The slogan on our licence plates may read "Friendly Manitoba" and the Ottawa Redblacks may be playing their historic first regular-season game, but the Winnipeg Blue Bombers want their first-time visitors to understand this:
The hospitality ends when the football is put on the tee tonight at Investors Group Field. And they want absolutely no part of this history -- being added to the record books as the team that falls to the Redblacks for their first win.
The Bombers, 1-0 after last week's impressive win over the Toronto Argonauts, face the Redblacks -- who had the bye last week -- in a contest that will be intriguing in that both teams are still somewhat wrapped in mystery.
The Bombers, after all, still have some serious convincing to do to their fan base (ticket sales were at 26,100 Wednesday afternoon).
And the Redblacks are a completely new entity, even if their roster which features veteran quarterback Henry Burris and former Bombers Jovon Johnson and James Green, is hardly stocked with CFL rookies.
"They've got a quarterback who passed for 50,000 (yards) and ran for 5,000," said Bomber head coach Mike O'Shea. "He was right up there for MVP of the league last year. I don't look at them as expansion team, that's what they're labelled. They're a professional football team, they're going to be well coached and they've got players who are hungry.
"They've been sitting around practising for a long time. These guys want to play so they've got that extra time where they've just not been able to do their job. It's got to be frustrating for them. So they want to get out here. Our players have to realize they're going to come out flying and they're going to want to hit something other than themselves."
Several times on Wednesday Bomber players and coaches were asked about the dangers of taking the Redblacks too lightly, given this is their first game. But all week O'Shea & Co. worked to hammer home the message that last week's win and means diddly and squat.
Apparently, it worked.
"I don't even know what you're talking about. Week 1 doesn't even exist," said Bomber defensive end Jason Vega when asked how satisfying the win over Toronto was to the organization. "It doesn't matter... we could have given up 50 points or given up zero. It doesn't matter. You have to realize you're never as good as you think you are and you're never as bad as you think you are, either.
"That's the way we approach it. Last week was great. You celebrate it for 48 hours, you deal with it for 48 hours after the game is over. But then you're 0-0 again and it's time to play the next game."
Without any real Redblacks game film to study other than pre-season games, the Bombers dove deep into the video archives to study the tendencies of their head coach Rick Campbell and offensive co-ordinator Mike Gibson and defensive boss Mark Nelson, both former assistants in Winnipeg.
"It's definitely a little tougher this week," said quarterback Drew Willy. "We went through the pre-season stuff and then you look at co-ordinators' pasts and where the head coach has been and try to get some tendencies here and there. But they could come out with something completely different. Really, you just play what your eyes see and react to what their defence does and try to get some tendencies early on in the game and go through our reads. We've seen so many crazy looks in training camp with our defence, I think it will prepare us for any team we happen to play this year.
"Every guy on our team is definitely prepared and ready to go. We're not looking past anyone. Every week is going to be a challenge. We know any team can win in this league on any given week. Every single one of our guys is focused on Ottawa and we'll be ready to go tomorrow."
Finally, O'Shea was asked if last week's win helps in developing a swagger. And that notion was cut off quickly.
"You don't. Not here," he said. "We're too young right now. We've got to develop our work habits. We've got to develop positive, concrete habits... not just fluff and attitude. There's things you can build on and there's things that magically float around in the air. We're trying to build something here."