Henry Burris is rarely at a loss for words, but even he had trouble describing his feelings as a crowd of thousands came out in support of the Ottawa Redblacks.
Fans lined up to witness Ottawa’s first sports championship parade in 40 years as the Redblacks celebrated their 39-33 overtime Grey Cup victory over the Calgary Stampeders on Sunday.
“Being able to experience this and see the number of people that turned out and the waves of people lined up I honestly had a tear come to my eye,” said Burris, who was using crutches to get around. “You truly have no idea when you talk about 40 years and a city that loves football the way people do here in Ottawa. To hear the jubilation and the excitement of the people and to be a part of this is like a dream come true.”
Burris was named the game’s MVP as the 41-year-old veteran delivered one of the best performances of his career despite playing with an injured left knee.
With local school buses cancelled due to early morning freezing rain, children were out in abundance to cheer on its local heroes. Grandparents who had once cheered for the Ottawa Rough Riders, who won the city’s last Grey Cup in 1976, were now excited to share memories with a whole new generation of football fans.
“I was one year old the last time they won a Grey Cup here,” said Burris. “To be a part of helping bring the Grey Cup back is something we dreamed about when we signed to come here and to actually know we made it happen is totally awesome.”
The parade culminated with a fan rally in Aberdeen Square at Lansdowne Park.
Players were introduced to the boisterous crowd and some even brought their own children on stage to experience the moment, including Burris who dedicated the win to his family.
Burris, who earned the loudest cheers, told the crowd he would likely need surgery on his left knee. The crowd began chanting “one more year,” but he said that he would wait until the new year before making a decision on his future.
Like Burris, offensive lineman Jon Gott is one of the few players who have been with the Redblacks since day one and to be a part of Tuesday’s festivities is not something he’ll soon forget.
“I don’t think anyone in the league thought we’d do what we did in three years,” said Gott. “It was rough playing that first season and then they brought in guys last year and we built on it and now we’re Grey Cup champions. The parade was spectacular and to be a part of it was a once in a lifetime experience. It was awesome.”
Coach Rick Campbell, known for his calm demeanour, was high-fiving fans along the parade route and later led the crowd in a “Let’s go Redblacks” chant.
“This was an unbelievable day for all of us,” Campbell said. “I’m just so proud to be a part of this whole thing and be a Redblack. As we came down Bank St. you realized you were part of something that’s bigger than yourself and I’m so proud to call Ottawa home.”
Ottawa hosts the Grey Cup next year.