There will be one less order of Eggs Benedict served up at Barb and Ernie's on Sunday morning.
One loyal patron of the German-style restaurant in South Central Edmonton happens to be in Toronto this weekend. Kyle Koch will miss visiting one of his favourite haunts, but he has important matters at hand as the centre of the Edmonton Eskimos, who clash with the Toronto Argonauts in the East semifinal at Rogers Centre on Sunday.
"It was one of the first places I went to when I went to Edmonton," said the 27-year-old Koch, in his fourth year with the Eskimos and sixth in the CFL. "I guess it reminds me of the kind of cooking I grew up with at home."
Home for the 6-foot-3, 310-pound Koch is Kenora, Ont. His mother has a German background. Another place he feels at home is in the Golden Horsehoe area of Southwestern Ontario.
Koch went to McMaster University and helped the football powerhouse win a Yates Cup in his first season with the Marauders. He remains close to several of his teammates and had dinner with one in Toronto on Friday evening.
How did this Northwestern Ontario lad end up in Hamilton at McMaster?
"They recruited me," he said. "I got a phone call out of the blue from [then McMaster] head coach Greg Marshall. He said, 'we'd like you to come down and watch us in the  Yates Cup.'
"He asked me how long is the drive, 'six, eight hours?' When I told him it was more like 24, he said 'okay, we'll see you in January.'"
For Koch, experience at McMaster helped the Marauders win on the field and helped him develop as a person and a gridiron force. Now he sees his former teammates sprinkled across the CFL.
In fact, Koch will line up against McMaster teammates in Argos receiver Mike Bradwell, offensive guard Andrew Jones, linebacker Jason Pottinger and offensive tackle Chris Van Zeyl on Sunday.
"He was a good teammate," Jones said of Koch. "He was one of the hardest working players on our team. But I want to beat him on the field. We can always have that beer and catch up after the game. We'll always have that McMaster bond."
The former Marauders undoubtedly were proud of their alma mater's trouble-free victory over the Guelph Gryphons in the Yates Cup on Saturday. But these days, not much has come easy for the Eskimos, especially at that time of the year when games are more intense, there is more on the line and more video has been watched in preparation.
Edmonton finished the season with three consecutive losses. Eric Tillman was fired as the club's general manager. There was debate on who should start at quarterback, veteran Kerry Joseph or 25-year-old Matt Nichols. There was wonder on who should get most of the work at tailback, Cory Boyd, Hugh Charles or Jerome Messam.
The Eskimos decided not to dress Messam. Boyd, who was released by the Argos earlier this season, was listed ahead of Charles on the Eskimos depth chart. Edmonton head coach Kavis Reed will go with experience over youth at the quarterback position.
What does this all mean to Koch, who wasn't drafted but wound up signing with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2007? Does he have to prepare differently knowing who is setting up behind him?
"There would be a difference or a problem if this was early in the season," Koch said. "We know what to expect with either Kerry or Matt because we have an entire regular season behind us now. With the running backs, we just need to block no matter who is back there."
The Eskimos beat Toronto twice this season, but both wins were in the first half of the season. Argos quarterback Ricky Ray has become more comfortable in his new surroundings since the off-season blockbuster trade that send him from Edmonton to Toronto. He especially sound in his last appearance two weeks ago against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
But Koch and the Eskimos know if they can keep their offence on the field and Ray on the sidelines, Edmonton has a chance to advance to the East final in Montreal next Sunday.
This would mean Koch would miss another weekend at Barb and Ernie's. But he wouldn't mind one bit.
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