For Canadian football fans, madness comes in November
CALGARY — Fans from across Canada have converged on Calgary for the 107th Grey Cup. At Stampede Park on Thursday, jerseys from every CFL team were represented.
The two teams who will battle it out on Sunday have both suffered lengthy championship droughts. It’s been 29 years since the Winnipeg Blue Bombers last hoisted the Grey Cup in 1990, while the Hamilton Tiger Cats last took home the cup in 1999.
Blue Bomber fan Fred Burdon believes the team's streak of misery will finally end on Sunday.
"They’re just peaking at the right time. They’re getting better and better as the weeks go on," he said.
This is Joan Richardson’s 17th straight Grey Cup and she says hold on — it’s Ti-Cats all the way on Sunday.
“Because we’ve got a super team. Everybody together, defence, offence,” she said. “They’re cohesive and with all us fans backing them, they’re going to do it.”
The best thing about the Grey Cup is you get fans from every team at the game, and the four days of festivities that precede it.
If the Canadian prime minister wanted to find a group of individuals who could achieve national unity on a single issue, he should head straight to the Grey Cup festival.
Football might be nasty, brutish and muddy to play, but Canadian football fans are lovers, not fighters.
Who to cheer for?
Brad Grainger is an Argos fan, and yet, he was seen Thursday singing the Ti-Cat chant. Surely he couldn’t be cheering on the rival Ti-Cats on Sunday?
Grainger says you never know.
"You know, honestly they did have a really good season. If I was to change colours for one minute, for one game, I might go yellow," he said.
On the opposing side of the ledger, can Saskatchewan Roughrider fans forget about the Bombers beating them last weekend, and depriving them of the chance to cheer on their beloved Riders in the Grey Cup? Can they put aside their Banjo Bowl differences and decades of bitter Labour Day classic matchups, and actually pull for the Bombers Sunday?
Rider fan Tony Dagenais is still on the fence.
"Half says Winnipeg, and half says Hamilton," Dagenais said. “I’ve got CFL family on both sides so I’m hoping for a really good game.”
And in an effort to borrow some karma from their NHL cousins, the Blue Bombers announced Wednesday they're flying Dancing Gabe to Calgary to kickoff the team's sold-out Touchdown Manitoba event Friday at Stampede Park.
Gabe, who dances and ignites the fan base at both Blue Bombers and Winnipeg Jets games, will spend the weekend in town, representing the team at Bomber House at Hudsons pub on Saturday, then high-fiving the team as they take the field at McMahon Stadium Sunday evening.
"We are honoured to have Dancing Gabe attend the weekend of festivities with us and represent our fans cheering on the team as they take the field for the 107th Grey Cup," said Bomber president and CEO Wade Miller in an announcement made on the team's website.
"Gabe has been a fixture at Bombers games for years, and it's only fitting that he be here with us for the 107th Grey Cup."
Meanwhile, at the Hilton Garden Inn, a horse named Tuffy joined some men in kilts, kicking off the Grey Cup Festival with a tradition first started by Stamps fans, who imported a horse to romp through the lobby of Toronto's Royal York Hotel back in 1948.
Tuffy eventually made his way through the East Village over to the Stampede Grounds, the site of the Grey Cup Festival.
Kickoff for the 107th Grey Cup is at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday at McMahon Stadium.