A Friendly Manitoba Grey Cup

FBO CFL Grey Cup 20151129

The 2015 CFL season is in the books, and we start by offering our congratulations to the Edmonton Eskimos and their fans on their Grey Cup Championship. They were the best team all season long and are very deserving champions.

The Ottawa Redblacks and their fans also deserve a nod for everything they accomplished on just their second season back in the league. Their franchise is doing everything right and the future is bright for CFL football in the nation’s capital.

Grey Cup week was a blast as usual, and like every year there just isn’t enough time to do everything you want to, or see everyone you want to see.

With that said, here are some random thoughts and observations on the events that made up a great week of celebrating our country and the league we love.

Friendly Manitoba

The Manitoba moniker couldn’t have been truer during our visit. From the moment we arrived at the airport to moment we left, the people of Winnipeg were welcoming and helpful. The city brought in extra cabs and transportation was never an issue. And of course while the weather was still cold for us west coasters, Mother Nature also cooperated by keeping the temperatures tolerable.

There is something about Grey Cups on the prairies, and this one was no exception. A huge thank you to the people, the volunteers, hotel workers and the Festival committee for a job well done and some tremendous hospitality, even if I heard “BC Sucks” a million times during the week.

The Festival

GCF_2015_logo_4C_gold_no_tagEverything in the Festival was well organized and planned. In keeping with recent Festivals most of the events were centred in the down town core in and around the convention centre, making checking out as many events as we could convenient.

I did notice that most of the team parties were lower attended than usual. I can’t remember the last time you could walk into the Spirit of Edmonton on a Friday or Saturday night without waiting in a lineup. That said, the other teams would do well to look at the Spirit model of securing enough sponsorship to make their events free to enter. The fact is Grey Cup is becoming more and more expensive and $20.00 to enter each party is keeping some folks away.

The BC Lions Den party felt this pinch on Friday evening, and on Saturday dropped their entry from $20.00 to $10.00. The result was a much fuller room and a much better party. Their drink prices were reasonable compared to the convention centre parties and the smaller room was nice as well, giving the event a more cozy feeling. The band was outstanding this year and there were plenty of players and former players on hand to mingle with the fans.

If I could make one suggestion to the Lions and other teams for their parties, it would be that all season ticket holders making the trek to Grey Cup get into the parties free of charge, with a nominal entry fee for other fans.

Commissioner Jeffery Orridge was asked during his State of the League address to the fans about rewarding the devoted fans of this league, and one way to do that would be to make sure this league stays affordable.

Investors Group Field

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IGF is a beautiful stadium with great sight lines for the most part. I was really looking forward to seeing this stadium and it didn’t disappoint. There were some nit-picky things I didn’t like however. Our seats were in the upper deck and our view was obstructed by a railing. And in the upper deck there were just two small washrooms, one at either end for the men. There were two for women as well, but I have no idea how big they were of course. There was also not much for concessions on that level and no TV screens to watch the action while we were waiting in long line-ups.

We actually left our seats for the second half and watched from the concourse of the lower level which features an open design so that you can see the game from any vantage point. All in all it’s a great place to watch a football game, and I hope to return in the warmer months of the season to take in another game there.

The Grey Cup Club

This year marked a new program launched by the CFL called the Grey Cup Club. The league offered 300 “Founding Memberships” for a cost of $50.00 that promised insider details, a welcome reception and hotel deals on future Grey Cups. From what I’ve heard, the response was strong to the idea, so is it worth the annual $50.00 membership?

We received a hat and a membership lanyard labelled “Founding Member”. The reception was held at the Fairmont Hotel and while it was well attended, there was no one there from the league to welcome us, or speak about the club and the vision for it in the future. All members received two free drink tickets, but it would have been nice to be paid a visit by the commissioner or someone from the league at the event.

At this point I will be renewing my membership and we’ll see what happens moving forward. But it was a nice new fresh idea by the league to recognize fans that go to the big game every year.

The Rebranding

newCFLlogoAt the Commissioner’s State of the League address to the media and fans, the re-branding of the league was announced. That #WWMO hash tag you’ve been seeing on Twitter was finally explained to all as “What We’re Made Of”. The new promotional video was very well done, but the new league logo is being met with apprehension and in some cases disgust by fans.

Personally I think the old logo was still current and don’t see the need for the revision. Those that are speaking out are not impressed with the simplicity of the new logo the tiny half of the maple leaf and the partial football that is part of it.

Over time this should subside and with everything the league has put into the re-branding, I wouldn’t expect anything to be reversed. But this is the fan’s league so perhaps the league will reconsider. Re-branding is good at times, but I feel the league could have accomplished this without a logo revision.

The league will also unveil a new website, which is apparently being launched this week, and will feature more comprehensive stats (finally) and a solid fantasy component, which is another way the league wants to attract more fans. It’s not known at this time whether individual team sites will also get a similar makeover, but I look forward to seeing what they’ve come up with.

Overall it was a great week in Winnipeg and the city did a fantastic job of hosting fans from across the country. If you’re a fan of Canadiana and the league, it really should be on your bucket list to attend a Grey Cup week. You won’t be sorry that you did.

In the coming days I will have a recap and post mortem on the season of the BC Lions, as well as some changes I hope to see from the franchise in 2016.

For now, it’s time to relax and recover from another hectic week with the best fans of any league in the world. Because what the league is made of is it’s fans and to all of you who made last week special, I say thank you, and we’ll see you in Toronto in 2016!

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