Grey Cup returns to Calgary a decade after Riders nightmare at McMahon

A decade after the 13th man trashed the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ Grey Cup hopes, the CFL’s championship game will return to Calgary.

Calgary was unveiled as the host city of the 2019 Grey Cup on Wednesday, which keeps the CFL’s showcase game in Alberta for two straight years. Edmonton gets this year’s championship game Nov. 25.

In the 2009 Grey Cup at McMahon Stadium, Montreal Alouettes kicker Damon Duval missed a 43-yard field goal for the win, but the Roughriders were penalized for too many men on the field on the play.

Duval was good on his do-over from the 33-yard line for a 28-77 win, which devastated Rider Nation.

Calgary also hosted the Grey Cup in 1975, 1993 and 2000. CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie’s Edmonton Eskimos won it in 1993.

“I’m confident this city is going to put on a great Grey Cup and will make it all work,” Ambrosie said at Wednesday’s announcement. “I played in one myself in 1993 and it’s one of the greatest experiences of my life.”

Large football and hockey events in Calgary inevitably highlight tension between the current city council and Calgary Sports and Entertainment, which owns the NHL’s Flames and CFL’s Stampeders, over the aging Saddledome and McMahon.

Calgary’s football stadium, built in 1960, is by far the oldest in the nine-team league.

A 2014 retrofit to 35,360-seat McMahon replaced the turf, installed a giant scoreboard, opened up the north-end concourse for concessions and added portable washroom units.

A new football stadium was part of the CalgaryNext arena project proposed by CSEC, but the stadium moved to the backburner during talks of a ‘Plan B’ location for the arena.

Those talks collapsed when CSEC withdrew from negotiations.

Flames president Ken King declined to speak with media Wednesday about McMahon, while Stampeders president and GM John Hufnagel said temporary suites in the end zone will be added for Grey Cup game.

The Stampeders lack an indoor practice facility, which could be an issue for the participating teams at the end of November. Snow fell on Calgary two days prior to the 2009 Grey Cup.

“Right now, we have what we have,” Hufnagel said. “Who knows what might occur over the next 20 months? I’m always hopeful.”

Alberta Minister of Culture and Tourism Ricardo Miranda was at Wednesday’s news conference announcing the province’s $1.5 million contribution.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi sent his acknowledgement via a video message.

Tourism Calgary chief executive officer Cindy Ady said the 2009 Grey Cup created $35 million in economic activity in Calgary and brought over 32,000 visitors to the city.

“There’s a lot of things that go into the bidding process,” Ambrosie said. “What we are asking our teams to do is think about how do we make the festival bigger? How do we make the fan experience bigger?

“We want a fan that comes once to commit to coming for the rest of their lives.”

The Stampeders have had their own recent Grey Cup heartbreak, losing the 2017 and 2016 editions to underdog Toronto and Ottawa respectively.

“As a football team, our goal every year is to play in the Grey Cup and win the championship,” Hufnagel said.

“There’s always that pressure when it’s at home. We’re looking forward to the opportunity of the possibility of being in our own locker room that afternoon.”

The Stampeders will have to sign quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell to a contract extension in order for him to have a shot at playing in Grey Cup 2019. He’s entering the final season of his contract in Calgary.

“A lot of guys in the locker room, bucket-list wise, we’d like to be able to cross off winning the Grey Cup in your home town, in your home city, so it would be an awesome experience to make that happen,” Mitchell said.