REGINA -- For two memorable seasons the Canadian Air Force was synonymous with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The formidable trio of Canadian receivers -- individually known as Chris Getzlaf, Rob Bagg and Andy Fantuz -- will share the field at Mosaic Stadium one more time on Sunday. This time though one of them will be wearing enemy colours when the 101st Grey Cup kicks off.
Getzlaf and Bagg still represent the Roughriders but Fantuz will be flying in the opposite direction as a member of the Tiger-Cats after he signed with Hamilton as a free agent in February, 2012.
"Obviously Andy's a friend of a bunch of guys on the team and he's a great player in this league, but we haven't talked once all week and I think we're going to be waiting until after the game," Getzlaf said following the Riders' walkthrough Saturday morning.
Sunday's game will be the first in over three years that Getzlaf, Bagg and Fantuz have played together in Regina.
Bagg suffered a season-ending knee injury on Oct. 17, 2010, that, unbeknownst to anyone at the time, signalled the end of an era. The bum knee kept him out of the entire 2011 season as well, and Fantuz left to Hamilton before the 2012 season as a free agent.
As a group they flew under the radar in their debut, playing together for the first time on Oct. 25, 2008.
Fantuz had four catches for 62 yards and a touchdown, while Getzlaf caught two balls for 28 yards and Bagg had one grab for 22 yards in a 55-9 rout over the Edmonton Eskimos.
The trio gained prominence over the next two years, combining for 5,234 yards receiving and 30 touchdown catches, and helping Saskatchewan to the Grey Cup in 2009 and 2010, before being grounded for good.
Together, they stood very tall. Divided, at least one of them is now guaranteed something they couldn't achieve as a team -- a Grey Cup ring.
"I was talking to Rob Bagg earlier today and he was telling me how he was just 23 back in 2009 in his first Grey Cup," said Saskatchewan quarterback Darian Durant. "It was my first year starting also. We were just young pups, running around like a chicken with its head cut off, not realizing the moment. We were just out there playing.
"But now we understand what's at stake, we understand what it takes to get the job done and I just like the vibe of the team."
For the starting receivers on Sunday that vibe is a little less Canadian but arguably no less talented, fuelled by the speed and elusiveness of Weston Dressler, the increasingly sure-handed Getzlaf, a reliable short threat in Bagg, the big-play capability of Taj Smith and the addition of surefire Hall of Famer Geroy Simon in the off-season.
The Roughriders celebrated three 1,000-yard receivers in 2013 for the first time in 20 years, with Getzlaf, Dressler and Smith all cracking the threshold.
"These guys, I think they're more mature now and they still have that mindset of 'Don't quit,"' said Riders head coach Corey Chamblin. "And that's one of the things that attracted me to this team and that I've always liked about this team. That's the biggest thing, I think there's a growth process there.
"I also thought about today, I can remember when (Getzlaf) was younger and he was like third on the list for us to cover, and now he's one of those guys that needs to be first on the list to cover because he's grown so much."