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Lions looking sharp before BC Place opener

Photos by Keith Robertson text by Nolan Kelly

With a five game winning streak coupled with the reopening of the newly renovated BC Place and the hosting of the Grey Cup next month, the Leos' bandwagon is filling up once again.

Seven weeks ago, I had written that Wally Buono was finished. The game has passed him by -- all of us were thinking it. But every once in a while, a winning streak, a trade, even a single play, jars an otherwise educated fan to the realization that no matter how much we know, our grasp is tenuous at best.

No one is sure what the essential factor in the Lions turnaround was, but a losing streak forces a team to make changes, and the acquisition of Arland Bruce to replace the struggling Paris Jackson was a godsend.

Travis Lulay’s newest toy has helped the once struggling quarterback move up the CFL top passers list, where he now sits third in yards, touchdowns and passer rating.

The Lions aren’t where they want to be yet, but they're getting close.

“We're headed in the right direction,” said center Angus Reid. “Our confidence has definitely grown. The confidence, the chemistry, the cohesiveness, is growing now. We've always been talented, but now we're on the same page. That's huge.”

But the Lions will have to tread carefully, if they are to ride the wave of interest into a more consistently devoted fan base.

Interestingly, with the move back to BC Place, the Lions have re-imposed blackout restrictions on home games, a policy that has lessened fan interest in every market it has been tried (see Chicago Blackhawks, circa Bill Wirtz era).

And while the Lions won't directly suffer from the criticism, both the timing and cost of the 563 million dollar roof are now for the first time being called into question.

But the new venue will be a welcome change for the players. Although they enjoyed their time at Empire, most are looking forward to getting back to their old digs. And with a 5-9 record at Empire field, juxtaposed against a 39-10 mark at BC Place from 2004-2008, the team is looking forward to regaining their once dominant home field advantage.

And with the transitory nature of the Empire construction, one can understand the players desire to get back to proper dressing and training rooms.

"Empire was fine, but I'm happy to move into B.C. Place,” said Angus Reid. “I just wish we had more wins at Empire Field."

"We take Empire for what it was. It was a necessary respite,” added Travis Lulay.

And fans are excited to see that the Lions have turned their fortunes around just in time for their big opener. Although there were still 13,000 seats unsold in the 54,000-seat stadium, the crowds will be over double those at the Empire. With the opening of BC Place tomorrow, curiosity will kindle interest in these cats. And if the Lions keep winning, they may keep coming back for more. 













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