Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fans flock to see CFL history

Grey Cup's 100 years celebrated on train

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An hour, an hour and a half... it didn't matter to Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans how long they shuffled in line Saturday to board the Grey Cup 100 train at Union Station.

The Grey Cup 100 Tour train is a special three-car Via Rail train crossing Canada to celebrate 100 years of the Canadian Football League's Grey Cup championship.

The chance to take a walk through a century of history and see a train jam-packed with memorabilia proved irresistible for many Manitobans.

"I'm a big CFL fan," said Steve McMahon, with daughters, aged one and four, and his wife at the end of the long lineup.

"We're waiting and we're going right through (until the end) The train's worth it. Grandpa and I watch football out at the lake all the time," McMahon said, glancing fondly at Avery, 4, climbing on the rails leading down to the train ramp as the family shifted through the line.

Then again, McMahon's the kind of fan who collects memorabilia. Prized in his collection is a set of Dairy Queen sundae cups from the 1970s in the shape of football helmets. He's missing just one CFL team cup, the Blue Bombers. "I yearn for that one," he said.

The Grey Cup 100 Tour train's 100-stop, cross-Canada journey will end in Toronto at the Grey Cup Festival at the end of November.

Fans said the novelty of using a train for the tour was inspired. It adds to the historical sense of the tour and tied the history of the CFL to the seminal role railways played in the growth of the nation.

"I was talking to a friend of mine and he said 'the shrine' is something to see," said fan Darrel Weselake. "The shrine" is the museum car filled with items such as leather helmets, like the kind players used to use back in the "olden" days, in the words of one Bomber cheerleader Saturday.

"It's so cool, we've been through three times. I like the team car with all the jerseys," said Montana Onyebuchi, 12, a middle linebacker with the Transcona Nationals peewee football team who got a sneak peak on Friday. Rona, one of the train's sponsors, announced it is investing $30,000 to upgrade the Nationals' field at Transcona Optimist Park.

It is one of eight fields across Canada Rona is upgrading as a tour sponsor.

"We learned there were a lot of different teams before, like the (Baltimore) Stallions," said Ethan Hogan, 12, an outside linebacker with the peewee nationals.

Former Bombers and Grey Cup champions James Murphy, Trevor Kennerd and Joe Poplawski toured the train on Friday.

"I wish I was 10 years old again because I would have been out of my mind for all this stuff," said Kennerd, the former kicker who won Grey Cups with the Bombers in 1984, 1988, 1990. "This is phenomenal, they're doing it right and this is going to remind people all over again why we love the CFL."

In the second car, there's the Grey Cup itself, ready for anyone to have a photo taken with it (bring your own camera) or to just show the old trophy some love.

"We needed 100 years of great content to put on the greatest show we've ever had. There's something wonderful about being able to look back and being able to celebrate the Grey Cup's place in Canada," said Sara Moore, the Canadian Football League's vice-president of marketing.

"That is the Grey Cup that has been hoisted above heads for 100 years now. It's Canada's cup. It's amazing when people come up to it, with a little trepidation and ask, 'Can I touch it?' You can touch it, you can hug it, you can kiss it. The only thing we say is you're not allowed to hoist it above your head. You have to win it to lift it above your head."

The team car includes 24 lockers (three per team) set up with game-day gear inside. The Bombers' lockers are labelled quarterback Buck Pierce, receiver Terrence Edwards and linebacker Jovon Johnson.

In the Grey Cup car, the Tragically Hip's song Gift Shop is playing with an inspiring voice-over by Canadian actor Keifer Sutherland. It states that the Grey Cup has been "celebrated by the common man and the uncommon man" and has "reduced 300-pound men to tears."

Recordings of Grey Cup pre-game speeches by icons such as Pinball Clemons can be heard while you look at the replica locker stalls.

 

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 7, 2012 A6

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