VANCOUVER - Andy Fantuz was in no mood to celebrate the top Canadian award he earned during Sunday's Grey Cup.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats receiver was feeling miserable after his club bowed 20-16 to the Calgary Stampeders in the CFL title game at B.C. Place Stadium.
"I wanted this championship for everybody in this locker-room," he said. "That's all that mattered.
"This other stuff, all this superficial stuff, it doesn't matter. It's all about this feeling right now — and trying to never feel it again."
The 30-year-old Chatham, Ont., native earned top Canadian honours after recording a game-high six catches for 81 yards in a losing cause. Five of his receptions came in the fourth quarter as the Ticats attempted a late rally that fell short. Only Calgary's Eric Rogers gained more yards (108) while making five receptions.
Fantuz made three catches during a 10-play, 45-yard scoring drive that culminated with a 12-yard Justin Medlock field goal and reduced Hamilton's deficit to 20-13 in the fourth quarter. But the Tiger-Cats could only muster one more Medlock three-pointer, from 37 yards, before the final gun sounded.
The strong second-half performance came after Fantuz managed just one catch — a 21-yard gain that proved to be his longest reception of the night — in the first half, when the Stampeders built a 17-7 lead.
"We started too slow," said Fantuz, whose award came after he went without a catch in limited duty in the Eastern Final and missed the last three games of the regular season with a torn hamstring.
"We let them get out. They made more (big) plays than us throughout the game. We started to build momentum, especially in the fourth (quarter), but it was too little, too late."
Despite his misery, Fantuz expressed some satisfaction with the season that had just ended. He played a leadership role as the Ticats overcame a 1-6 start to the season, finished first in the East Division with a 9-9 mark and ousted the Montreal Alouettes in the East Final.
The Tiger-Cats were denied in their quest to become only the second team in CFL history to win a Grey Cup following such a start. The B.C. Lions were the first to do so, in 2011 on the same B.C. Place Stadium turf.
"This year was special to me," said Fantuz after the Tiger-Cats lost the championship game for the second straight year. "It was my first year as a captain, and to see the guys rally together and turn a handful of captains into a team full of captains really made it a special year for us."
But Fantuz could not take much joy in that point, or the fact that he had appeared in his fifth Grey Cup contest — more than any other player on the field Sunday — either.
"I love everyone in this room," he said. "I'm so disappointed for us."
Note to readers: This is a corrected version of an earlier story. Hamilton finished first in the CFL East, not second as previously stated.