103rd Grey Cup: Winterpeg was Rockin’

#TwineTime + #103GC = Priceless Sports Weekend

Oh Grey Cup weekend….you are always one helluva experience.  For those who have never ventured off to a rival football city to bare witness to the Canadian Football League championship game, consider putting this on your sports bucket list.  This year I celebrated a personal milestone Grey Cup, my 5th Anniversary!  I have been to Grey Cup games in Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto and Regina. I have seen every team play (my Riders twice actually) in the Grey Cup, minus Edmonton and Ottawa.  What are the odds Edmonton and Ottawa would be the two teams taking the field in this year’s championship game?  Well to celebrate the milestone event, this year I ventured to Canada’s version of the Windy City: Winnipeg, Manitoba!  Or, as is commonly referred to by Canadians across the nation, Winterpeg.  It gets COLD here!

How you gear up for Grey Cup #GoRiders

Now for those familiar with the CFL and my passion for my home town Saskatchewan Roughriders, you would understand heading to Winnipeg is literally walking straight into enemy territory.  The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are our main rivals.  We hate them!  They hate us!  To walk around downtown Winnipeg sporting the green and white all weekend is asking for trouble.

But here lies the specialty of Grey Cup weekend.  All you see is fans from ALL teams.  From the bright orange of Lions fans to Stamps red to black & yellow TiCats to Argonauts blue…..the full flag of CFL colors is on display.  While all season us fans debate back and forth why our team is better than your team, once we all convene on one location at the end of November, everyone becomes one fan….a CFL fan!  Sure there is the odd “Riders Suck” or “Bombers Suck” chant going on but it is all in good fun.  At the end of the day, we are all fans of the league and in true Canadian fashion we get together every end of November to enjoy a few choice cold beverages and celebrate together.

As I sit down to try and write about my fan experience for Grey Cup, I truly struggle in how to capture the ambience of the festival.  Can words really describe what it is like to be at the Spirit of Edmonton or Riderville?  Can a few sentences accurately capture the new friends you meet?  Will stringing together words depict  the experience of being at the Grey Cup game itself?  Nope!  Not at all!  So, in a #TwineTime first, rather than spout off more words, I am going a different direction.

I took over 300 pictures in 3 days.  Don’t worry, I will save all of you from the “grandparents trip to Arizona” slideshow but I thought perhaps just putting a few pictures in this blog space would better represent what the Grey Cup experience is.  I added captions to the photos for perspective of course.  I would recommend just clicking on the 1st pic and scrolling through if interested (don’t judge on the visual layout ok? LOL).  Easier to actually see the pictures.  Enjoy….

The Spirit of Edmonton is THE place to be! #SpiritYEG


The famous Redblacks Super Fans, LumberJoes, were in the house


Although Esks fans maybe weren’t as impressed


You even get Twitter wall famous from CFL Podcast of the Year winners


When in Winnipeg, need to see the Jets!


Playing some CFL Trivia Jenga, won a free football 🙂


Time for CFL Cheer Extravaganza!


The Nissan Street Festival is always fun for fans of all ages


Never miss the Riders Spirit Squad #GoRiders


Hanging out at Mike Reilly’s locker in the Shaw tent… don’t let my face fool you, I am a fan of his LOL


Always excited for 1 of my fav Riders!!


Yup, we are best friends now LOL


Been a fan of Hank for years. Met him & his wife a few years ago at Grey Cup, they are both #beauties


The Santa Claus/Grey Cup parade…at night?


The calm before the storm at Riderville


Yes, yes you do!


Another night at #SpiritYEG


We were here every night


Best party in town every Grey Cup…and free!


Welcome to IG Field


The host for #103GC game


You should be HERE!


#TwineTime meets #103GC


Dean Brody kicking off the festivities


Here comes the cup!


YOUR Eastern Champs: Ottawa Redblacks


YOUR Western Champs: Edmonton Eskimos


Pre-game prayer for Esks players


Opening Kick Off…Game On!


Opening drive…Opening TD for Redblacks


Reilly gets the Esks on the board though


Halftime Show: Fall Out Boy


Not bad seats either…they were just above us


Mmmmm fire = heat! More please 🙂


Fireworks for everyone


Hank driving the boys down the field


Reilly driving the game winning TD


Victory Formation: Eskimos!


Congrats Esks!


We just met at the game 🙂


Celebration Time


Confetti for everyone 🙂


Time for the Cup


Selfie love with Esks FB Calvin McCarty


FB Calvin McCarty celebrating after the W


YEG Mayor Don Iveson & MVP Mike Reilly share a bro hug


Hanging with MVP Mike Reilly after the game 🙂


Post Game Party Time! Yay for scoring free tickets 🙂


Drink up CFL fans


My new best friend Jacquie & I enjoying the Post Game Party


Riders + Bombers + Esks = Great CFL Fans!


On your knees Esks fans for Bomber girls


Pyramid attempt gone wrong LOL


My sketchy hotel LOL


3:30 a.m. finally home, flight in 2.5 hours


Sleep Time..I miss my king sized bed 🙁

As noted at the top of this post, the 103rd Grey Cup host city is often called Winterpeg.  Well it did not live up to this name this weekend, thankfully!  Sure it was a bit cold due to the wind but game time temperatures hovering around -7C (-14C with wind) is nothing to stray away from.  Dress appropriately (or keep drinking more) and you survive quite fine.

Hopefully the images above help capture how Grey Cup is a historic celebration across our great country.  It is a place where the entire nation truly does unite as one in the spirit of the game.  Grey Cup really is everything the Super Bowl should be but isn’t.  The designation of each team hosting their own party, or “spirit” room, is quite unique.  Imagine every NFL team hosting a party every Super Bowl?  Crazy!  In the CFL, we do it!  Live music, drinks flowing, crowds of CFL supporters…what more do you want?  Oh players, alumni and VIP guests?  They show up as well.  Want to meet a team GM?  Yup, they are there too.  I should know…I stood next to one for most of an evening.  The fans, players, team personal, cheer team members all come together as one.  There is no extra security needed.  This is Canada!  Everyone walks around together and enjoys the celebration.  In 5 years of attending the Grey Cup festival, do you know how many fights I have witnessed?  NONE!  Nope, not one.  I think this is unique to Canada and Grey Cup.  Now I cannot say drama doesn’t happen but having not witnessed it in 5 years, in 5 different cities, at various parties and celebrations….I’d say my sample size is fairly accurate.

Next year’s Grey Cup will be played in Toronto.  If you have never been, I highly recommend checking it out.  Take in the weekend festivities.  Visit as many team spirit rooms as possible.  Step outside your comfort zone and start conversations with random strangers.  Most importantly…..HAVE FUN!!!

Maybe I will see some of you in a year from now partying your ass off…..

James Runge

Spark Sports Analyst