After disappointing flights home from the Grey Cup the last two years, the Stampeders finally triumphantly hoisted the Cup on home soil in Calgary.
The Calgary Stampeders held a victory rally on Tuesday afternoon to celebrate a 27-16 win in Sunday’s Grey Cup against the Ottawa Redblacks. The 2018 celebration followed two consecutive losses in the Grey Cup in 2016 to Ottawa and 2017 to Toronto.
On stage there was a buzz among players, team officials and even Mayor Naheed Nenshi about the opportunity facing the Stamps to win another championship, this time on home turf, when the city hosts the Grey Cup in 2019.
For the fans in the crowd they buzzed with excitement over this possibility too. But many were also relieved that the Stamps were able to bring home their second Canadian Football League championship trophy in five years after two failed attempts.
Mike Hassel, a Stampeders fan for more than 35 years, travelled to watch the Stamps play in the Grey Cup in 2012, 2016 and 2017, only to see the team lose each game. On Sunday, he was in Edmonton to finally watch his team win the Grey Cup live.
“Oh, it was beautiful. My three-year losing curse was finally broken last Sunday,” Hassel said.
“It was just sheer joy. I lost my voice almost. It was just amazing to finally see it, we win the Cup. And to see the team celebrating on the field, unlike other times I’ve watched where it’s just despair.”
This year’s championship, won on enemy territory just three hours north of Calgary in Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium, was the Stamps’ fifth Grey Cup appearance in seven seasons. But it was only their second victory of that stretch, having won in 2014, for a total of eight Grey Cups in the club’s history.
Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was named the Grey Cup MVP for the second time in his career, after throwing for 253 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday. Mitchell is just the second Stamps quarterback in team history to win two Grey Cups with the team.
Meanwhile, Vancouver-born wide receiver Lemar Durant was named this year’s Most Outstanding Canadian in the Grey Cup after grabbing four receptions for 30 yards and a touchdown for Calgary.
But, despite so much talk about the Stampeders’ expectation to return to the Grey Cup next year, the Stampeders faced questions about how many of their players would return for next season. Mitchell, for one, said he had no idea if he’ll be back next year, adding that he wanted to pursue tryouts with NFL teams next season.
“At this point, if I sign that contract right now, it would be long-term to commit to this city and this team for a long time,” Mitchell said. “Before I do that, I have to know. I’m an athlete, I’m a competitive man, I grew up in Houston, Texas and I got to know.”
The reality of off-season contract negotiations will soon set in for Calgary, but on Tuesday the city’s downtown core was packed with fans happy to see their city finally pick up a win.
“I think this is awesome for the city. The city has definitely needed a pick-me-up in certain ways. I feel like Calgary has been feeling down on itself,” said Ashley Bokor, a Stampeders fan at Tuesday’s rally.
“But I really think this is something that has brought a positive light back to Calgarians, and citizens can feel a little bit happier about things heading into 2019.”