For the first time in nine years, the Grey Cup is going to be played in Saskatchewan.
Granted, the level of excitement isn’t what it was when the game was last here in 2013. In fact, you could argue the excitement for the game is the lowest it’s been for the four editions in Saskatchewan.
When it was in Saskatchewan in 1995, it was here for the first time. Eight years later, the Saskatchewan Roughriders lost in the Western Final. And in 2013, the Riders played in the game as the host team, and proceed to throttle the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the championship game in what was a thrilling moment for the legion of Rider Nation members.
This year’s Rider team was far from championship material. They went 6-10 and missed the playoffs after reaching the West Division Final the previous two seasons. Their offensive line was rather ineffective, reinforcing the fact that success in professional football is predicated on your ability to succeed in the trenches.
I’m not saying the Riders are a Grey Cup team with a revamped offensive line, but it’s hard to succeed when your offensive line is your biggest weakness.
Also hurting the excitement for the game is the half-time show. They didn’t announce it until a couple of weeks ago. And the performers don’t scream “worth the wait.” Adding to my lack of eagerness about half time is that two of the three musicians aren’t Canadian.
I’ve long maintained that if our taxpayer dollars are going to go to an event like Grey Cup, the performers need to be Canadian.
I know you want a marquee act for half-time, but they should be Canadian. Maybe I’ll find a replay of the Arkells playing last year in Hamilton. Or of Shania Twain entering via dogsled at the 2017 Grey Cup in Ottawa.
I’m far more excited about who will sing the national anthem. Teagan Littlechief, the gifted performer from the White Bear First Nations, will be singing O Canada. She has been the anthem singer for the Saskatchewan Roughriders for years. And she has earned this opportunity.
(Those of us who were at the first Estevan Idol competition in 2002 marvelled at her talent as she sang Broken Wing to win the final).
People in the southeast and elsewhere in Saskatchewan know what a talent she is. By the time the Grey Cup starts, anyone watching the game on TV will know who she is.
Regardless of your level of excitement for the game, Saskatchewan is still hosting the Grey Cup. It’s still our country’s greatest festival. And it’s still something to be excited about, regardless of whether you’ll be at the game or the festivities.
There’s a lot going on throughout the week. People are coming from across the country. Others will be heading to the game for the festivities.
You’ll have team hospitality suites, cabarets and other parties. Regina’s hospitality sector will be ready to welcome the country. Their hotels, bars and restaurants will want to leave a positive impression. And so will the other businesses in the community.
(If you’re in Regina, I highly recommend dropping by one or two of Regina’s craft breweries. Or all of them. They have some dandies).
We might see history made this year. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers will be trying to be the first time since the Edmonton Eskimos dynasty of the late 1970s and early 1980s to win three straight Grey Cups. (Edmonton went on to win five). Standing in their way will be the Toronto Argonauts.
You can be sure there will be a lot of Bomber fans at the game. And you can be sure a lot of Rider fans will be cheering against the Bombers. So there will be more fans cheering for the Argos at a game in Regina than at any Argos’ game in Toronto this year.
If you’re going to the Grey Cup, enjoy it. If you’re on the fence about whether to go since the Riders didn’t make it, I hope you’ll still attend. It’s worth going to and enjoying, regardless of who’s playing, even if it’s supposed to be freezing cold once the game begins.
And if you’re going up for the parties and the other festivities, have a great time. Just remember to revel safely.
It’s the Grey Cup. It’s an incredible Canadian sports tradition. And it’s going to be a great week for Saskatchewan, even if we have to watch a team from Winnipeg celebrate with the championship once the game is done.