Bombers president balances sting of rough season with pride of hosting Grey Cup

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Wade Miller is still feeling the sting of the Blue Bombers not playing in Sunday’s Grey Cup game on home soil.

But the CFL team’s president and CEO has to shelf that disappointment as the club focuses on hosting a week of fun events leading up to the 103rd championship game between the Edmonton Eskimos and Ottawa Redblacks in Winnipeg.

“You play every year to play in the Grey Cup, whether that’s in your city or another city, so that sting doesn’t go away,” Miller said on Monday.

On a bright note, he expected the last 1,000 tickets to the game to be scooped up, putting a sold-out crowd of 36,634 fans in the stands at three-year-old Investors Group Field.

The Eskimos haven’t played in the Grey Cup since 2005, while the Redblacks are headed to the championship in their second season after last year’s 2-16 debut.

“The phones started ringing yesterday after the game and there’s a lot of excitement in Ottawa,” Miller said of the Redblacks’ 35-28 victory over Hamilton in Sunday’s East Division final.

Miller, a former Bombers fullback, entered the league in 1995, two years before 40-year-old Ottawa quarterback Henry Burris.

“They put a whole team together around him and he stayed healthy for the whole year,” Miller said. “It’s going to be good to see him perform and it’ll be a great game on Sunday.”

It’s the fourth time Winnipeg is hosting the championship. The 2006 game drew 44,756 fans, 1998 had 34,157 and 51,985 fans filled the old stadium in 1991.

Weather is always a talker for a Grey Cup in Manitoba, but Mother Nature may give fans and players a reprieve.

Environment Canada’s forecast for Winnipeg on Sunday calls for sun with a high of -5 C and a low around the double-digit mark.

Grey Cup Festival organizers have events starting Thursday that are indoors and outside in heated tents. Festival president Jason Smith and Miller are excited about the free events being offered.

Many are taking place around and inside the downtown University of Winnipeg campus, including more than 20 bands and interactive activities.

“You’re going to get to be the CFL athlete and do everything that athletes do,” Miller said of one of the fan displays. “It hasn’t been done like this at any other Grey Cup.”

Main events such as the 2,200-seat gala dinner, alumni luncheon and CFL awards, where Burris is a finalist for most outstanding player, are sold out.

“By some point this week, all of (the ticketed events) are going to end up being sold out, which is pretty amazing,” Smith said.

The teams arrive in Winnipeg on Tuesday.

– CP