. Then they'll check into the hotel and play their football game. We're being asked to travel today and eat hotel food, miss class, do all the things that come with travelling for the better part of 72 hours before we get a football game.
"That is a little tilted in the favour of the hometown team. Kudos to them for diving on the hand grenade to host this event. We got to find a way to minimize the damage on that because it is not fair."
Ptaszek's qualifier about "diving on the hand grenade" is kind of key here. The Vanier has become a sporting hot potato due to rising costs, not always having the option to twin the game with the CFL's Grey Cup and lukewarm casual-fan interest in university football virtually everywhere outside of Quebec. The determination to play at Molson Stadium wasn't even made until late March.
The McMaster coach also tends to be one of the more candid coaches around in CIS. One reading of the statement is that Ptaszek was simply being upfront about what the Marauders are up against as they go into their third Vanier in four seasons. Both the 2011 and '12 McMaster-Laval games were Friday night contests that were played at the Grey Cup sites in Vancouver and Toronto. Facing Montreal in a truer university football envionment is vastly different.
"From what I understand, they've already sold 18,500 tickets and we're only at Tuesday afternoon," Carabins coach Danny Maciocia also told Tim and Sid. "There's a buzz and people are just enjoying the little run that we're in.
"I don't even know if I could have written a better script, to be quite honest with you. I don't even think this is real."
McMaster, which wasn't pegged to win the Ontario conference, has a devastating defence led by linebacker Nick Shortill but will be facing a physical, older Montreal team that can shut down just about any offence.
The practice schedule released by CIS does call for both teams to practice at Molson Stadium on Wednesday and Friday, with an indoor workout at Concordia University in between on Thursday. Many Vanier Cup coaches have been known to pull a fast one with practice times and locations.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.