Red, white and True Blue
Grey Cup party brings former Winnipeggers, other expats together in Denver
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/11/2019 (1226 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Ritch MacPherson remembers precisely where he was Nov. 18, 1984, the last time the Winnipeg Blue Bombers battled the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Canadian Football League’s championship tilt: he and his pals were holed up in a spacious, Crescentwood abode patterned after National Lampoon’s Animal House, where they watched the game while enjoying a few wobbly pops.
“Everyone was pretty confident of winning (the Bombers’ record that season was 11-4-1 while the Ticats’ was a less-than-intimidating 6-9-1) but oh man, I remember how frighteningly the game started off, when the Ticats went up 14-0, before the Bombers stormed back and crushed them 47-17,” MacPherson, 60, says.
“Afterwards, we went down to Portage and Main and froze our butts off. We didn’t care. It was an awesome win and a really nice memory.”
MacPherson will be tuning in again Sunday when the Bombers and Ticats square off in the 107th Grey Cup. Only this time, he’ll be cheering on Willie Jefferson, Andrew Harris & Co., approximately 1,700 kilometres southwest of where he was the last time the two clubs met for all the marbles.
MacPherson, a Grant Park High School alumnus, belongs to the Canada Colorado Association, a non-profit group that, according to its website, consists of “Canadians and friends of Canada happily living in Colorado.”
By kickoff, close to 80 CCA members, MacPherson included, will have gathered at Sobo 151, a popular Denver watering hole, to catch all the action on one of the bar’s big-screen TVs.
Sunday’s start time — 4 p.m. in the Mountain zone — is proving somewhat inconvenient, says MacPherson, who firmed up plans to attend the gathering with his wife Janet two months ago, irrespective of the combatants.
But a few weeks ago, their 21-year-old son Charlie, who lives in Seattle, told them he was flying to the Mile High City for a weekend visit, and his return flight was scheduled to leave at — wouldn’t you know it? — 4 p.m. Sunday.
“That’s life — family comes first, but we’ve been waiting 29 years to get the Cup back and I didn’t really want to miss most of the game going to and from the airport,” MacPherson says.
“Thankfully, he’s taking one for the team and changed to a later flight. Even though he’s U.S.-born, he’s a true Big Blue fan and will be wearing his Bombers jersey at Sunday’s CCA event.”
Karen Rocznik, another CCA member who used to call Winnipeg home, says the group, about 25 years old, gets together for as many Canuck-related events as possible during the year, including Canada Day and major sporting events such as the NHL’s Heritage Classic; the Jets and Calgary Flames faced off at Regina’s Mosaic Stadium last month.
“I’ve gone to the CCA Grey Cup parties the past three years. I found out about the CCA when I arrived in Denver and was searching out Canadian groups to spend Thanksgiving with,” says Rocznik, a former reporter for CBC and CTV in Winnipeg who’s now the producer of Colorado & Company, a magazine-style news program that airs on Denver’s NBC affiliate.
Rocznik laughs when asked if there are any Winnipeg-centric dishes she wishes she could make appear at their Grey Cup party.
“Oh my God, yes. Old Dutch Rip-L chips with onion dip. And perogies, they’re just not the same out here.”
Andrew Gacek, presently a territory manager for a Denver-based electronics firm, says the best thing about CCA meetups such as Sunday’s is being in the same room with people who share a similar background; folks who don’t look at you strangely when you mention Confusion Corner or Polo Park.
“It’s so cool to hang out with people who remember Terry Fox, appreciate the brilliance of SCTV and grasp why they’re punting on third down,” says Gacek, who grew up in St. James and started following the Bombers in the 1970s, the Ralph “Dieter” Brock era, as he calls it, when he recalls “the kicker getting into a little bit of trouble for getting caught with some weed.” (We think he means Bernie Ruoff.)
As for a Grey Cup shopping list, Gacek would love to see a table laden with Salisbury House nips, fries from dearly departed Kelekis and a few boxes of Robin’s doughnuts. That said, there is one special treat he may trot out on Sunday in honour of the Bombers’ appearance in the big game.
“My brother also lives down here and between the two of us, we have a pretty good hoard of ketchup chips and always determine if an event is ‘ketchup chip-worthy’ before depleting the stash,” he says with a chuckle.
If you find yourself south of the border this weekend and are looking for a place to watch the game, besides Sobo 151 you can head to: the American Sports Saloon in New Orleans, which screens the Grey Cup every year; O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub in Arlington, Va., where the Washington D.C. Area Expat Canadian Meetup Group will convene; or the Horseshoe Tavern in Ellensburg, Wash.
Dave Sanderson was born in Regina but please, don’t hold that against him.