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CFL Soundtrack: Will the Stampeders be rising, or just a rainbow in the dark?

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John Hufnagel (L) and Ronnie James Dio have different wardrobes, but many similarities.

The CFL Soundtrack series continues with the Calgary Stampeders, where head coach and general manager John Hufnagel has a fair bit in common with late legendary heavy metal vocalist Ronnie James Dio.

This one may get some to shake their heads at first, as at first glance, the usual winner of the CFL media's "least quotable" poll wouldn't seem to have much in common with the charismatic Dio. There are plenty of similarities deeper below the surface, though. Dio found great success over his career, but the cast of bandmates around him was constantly changing, from Elf to Rainbow to Black Sabbath to his own band to Heaven and Hell. Meanwhile, Hufnagel's also accomplished a lot since arriving in Calgary in 2008, winning the Grey Cup that season, going to the Grey Cup again last year and perennially fielding a contender, but the roster and coaching staff around him has changed substantially as well. Dio proved he was able to work with diverse talents and Hufnagel's shown that same versatility, which bodes well for the Stampeders.

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Albums like "Rising" showed off the tremendous talents of Dio and Blackmore.

Perhaps the most interesting analogy to be drawn here concerns a man who's no longer with the Stamps, former defensive coordinator and assistant player personnel director Chris Jones. Jones infamously left for the Toronto Argonauts in a way Hufnagel didn't approve of before last season, revolutionized their defence and then helped them take down Hufnagel's Stampeders in the Grey Cup. There's no dispute about his skill as both a coach and a talent evaluator, but it also seems clear that he and Hufnagel were moving towards different pages. That's exactly what happened with Dio and former Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore: they formed Rainbow together (first called Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow) after he left Deep Purple, and created three stellar albums as a partnership, but things then dissolved when Blackmore wanted to go in a more commercially-friendly direction and Dio wanted to continue with metal-oriented, sword-and-sorcery themed tracks.

Like the Jones-Hufnagel partnership, both Dio and Blackmore were able to find success without the other, but the different directions they took suggested the split was for the best: Rainbow went quite pop-heavy for a while, releasing some good tracks like "Since You've Been Gone" (not the Kelly Clarkson abomination!), and then Blackmore went back to Deep Purple for the famed Mark II reunion album Perfect Strangers,while Dio went on to join Sabbath, then his own band, recording legendary songs (and albums!) like "Heaven and Hell" and "Holy Diver." We'll see if the Jones-Hufnagel split continues to bear fruit for both.

Hufnagel's revolving cast goes beyond just Jones (replaced with the able Rick Campbell), though. The team's seen several other big changes over the recent years, including the emergence of star running back Jon Cornish to replace Joffrey Reynolds (who, sadly, is in a raft of legal trouble at the moment over domestic-violence charges), the loss of star cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Dwight Anderson, the trade of Henry Burris for Kevin Glenn, and the back-and-forth switching of Drew Tate and Kevin Glenn last season thanks to Tate's various injuries. They've had highs and lows, but have remained a playoff team and have generally been in contention despite all the changes. Similarly, Dio turned out impressive albums with Rainbow, Black Sabbath and his own band despite frequent personnel changes. The versatility and adaptability of both him and Hufnagel speaks well for them.

A problem with frequently changing bands is that it can keep you from perhaps hitting the top rung of stardom, though, and that may have happened with Dio. While he's renowned in circles of knowledgeable metalheads, he never quite became as globally famous as say, Sabbath itself, or Deep Purple. Similarly, while Hufnagel's teams have survived through all the changes, they haven't quite thrived; two Grey Cup appearances with one victory in five years certainly is pretty impressive, especially with that turnover, but it doesn't scream "dynasty." That may be the case for the Stampeders again this year. There have been more offseason losses, including the departures of Romby Bryant and Brian Bulcke, but this should still be an impressive team. It may not quite reach the lofty Grey Cup goal, though, and its flashes of brightness may turn into just a rainbow in the dark.

Prediction: 10-8, second in West, win in West semi-final, loss in West final

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