Drought finally ends in Calgary, Bombers crowned Grey Cup champions

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

The 107th Grey Cup has now come and gone.

There was no better example of the oldest of football adages.

Six sacks and seven turnovers generated from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers has ended the 29-year drought.

The first guy to get his hands on the Grey Cup after head coach Mike O’Shea was long time defensive tackle Jake Thomas, who had been waiting his entire career to get to the big game, let alone win it.

“It’s a surreal moment, like it’s not even real,” Thomas said after the game “It’s been eight long years to get here and this is worth every moment.”

Then Thomas dusted off an old school football cliche with a twist: “Defence wins championships, but having Andrew Harris doesn’t hurt.”

Harris had 169 all purpose offensive yards to go with a pair of scores becoming the first player ever to capture both the Most Outstanding Canadian and Most Valuable Player awards.

However, as good as Harris was on this day it was the defence that secured Winnipeg’s 11th Grey Cup Championship. To a man, members of this championship defence credited a late season bye week with the time the team needed to be ready for this playoff run.

“It’s always great to have a bye week at the end of the season so we can go into the playoffs fresh. We knew we were going on the road and would have to physically dominate our opponents and we did that,” linebacker Adam Bighill said.

“Coach Richie (Hall) did a great job of helping us execute these game plans, but it came down to all the hard work, putting it in, and knowing how we were going to stop all these offences.”

Most Outstanding Defensive Player Willie Jefferson agreed. “It was very important to get a little time off, get off our feet, take a break and things like that. It was major.”

Jefferson elaborated. “Some guys were banged up and needed a couple days off. So we came in locked in for three games straight. We did that.”

Some other thoughts on the 107th Grey Cup:

Let them play

The referees weren’t a factor at all in this game with just a total of five penalty flags thrown and the command centre briefly coming into play to correctly take a touchdown off the board. Otherwise it was a quiet night for the men in stripes.

This is exactly what fans watching the game want. A well officiated game that doesn’t play into the outcome. As much howling and whining about Andre Proulx as there was when he was announced as head official, the crew did a superb job of letting the teams decide the game.

Andrew Harris

He swept both awards and added a pair of touchdowns in the win, but I can’t get past the PED suspension from earlier this year. As he became the obvious and correct choice for these awards, I couldn’t help but consider a Steve Simmons column where he reminded me that drug cheats don’t get to play in the playoffs.

Would this have happened without him? No way to know, but still a question the league must address in the off-season. The CFL has frequently been considered to be behind the times when it comes to drug testing and this latest issue is an interesting situation.

The more dominant Harris was in this game, the more I remembered the positive test. Are there others who have these questions? I know Bomber fans won’t. For his part, Harris hasn’t forgotten either suggesting that the “haters” could find an uncomfortable place to store his new trophies.

Near sellout crowd

The attendance for the Grey Cup was not a sellout with an announced crowd of 35,439 which didn’t leave a ton of unsold seats.

The condemnation of the Grey Cup in this way may have been due to a few factors, but the biggest I heard was the expectation that the amenities wouldn’t be able to handle the modern fans’ expectations.

The Stampeders were left in a far colder situation than we had at kick-off here after being left behind during this year’s announcement of a new arena in Calgary for the Flames. The Stamps and McMahon were ignored in that conversation after the abandoning of the CalgaryNext project.

Maybe this lack of a full sellout will spur some movement towards improving the league’s oldest venue.

I’m sorry Zach Collaros

What a story for Zach Collaros, who I owe an apology to for continually doubting this season. Looks like it was the Stephen McAdoo offence that was holding Collaros from being an effective QB again.

His third team of the season wins it all with him at the helm, healthy. What a finish for the Bomber QB.

Now the off-season question of whether or not your Grey Cup-winning QB is worth a first-round compensatory pick for re-signing him.

Festival fun 

After the best festival yet, Regina has a lot to live up to, can’t wait to see what they have in store.

Ryan Ballantine is a lifelong Stamps fan and host of the Horsemen Radio Podcast. He has been covering the team since 2008.