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Devoted fans await return of CFL football

Season tickets in hand, football lovers can't wait for return to CFL play this summer.

Mary Buchanan can remember her first Stampeders football game like it was yesterday.

“It was around 1952-53,” said the 82-year-old Calgarian. "When I was 11 or 12, I took dance lessons at the Murdoch School of Dancing and was part of the majorettes at the football game. We only did one game and I was the only majorette that didn’t drop their baton. I was really pleased with myself."

That experience sold Buchanan on the thrills of Canadian football and she has never really left. In the 1960s, Buchanan and her mother became Stampeders season ticket holders and she has kept the tickets going to this day.

In early August, the Stampeders will play the Toronto Argonauts, which will be the first CFL game at McMahon Stadium since November 2019, when Calgary played host to the Grey Cup.

Buchanan and her friend Heather Campbell will be back in their seats in Section S, near the middle of the field on the 52-yard line.

“We started in Section P and when they renovated the stadium for the Olympics, we moved to Section S. We’ve got really good seats,” said Buchanan. “I enjoy the nice group of people that sit around us. I just like football, and I really missed it (in 2020).”

Bob Kozak has also missed the Canadian game. He and his friends and family have almost an entire row of season seats at Commonwealth Stadium and are ready for the inaugural season of the Edmonton Elks. Bob admits it’s tough to get used to the franchise’s new name (“after 50 years, old habits die hard” he said with a laugh) but is thrilled his favourite game is coming back.

“I’ve been chomping at the bit for so long. We also do the tailgating, so it'll be nice just to be back at the football games," said Kozak, who used to work at Northlands (Coliseum) at the Oiler games and the Winter Classic back in the day. "I'd love to see 35 or 40 thousand fans in the stands. I’m sure people are starving for CFL football.”

Bob and his wife spend the summer months at Floatingstone Lake--about a 2-hour drive from Edmonton--but he says he's more than happy to make the trip into the city for Elks games. Kozak will turn 60 later this year and has been going to Edmonton football games since the team played at Clarke Stadium.

The Buchanan family (no relation to Mary) is well known in Calgary. Michael and Carol opened Buchanan's Chop House and Whisky Bar in 1988, a spot now owned by their son James with help from daughter Caitlin. Though recently spending their time in Whitefish, Montana, the now-retired Buchanans plan a return to Calgary to catch a few Stampeders games.

“The team is fun to watch, and it’s so much more exciting than NFL football. We love that (Stamps GM John) Hufnagel has been there forever,” said Carol Buchanan. “We try to do stuff with Huff for the team behind the scenes, where players can come down and have dinner and we will acknowledge them. Over the years, we’ve met a lot of the players.”

Carol got her start as a CFL fan thanks to her dad, Larry Graburn, who once held a publicity/business role with the Calgary Altomah football team when it played out of Mawata Stadium. Graburn would move his family to California after that but they did return to Calgary in 1969 and Carol says the first thing her dad did was get two Stamps season tickets.

Football fans have Aug. 7 circled on the calendars as both of the province’s teams open their seasons at home, with the Stamps kicking things off against the Argonauts and the Elks taking on the Ottawa RedBlacks.

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