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Flutie recalls uncertain days with Stamps

May 16, 1996 GMT

TORONTO (AP) _ Doug Flutie knew in 1994 that former Calgary Stampeders owner Larry Ryckman was walking a financial tightrope.

But it took a chat with veteran Stu Laird during last season before the four-time Canadian Football League MVP, now a Toronto Argonaut, realized he, too, would be caught up in Ryckman’s financial problems.

Bankruptcy papers last month showed Ryckman’s former holding company, Ryckman Financial Corp., accumulated debts of more than $10 million, including almost $4 million in unpaid employee payroll deductions and corporate taxes to Revenue Canada.

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And the Stampeders lost $1.7 million last season.

``Stu came to me in the middle of last year ... and at one point asked me if I had been paid,″ Flutie said. ``I said, `No.′

``And Stu said to me, `Think about it this way Doug. If you go out and get a Lamborghini, you crash that thing and you still owe two years worth of payments, are you going to continue making those payments or let it ride and see what happens?′

``He was telling me he knew Larry well enough and knew Larry’s situation that I probably wasn’t going to get paid. I knew that the situation was different from the year before, but I was still hoping it would work out.″

It didn’t.

As season’s end, Flutie was owed more than $800,000 of his $1.1-million salary as per his personal-services contract with Ryckman. However, unlike 1994, when Flutie was finally paid in full five months after the season ended, there was no check in the mail this time.

The Stampeders went into receivership after Ryckman was found guilty of stock manipulation and the club was sold to Calgary businessman Sig Gutsche. A condition of the sale was that Flutie’s contract not be part of the transaction.

The CFL granted Flutie free-agent status, paving the way for a two-year $2.2-million deal with the Toronto Argonauts.

Flutie, speaking after an Argo news conference Thursday, said he approached the Stampeders about a trade midway through training camp last year.

``I went to (offensive coordinator) John Hufnagel and (coach-general manager) Wally Buono and said, `I’m tired of having to deal with this and not being sure if I’m going to be paid ... I think you guys should trade me,‴ Flutie said. ``We talked about it for a couple of days, but the bottom line was we were in the middle of training camp and it would’ve put Calgary in a very compromising position.

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``Instead, we just decided to leave things status quo.″

Flutie’s hard lesson carried into negotiations with the Argos. Toronto announced in March it had reached an agreement with Flutie, but the contract wasn’t signed until last week.

``I was more firm on the language of the contract and little things that maybe before I wouldn’t have been,″ he said.