Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/11/2015 (1680 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Maybe you’re wondering why there were folks dressed as voyageurs Thursday pushing a Red River cart carrying a big, silver mug to the Manitoba Legislative Building.
Or, perhaps, you’ve stumbled upon small pockets of revellers wearing jerseys of the defunct Baltimore Stallions — or even others wearing the logo of the Atlantic Schooners, a football team that never existed.
You might even catch a glimpse of a man who has spray painted himself gold, holding a sheaf of wheat, who will enthusiastically tell you he’s the Golden Boy.
Don’t be afraid.
OK, be a little afraid. Because the Grey Cup festivities, and all the bedlam they sometimes entail, have arrived in Winnipeg, which will Sunday host the Ottawa Redblacks and Edmonton Eskimos in the 103rd CFL championship game.
So in case you haven’t before been exposed to the Grey Cup-week experience — and if you are a fan of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, that’s quite possible — we present this primer to catch you up on the basics that will allow you to offer some insight should you find yourself at a party for the big game (or stuck in an elevator downtown with the aforementioned Golden Boy).
And whatever your plans for Grey Cup weekend, we suggest you at least get into the spirit of things à la Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman, who Wednesday stood at the podium of the legislature steps to begin the proceedings.
"Are there any Riders fans here?" the mayor began. "Then I’ll speak slowly."
HISTORY OF THE CUP IN WINNIPEG
This is the fourth time Winnipeg has hosted a Grey Cup. The first was in 1991, at the old Winnipeg Stadium (may she rest in peace), where the temperature at opening kickoff between the Toronto Argonauts and Calgary Stampeders (won by the Argos 36-21) was -17 C, one of the coldest Grey Cups in league history. The game was considered a rousing success, at least once everyone thawed out.
In subsequent occasions — 1998 and 2006 — weather was not a factor. It shouldn’t be Sunday, either, as forecasters are predicting a high of -4 C — slightly above normal for Nov. 29.
But forecasters also predicted the Blue Bombers would make the playoffs this year. So there you go.
SPEAKING OF THE BOMBERS...
From the outset, the Bombers were hoping to sell 40,000 Grey Cup tickets, which included about 5,000 temporary seats at Investors Group Field. But those plans were scrapped due to slow sales.
Even earlier this week, there were some 1,000 (of the 34,858 available) tickets left, and hundreds more available on websites such as Kijiji — mostly offered by Bombers fans who paid upwards of $400 (pre-tax) per ticket. By Friday afternoon, the game was sold out.
The problem of lagging ticket sales, of course, was a total buzz kill 5-13 Bombers season that didn’t have locals jumping at the opportunity to shell out hundreds of dollars to shiver for three hours watching two out-of-town teams play in late November. Not even the lure of the Rum Hut could placate them.
Making matters worse, the archrival Saskatchewan Roughriders finished 3-15, which meant our fellow Prairie stubble-jumpers — who travel better than any CFL supporters — weren’t about to come to the rescue.
We’re just lucky Winnipeg was able to avoid the embarrassment of a CFL rarity: a Grey Cup game that doesn’t sell out.
There could have been some fallout, boy.
SPEAKING OF FALL OUT BOY...
Regardless of your team affiliation, one of the most important aspects of any Grey Cup is you must have an opinion on the halftime entertainment.
If there’s any doubt, proclaim that (insert band name here) sucks. That seems to be the prevailing wisdom, whether it’s the Nylons (probably), Justin Bieber (especially) or Nickelback (indubitably).
This year’s performers, Fall Out Boy, are a punk rock/pop group fresh off winning favourite alternative band at last week’s American Music Awards — after which they may or may not have celebrated by shouting, "We’re going to Winnipeg!"
So, not bad.
And before you hit Twitter decrying this choice, remember the halftime entertainment for the 1998 Grey Cup in Winnipeg was "eurodance" group Love Inc.
OF LOBSTERS, ESKIMOS AND COWBOYS
The unique aspect of the Grey Cup is tradition.
And by tradition, of course, we mean parties that are the blurry backbone of every championship week. There’s everything from Touchdown Manitoba (a giant social) to the Atlantic Schooners Down East Kitchen Party, where fans of a team that has been only a dream for decades serve up lobster rolls and East Coast music. Most of the festivities this year are at a one-stop locale, the RBC Convention Centre. But it’s worth noting the Spirit of Edmonton, long a popular destination during Grey Cup week, is at the Victoria Inn Hotel.
According to sources, these team-sponsored events can involve the consumption of alcohol. We strongly suggest responsible drinking.
However, in the event the morning after might be a bit hazy, as a public service we conducted a very unofficial poll to compile a list of the best hangover breakfast/lunch joints within a short distance of downtown.
The results: The Don on Broadway, the Nook Diner on Sherbrook Street, Falafel Place on Corydon Avenue, Johnny’s on Marion Street, Garwood Grill on Pembina Highway, Seine River Café on Provencher Boulevard, any Stella’s and, since this is Winnipeg, any Salisbury House.And last but not least, the Breakfast of Champions at the Tallest Poppy: two pieces of cold pizza, a Caesar and two Advil for $13.95.
DON’T FORGET THE GAME
Of course, when you invite the country to your Grey Cup party, you can’t run out of food. This is what is expected to be consumed Sunday at IGF (not including specialty outlets at the stadium):
— 2,500 hotdogs
— 600 foot-long hotdogs
— 700 smokies
— 8,170 chicken fingers
— 1,800 kilograms of fries
Really, who knew chickens had so many fingers?
Bombers spokeswoman Kim Babij-Gesell did the math: "Between the hotdogs and the foot-long dogs, we estimated that to be about 17,500 inches of hotdog, which would span the length of five CFL football fields," she noted.
Organizers also expect to sell upwards of 12,847 cans of beer and 6,073 draft beer cups stadium-wide, along with more than 2,000 bar shots at the Rum Hut alone.
AND, FINALLY, THE GREY CUP
One last little story. It’s about that Grey Cup.
Most Canadians know what the silver trophy — originally commissioned in 1909 by then-governor general Earl Albert Grey — looks like by heart. It’s majestic. It’s a national heirloom.
It’s been stolen, broken twice (including during the B.C. Lions celebration in Winnipeg in 2006) and even taken hostage.
But here’s a little-known fact: it’s not the original. Not really.
You see, Grey ordered the original trophy in 1908 from silversmiths in Birmingham, England. When it finally arrived, he was unimpressed, to say the least.
"When it made its appearance, it was very underwhelming," said Kathleen Christianson, acting director of the Royal Canadian Artillery Museum, based in Shilo. "It was plain, very small and slightly damaged."
Grey was too embarrassed to present the trophy to the winners of the Dominion amateur rugby football champion University of Toronto Varsity Blues in 1909. So he quickly ordered another one.
Grey kept the original and more than a decade later bestowed it on the Royal Canada Artillery. Said Christianson: "He pulled it out of the closet and regifted it."
The trophy was presented annually as an efficiency award by the RCA to soldiers.
Meanwhile, the Grey Cup has for the last century been dutifully polished, escorted by RCMP and become an iconic symbol of Canadiana.
And Sunday, it will be awarded to the victors for the 103rd time. In Winnipeg.
If you see the Golden Boy, just smile and tell him: "Maybe next year."
Randy Turner spent much of his journalistic career on the road. A lot of roads. Dirt roads, snow-packed roads, U.S. interstates and foreign highways. In other words, he got a lot of kilometres on the odometer, if you know what we mean.
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