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No Riders? No Lions? It’s still Grey Cup

"Grey Cup has always been the must-watch event on my annual sports calendar. It’s only rivalled by the Kentucky Derby. Both are ahead of the Super Bowl." An opinion piece.
A column about football.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders might be out of the CFL playoffs, and the CFL’s championship game might feature the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, but we should still look forward to this year’s Grey Cup.

The Blue Bombers will look to win their second straight title over the host Tiger-Cats, the team they bested two years ago in the last CFL championship game.  

Hamilton was the heavy favourite two years ago, but Winnipeg pulled off the upset in what was, essentially, a butt-kicking. 

Winnipeg will be the favourite this year, and you know Hamilton will be looking for revenge.

We can only hope that this year’s Grey Cup will be a great game. Hopefully, it rivals the contest we saw the last time it was in Hamilton.

It was November 1996, and the Toronto Argonauts defeated the Edmonton Eskimos 43-37. It was like watching two heavyweights trading blows for 12 rounds. Edmonton’s Eddie Brown had what might have been the best catch in CFL history, and it was a showcase of how wonderful our game can be when played right by great teams.

And it was snowing. Lots of snow. The fact that those teams delivered an instant classic in those adverse conditions added to the greatness of the game.

Those of us old enough to remember the uncertainty of the CFL in the 1990s will recall that our league was on the cusp of folding each year. Some thought the 1996 Grey Cup would be the last. It would have been a hell of a swan song.

The Winnipeg-Hamilton rematch likely won’t be that good, but let’s hope it’s better than their championship game from two years ago. 

Grey Cup has always been the must-watch event on my annual sports calendar. It’s only rivalled by the Kentucky Derby. Both are ahead of the Super Bowl.

If Canada is in the gold medal game of the World Junior Hockey Championship, then I know what I’m doing Jan. 5. But I’m not going out of my way to watch the U.S. and Sweden play for gold. 

As for the Stanley Cup Final, yeah, it’s fantastic, but it’s also in June, and two American teams won’t get me to sit inside for three hours when it’s 20 C outside at 8 p.m. 

Some of my favourite memories have been at Grey Cups. I’ve been to three of them. The 1987 game, between Edmonton and Toronto, is, for my money, the best football game ever played in B.C. I’ve had media credentials for two in Regina, including the 2013 Grey Cup. That game was one-sided, but being on the field after the game was one of the coolest moments of my career. 

And then there’s the championships for my beloved B.C. Lions. I’ve been around for five of six Lions’ titles. Since I’m a Vancouver Canucks fan, I don’t get to celebrate Stanley Cup championships. But I’ve had Grey Cup titles to savour, most notably the 1994 Grey Cup. 

There have been better football games than the 1994 Grey Cup. Better Grey Cups. Better Grey Cups in Vancouver. The 1994 game was not well played.

But there’ll never be another football game in Canada with that kind of emotion and intensity, because it was the host B.C. Lions versus the all-American Baltimore CFLers. There was no way the Canadians on B.C. were going to allow the Americans to come into Vancouver and leave with our trophy. 

I don’t know what to expect this year. A Grey Cup in December could be unpredictable, especially in Hamilton. Not as unpredictable as a Grey Cup in Regina would be, but still hard to project.

Thanks to the late start to the season, and the need to have a 14-game season, we’re going to watch the title game two or three weeks later than normal.

I’ll probably pull for Winnipeg, because they have more players that I like than Hamilton. But if it’s a great, well-played game with some memorable moments, and if one of the best games we’ve seen in the CFL this year, then I’ll be happy, regardless of who wins.