All streaks come to an end, but not for Art Werier.
For 60 years, Werier didn’t miss a single Winnipeg Blue Bombers home game.
The family had to schedule weddings, birthday celebrations, and all other events around the schedule of Werier’s beloved Blue and Gold.
You hear of athletes who play through bumps, bruises, tears and breaks to remain on the field, but what Werier fought through just to continue to support his team in person was a whole different level of toughness.
"My dad got really, really sick towards the end, but he still didn’t miss a Bomber game. When he first got sick, he was in chemo in the off-season, and his last chemo was scheduled so he could attend the first game of the 2009 season and he did. And he continued to go even up through the time where we had to bring him in a wheelchair," said his daughter Stacy Wyatt.
After 28 years of heartbreak, Werier watched the Bombers hoist the Grey Cup on Nov. 24, 2019, in Calgary on TV from his River Heights home. Soon after, his health worsened to a point where he wouldn’t have been able to take in a game in person if there were any. Werier died on Aug. 21, 2020, at the age of 82 four days after the CFL officially cancelled the 2020 season owing to the pandemic. The last thing Werier would want was for the league to stop playing, but the timing of the cancelled season was rather poetic as it kept Werier’s improbable streak of games in tact.
"One of the biggest things about my father’s life is serendipity. His timing was impeccable. Like he would arrive at an airport late and the plane would be delayed," Stacy said. "…That was his life’s goal, to never miss a game, and the pandemic gave him that."
Werier’s timing was at its best on the table-tennis table. He’s the first, and only, Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame inductee from the sport. He played at the University of Manitoba from 1957-60, won pretty much every title one could win locally, captured the Western Canada Senior Singles crown, and also made it to the semifinals of the Canadian Senior Nationals on three separate occasions. But Werier was inducted into the MBSHOF in 2013 as both an athlete and a builder for good reason. He was on the Manitoba Table Tennis Association (MTTA) board for 22 years and served as president for 10. He was vice-president of the Canadian Table Tennis Association for a decade and held the same role for the International Table Tennis Federation for four years. Table tennis took him to many places as he participated in four World and three Commonwealth Championships, and was a coach, trainer and official at the 1967 Paraplegic Pan Am Games and 1971 Canada Winter Games.
Werier devoted a ton of time to helping others in the sport, as he groomed two Canadian junior champions and conducted hundreds of coaching clinics around the province. But you can’t teach table tennis to the masses without a load of tables. Luckily, he had a few places to store them. After a successful law career where he never lost a case, Werier began to work for the family’s property management company.
"He was the guy who interviewed me for the job here in 1986," said Ron Edwards, MTTA’s longtime executive director. "So, one of the first things was I rented an apartment from him on Arbuthnot Street and sure enough, he had a whole bunch of tables in the basement. It was murder trying to get the tables up these steps, with no elevator, and through this dinky little door."
It was that type of dedication that led to Werier growing a local table tennis league from 30 members and five teams to roughly 300 members and 45 teams. It was the largest league in North America at the time.
"He was responsible for taking the sport, all aspects of it, from its infancy days up to where it is today," Edwards said.
As much as Werier loved the Bombers and table tennis, his 1979 Fiat Spider — which still belongs in the family — might just have been the real apple of his eye.
"His mechanic Tony was treated very well," Stacy said with a laugh. "I think he got flowers once a week."
Werier gave 100 per cent to everything that he loved, but that especially rings true when it comes to his family. He and his wife separated when Stacy and their son Kyle were young, making Werier a single parent at a time where not many men were in that situation. But he relished the role of being a father and of course, would often bring his kids along with him on his table tennis adventures. Stacy and Kyle would eventually move to British Columbia as adults, but that didn’t stop Werier from having a strong bond with the family — especially his four grandchildren: Vance, Levi, Annika and Brittany.
"My dad went to B.C. every six weeks. It was so incredibly important to my dad that they knew him, that they knew their Zaida, that they got to know him and that he had a place in their life and in their memory," said Stacy, who moved back to Winnipeg once when her father got sick.
"He needed that. He made that a priority… When he got sick, he started flying them here. As soon and as often as he could, he would fly the whole family and all the kids to Winnipeg. We did that for a year and a half, two years. He loved his grandchildren."
He was a man who accomplished a lot and had many passions, but for Stacy, it’s her father’s values and mindset that she will remember the most.
"He valued adventure, living life on his own terms, being free, being honest, being able to just be happy," she said.
"The greatest lesson he ever taught us was that happiness was a choice. Every day he chose happiness."
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.