Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–15–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Storybook ending wiped out

Garrett's TD as grand finale for old stadium now a footnote

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It seemed, even at the time, a little too perfect.

And, as happens so often when things seem too good to be true, it turns out this one was, too.

And so seven months after Winnipeg Blue Bombers tailback Chris Garrett plunged over a frozen goal line in what was supposed to be the final play ever at Canad Inns Stadium, here we go once more.

It will be déj vu all over again as the Bombers face in the pre-season tonight a very different version of the same Hamilton Tiger-Cats franchise that provided the antagonist last November in what the Bombers thought was to be their farewell performance at the old Polo Park barn.

There's not much in human history that works out tidily, but this little chapter of Winnipeg history seemed as if it was all neatly wrapped with a nice blue and gold bow as Garrett's last-second, three-yard touchdown run put the exclamation point on a 19-3 Bombers win over Hamilton in the 2011 East final and sent the old stadium out with a literal bang from the touchdown cannon and one final trip to the Grey Cup for the home side.

Perfect, right?

Yeah, never mind. Because flash forward seven months later and rumours of the old barn's demise were as greatly exaggerated as Garrett's place in the local history books.

With last Friday's announcement the Bombers will play the entire 2012 season again at Canad Inns Stadium due to construction delays on the new place going up at the University of Manitoba, Garrett's last-second touchdown run has gone from a permanent piece of our rich local sporting lore to a meaningless touchdown at the end of a game Winnipeg dominated throughout.

Sorry about that, kid. "Yeah, I was sorry to hear that too... I was really banking on that being the last play ever here," Garrett said Tuesday as the Bombers went through a final light practice in advance of tonight's final pre-season game. "I wanted to be a part of history. And unfortunately, over time, it hasn't worked out that way."

There are all kinds of reasons, almost all of them financial, why the last place the Winnipeg Football Club wanted to be again tonight was on the field at Canad Inns Stadium.

But if the worst thing that happens to the Bombers in 2012 is they have to play another season in a home building that was sold out eight straight times last season and was universally regarded as the single most hostile place for visiting teams in the CFL, well, that wouldn't be that bad, would it?

"We've had some success here as of late," quarterback Buck Pierce agreed on Tuesday, "and it's a great place to play. Obviously, there's a lot of build-up to us getting in the new stadium at some point.

"But, you know, we like playing here as players. We enjoy it. It was one of the best venues to play in all last year and I think it will be one of the top again this year."

It will certainly be familiar, to players and fans, although there will be a couple of wrinkles in the old barn this season.

Most noticeably, a huge digital "ribbon board" that runs almost the full width of the field has been set up for this season on the turf just beyond the south end zone, which will play ads and messages on game day that were originally purchased to run in the new stadium.

Is it perfect? Hardly. But it's still football at a time of the year when everyone's hope springs eternal.

"We would've played in the parking lot if they let us," Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice said Tuesday. "We'll play wherever we need to."

Besides, Garrett is back in 2012 as the Bombers' starting tailback and he says if we're going to do this déj vu thing all over again at Canad Inns Stadium this year, 2012 might as well follow the same script as 2011 -- right down to the East Final..

"I'll just have to try to score," Garrett says, "on that last play right here again."

And how about that for a perfect ending?

This time for sure.

Maybe.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

bomber game day D3

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 20, 2012 D1

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