Equipment manager Dwayne Mandrusiak started working for the Edmonton Football Team at 14 years old.
Mandrusiak started with Edmonton in 1971, which would have made 2020 his fiftieth year with the team. However the season was cancelled due to COVID-19 and the franchise permanently laid him off in September.
“I’m not sure I’ll watch an Eskimos game again. I have to focus on the fact that I had 49 great years. I gave that organization a good portion of my life. I’ve often said, ‘I gave them 49 years, they couldn’t give me one,'” Mandrusiak said on the Growing The Game podcast.
“It didn’t end the way I envisioned it, but I have so much support from people around me and my friends and I’m fine now. You get over that initial punch in the gut and you move on.”
Mandrusiak was part of eleven Grey Cup championships, including the run of five straight from 1978 to 1982. The man was well respected by anyone who has ever been a member of the organization. That’s why the decision to let him go came as a shock in the Alberta capital to Mandrusiak and his family, especially.
“The one part of my job that I hated the most was when players got released because it ends a dream for them. A lot of veterans when they get released come by and we get the goodbye hug and guys tell me, ‘I didn’t see it coming.’ I went in and I didn’t see it coming. I got over the initial shock and I was more upset at the effect it had on my family.” Mandrusiak said.
“My granddaughters are crying because they’re not going to go to another football game. My sons grew up there, virtually that was their playground — the locker room and they were influenced by so many guys. My oldest son Matt is named after Matt Dunigan. It was a huge part of my life which has been changed.”
Mandrusiak stated “there are circumstances” surrounding his dismissal that he can’t speak about at the moment. He did ask why the move was made, but there aren’t any answers which can satisfy an Edmonton Football Team lifer.
“I would’ve thought that the club was better than that, but the club I knew was,” Mandrusiak said.
Years ago when Hugh Campbell was the general manager, he called Mandrusiak into his office. At the time, Mandrusiak was making $36,000 per year and thought the meeting was going to be about discussing a raise. However, Campbell had it in his mind he couldn’t pay his equipment manager more than what was his current salary.
“I said, ‘Well then you have to find a new equipment guy because anybody can watch a bunch of videos, and anybody can read a book on how to suit guys up, but I bring something different to the table,'” Mandrusiak said.
“I run that locker room and I get the vibe of the locker room. When a guy is having a tough time I bring him into my office to talk to him, I’ve kept guys going and settled guys down.”
“I’ll go get ready to get out of here, and Hugh called me back and said, ‘You’re right, you are more than that.”