Veteran receiver Banks looking to add Grey Cup ring to career resume

TORONTO — It's the lone accomplishment still missing from Brandon Banks' football resume.

On Sunday, the veteran receiver will look to help Toronto defeat the Montreal Alouettes in the East Division final. The Argonauts would advance to their first Grey Cup game since 2017 with a victory, but also move Banks a step closer to his first CFL championship.

"That (Grey Cup ring) is the one thing that's missing," Banks said following Toronto's practice Friday. "I feel like I've done everything there is to do.

"I've always said, I'm not trying to prove anything to anybody. I'm just out here playing football and having fun again. I'm trying to preach throughout the locker room, telling the guys to help me get a ring."

The five-foot-seven, 150-pound Banks -- appropriately dubbed "Speedy B" -- had 37 catches for 522 yards with four touchdowns in his first season with Toronto. Banks, 34, signed as a free agent with the Argos after he and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats mutually parted ways following the 2021 campaign.

Banks had 422 catches for 5,678 yards and 44 TDs in 111 career regular-season contests over nine seasons in Hamilton. He was a league all-star four times and in 2019 captured the CFL's outstanding player award after registering a club-record 112 catches for 1,550 yards and 13 TDs.

Banks also played in four Grey Cup games with Hamilton, twice coming agonizingly close to victory.

In 2014, Banks returned a punt 90 yards for a TD with 32 seconds to play to put Hamilton ahead of Calgary. But the dramatic play was called back due to a penalty, allowing the Stampeders to secure the 20-16 victory at B.C. Place Stadium.

Banks had a 45-yard TD catch earlier in the game.

And in last year's contest at Tim Hortons Field, Hamilton led Winnipeg 22-10 in the fourth quarter. But the Bombers rallied for the 33-25 overtime decision, their second straight Grey Cup victory over the Ticats (winning 33-12 in 2019).

Toronto is hosting the East final for a second straight year. Banks and the Ticats won last year's game 27-19 as Argos kicker Boris Bede handled all of his team's scoring (six field goals, single), with three of his kicks coming from 18 yards or closer.

With the Argos up 12-0, Papi White registered the Ticats' first touchdown at 5:19 of the third quarter with a 92-yard punt return. Hamilton outscored Toronto 15-6 in the final period to secure the victory.

Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie said his team can take some important lessons from last year's loss into Sunday game.

"It's important to score touchdowns when we get down there and make the plays that are there to be made," he said. "And then, special teams as that punt return last year changed the game.

"Special teams have to be huge."

Although he was on the visitors' sideline last year, Banks felt Toronto had a championship-calibre squad.

"I was telling the guys earlier, the reason I came here was I thought they were a championship team last year," he said. "It was a good team and I'm just here to contribute as much as I can and hopefully we minimize the penalties and get over the hump."

Toronto won the season series with Montreal 2-1 but both victories were by a point. The combined margin of victory in the series was just seven points.

Montreal comes in having won eight of its last 11 games, including last weekend's 28-17 East Division semifinal victory over Hamilton. The Argos had an opening-round playoff bye after finishing first in the conference.

It seems there's some actual playoff buzz in Toronto as the Argos have opened the upper east side of BMO Field for the game. That came after the original 19,000 allotted tickets were all sold.

"We're fired up about that," Dinwiddie said. "That's the environment we'd like to have more often, but they're coming at the right time and it's going to be electric."

And Banks, for one, likes the idea of having a playoff game at home.

"You're waking up in your bed and then you're walking into your own stadium that you know the ins and outs of," he said. "Then you've got your fans.

"I mean, they give you the extra chip on your shoulder to go out and win a ballgame for your home-town fans."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 11, 2022.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press