Coach Brian Dobie and his team are about to enter a brand new era of Manitoba Bisons football.
For 47 years they called the rubber end zones and creaking bleachers of University Stadium their home. But on Friday the team will launch a new era with their first game at Investors Group Field, against the Alberta Golden Bears.
Every player and coach on the team has their own reasons to be excited about the new stadium.
'We are who we are. We've recruited it, we've coached it and now it's up to them to go out and let's see how it all lays out'
Linebacker Al Turnbull is excited for a few reasons. He can't wait to play in what is now one of the best university football facilities in the nation. Turnbull is also the president of the University of Manitoba Students' Union and believes the stadium will benefit the campus.
"One of our big platform points was to make sure we come in and we increase student spirit. And what a way to spearhead it, with the stadium. We're really excited," Turnbull said.
All of that extra excitement and hype has also led to extra pressure. Turnbull and the rest of the Bisons realize how critical it is to pick up a win and get fans interested early. Investors Group Field has room for a lot more fans than University Stadium and Turnbull hopes to see not only students, but all sports fans come to the game.
"We need people to get in and see our talent. They need to see how we react under pressure, because there's a lot of pressure," Turnbull said. "Once we start to win I think we can really assert ourselves as a dominating force in the Canada West."
Even Dobie is feeling the pressure. A win against the Golden Bears would pay tribute to both the history and future of the team.
"You're not just playing for Friday night. You're not just playing for the season. You're playing for 47, almost 50, years of Bisons football that went through all kinds of good times and hard times in a different facility. And you're going to be playing for everyone coming up in the next seven or eight decades," Dobie said.
The Bisons are looking for their first home-opener win since 2008. During Dobie's 17 years as the coach of the team, the Bisons have gone 9-8 in regular-season openers, but only 3-4 at home.
Last year, the Bisons finished 4-4 and lost in the first round of the playoffs. But Dobie's worked hard this training camp to get the Herd prepared. He's confident in his starting quarterback Jordan Yantz, he has two dangerous offensive weapons in running back Anthony Coombs and receiver Nic Demski, and he believes his defensive line is one of the stingiest in the Canada West conference.
The Bisons will be the first test for new Bears coach Chris Morris, a former CFL offensive lineman with three Grey Cup rings. Dobie doesn't know what to expect from Alberta, but he's done all he can to prepare for the game.
"We are who we are. We've recruited it, we've coached it and now it's up to them to go out and let's see how it all lays out," Dobie said.
But before Dobie will see if the Herd will become the first home team to win at Investors Group Field, he'll have another big moment.
"I know that when we're waiting in the tunnel to be introduced, I'm going to be really emotional. I won't lie to you, I might tear up," Dobie said. "That will be gone in moments, once we get onto the field."