IT was a Monday morning, the day after the Winnipeg Blue Bombers snapped their 28-year Grey Cup championship drought, but there were no signs of the celebration slowing down.
"The morning after, it seemed like the night continued to me. I didn’t sleep for a few days. I don’t think many people got more than a couple hours of sleep that night," recalled Bombers all-star linebacker Adam Bighill on Monday.
"The party was still alive, everyone was still excited, and the shirts were still off. It was quite the party. Everyone was still full of energy and it proceeded that way for days and all the way through the parade. It was nuts."
Fast forward to this year’s post-Grey Cup Monday and well, not only was Bighill’s shirt on, it was tucked in. He was up at 5 a.m. to train in his garage before heading to his office job at Wellington Altus Private Wealth, where he works as an investment adviser.
That’s not exactly as memorable as last year’s Monday in late November, but at least Bighill got some rest and didn’t have to worry about a headache this time around.
However, Sunday, which was supposed to be the 108th Grey Cup game at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, was still a memorable day for a pair of die-hard Blue Bombers fans thanks to Bighill.
Making a trip to the Grey Cup, regardless of whether the Bombers are playing, has been an annual tradition for Lisa Fourneaux and Miles Martin for well over a decade. The game itself is obviously the main attraction, but the annual festivities put on by all nine CFL teams throughout the week, such as the Lions Den Team Party and the Spirit of Edmonton Team Party, is what has Fourneaux and Martin hooked.
"Because we couldn’t go this year, I kind of wanted to re-enact our Grey Cup week," said Fourneaux, who’s had Bombers season tickets for 30 years.
"So for a couple weeks ahead of time, I was making all the signs for all the venues that we go to. So, every day and night, we re-created another hospitality room event that we go to at Grey Cup. It was really just supposed to be for my partner Miles and I, but we posted one on Facebook and it just sort of took on a life of its own."
Their dedication, which also included dressing up to match each team’s special events, didn’t go unnoticed.
Bighill caught news of what the couple was doing and was contacted by a friend of the couple’s. On Sunday afternoon, Bighill and his wife Kristina surprised Fourneaux and Martin with a socially distanced visit outside their home.
"What a shocker it is when he and his wife Kristina, who’s absolutely lovely, are walking up your front walk," Fourneaux said. "You’re just like ‘What the hell? This is so amazing.’ It was just amazing. They were really awesome, kind and generous with their time. It was really a cool thing."
Bighill didn’t show up empty handed as he brought a deck of autographed cards and even took off his Grey Cup ring and let Fourneaux try it on.
"We thought it was pretty unique that they were putting all that together and putting a lot of effort into it and trying to recreate the excitement of Grey Cup week," said Bighill, who lives in Winnipeg year-round with his family.
"We decided we’d stop by, give a socially distanced hello and take a picture and let them know we appreciate their support. At the end of the day, the CFL has given me so much and it’s largely because of the fans. To be able to give back and do random things like this to show appreciation for what they do and how they support us is kind of the least I can do."
Bighill also took time on Sunday to watch last year’s championship game, which saw the Bombers come out with a 33-12 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He admits he’s watched the game a few times this year.
But by no means does that mean he’s been doing nothing but sitting in front of the TV in recent months. With so many people facing financial burdens owing to COVID-19, he’s had a lot of people reach out to him for help. His career outside of football continues to grow, but his ability to crunch numbers may also help him get back on the gridiron as he’s in his first year as the Bombers’ CFL Players’ Association representative. He’s cautiously optimistic about a 2021 season as time is on the league’s side and anticipates there’ll be more answers early into next year, assuming lockdown restrictions begin to ease up and more progress is made on vaccines.
"I’m excited to be a part of that amongst such an important year for the league and for the players. I’ll be having a decently big hands-on role in seeing and trying to help structure where everything goes, or at least, have some input," Bighill said.
"I think at the end of the day the CFL kind of alluded to the fact that we need to look at the business model and we need to make sure it makes sense and that’s kind of what 2021 is all about. It’s all about putting forth a plan that financially makes sense to make this league progress and get back on the field."
As much fun as Fourneaux and Martin had fun recreating their favourite trip, they’re hoping they don’t find themselves in the same position next year. They’re just two of the many Canadians who are crossing their fingers that the CFL will be able to get back on the field in 2021, but after this week, they’ll be crossing them twice as hard.
"Boy were were ever done after (this week). We were exhausted," Fourneaux said with a laugh.
"I’m telling you right now, I’m leaving it to the professionals next year. I’m never complaining about an entry fee or a ticket price ever again because it takes a lot to pull that off, let me tell you."
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.