After six years with Green and Gold, quarterback heading to Tiger-Cats
A teary-eyed Jason Maas walked out of the Edmonton Eskimos dressing room on Wednesday for the final time.
With his golden helmet and No. 12 jersey in hand, the quarterback silently shuffled past the "Once an Eskimo, Always an Eskimo" sign and headed for the elevator at Commonwealth Stadium.
"He's got a lot of memories here," said fellow quarterback Ricky Ray.
"He's spent his whole career up here, so far. With all the things that are going on, he's probably thinking it's his last time in here.
"I'm sure a lot of emotions are going through his mind right now."
Sometime in the next week, perhaps as early as today, Maas will be announced as the next starting quarterback for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, confirming an already widely rumoured trade that will bring to Edmonton quarterback Danny McManus, offensive lineman Tim Bakker and a first-round draft pick in 2006.
The deal marks the end of Maas's six-year-tenure with the Eskimos.
"If this is it for me here, it would be a storybook ending for me here with winning the Grey Cup," Maas said earlier this week.
"I just love the organization so much."
Maas's looming departure put a damper on an otherwise celebratory day for the Grey Cup champions. For the other eight CFL teams, the garbage bag pack of shame marks the end of a CFL season. But the Eskimos joyfully exchanged numbers, had their fingers sized for Grey Cup rings and talked about their chances of winning yet another championship.
Throughout the room, the smell of beer hung in the air.
"I actually have a bit of a headache," said defensive end Tim Fleiszer. "I'm dealing with that first and foremost.
"Garbage day after you win the Cup is the only time it's fun to clean out your locker. Any other time, it means you were cut, you were traded or the season ended in a way that you didn't want it to."
The season ended exactly the way Ray wanted. After being pulled in his last three starts, he played the entire game in a 38-35 overtime in over Montreal for the Grey Cup.
Together with his wife, the California native plans to winter in Edmonton for the first time.
"Thank God we won, so we can stay up here," he said with a laugh.
Cornerback Davis Sanchez has other plans.
"Hopefully, I'll get married in the off-season," Sanchez said. "But I've got to find a girl first."
On a serious note, the Eskimos stand to lose up to four offensive linemen to retirement in Bruce Beaton, Chris Morris, Sandy Annunziata and Kevin
Lefsrud. Cornerback Malcolm Frank, kicker Sean Fleming and defensive back Shannon Garrett are also considering calling it a career.
Garrett, 33, would like to retire a Grey Cup champion, but the Mississippi native needs the money to rebuild from hurricane Katrina. Two weeks ago, the insurance company denied his claim for compensation for a rental property he owned by ocean.
"I would like to retire an Eskimo," said Garrett, who didn't have flood insurance. "But I really don't know what the future holds."
Beaton knows his future is waiting for him in Nova Scotia where he'll raise a family and look after his stable of rental properties.
"The hardest thing for me today was listening to the speeches about next year from Danny Maciocia and Hugh Campbell ," he said. "You're talking about a president who won five in row, and he knows the formula. You're talking about the best young coach in the league, who told me he started thinking about 2006 on the plane ride back from B.C.
"It's going to be a drag not to be a part of it, but I'm going to take a lot of satisfaction in watching these guys play next year. It's just part of life. You have to retire and move on."