One by one, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats filed off the field in silence. Defensive end Eric Norwood was one of the few who had something to say, to nobody in particular, as he walked down the Mosaic Stadium tunnel.
"Damn," said Norwood, a 6-foot-1, 252-pound first-year CFLer. "In my life, I've never seen (anything) like that."
His version was a little more graphic, perhaps not surprising in the immediate wake of a 45-23 meltdown Sunday at the hands of the hometown Saskatchewan Roughriders in the 101st Grey Cup.
His fellow Ticats seemed numb. They said nothing as they retreated to their dressing room, a dumpy tiny space divided into two rooms that would have raised the hackles of a junior hockey team.
A Hamilton fan, the uncle of a Ticat lineman, tried to offer some salve for the still raw wound.
Hamilton coach Kent Austin, a cup winner as a player and coach in Saskatchewan, also looked to the future.
"I'm very proud of them," he said of his players. "Nobody gave us any chance at all to be here. Everything that they've overcome, everything that they've battled through. All the players we played this year. I'm unbelievably proud of that room. We have a lot to build on. We've got a good young football team.
"We've got to get better in some areas and we will. But we've got a great foundation. Really proud of these guys. Love all of them."
Score Sunday as a painful lesson for Hamilton's future. With 18 first-year CFL players on their roster, the 10-8 Ticats have reason to think ahead.
"These young guys are the future of this organization. This game will pay off," 32-year-old Hamilton centre Marwan Hage said. "Maybe next year, maybe the year after. But it's going to pay off. This experience that they gathered here today, you can't just get that. You cannot get this experience. You need to play in it and if you lose, you need to learn from it."
For the nomadic Tiger-Cats, who made the championship game despite having no home as their new Hamilton stadium is built, the loss was a bitter pill to swallow.
"Our guys battled their butts off this year," said quarterback Henry Burris, a class act in defeat.