If fans of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were waiting for an invitation to travel west for the 109th Grey Cup in Regina, they got one from head coach Mike O’Shea after Sunday’s win over the B.C. Lions in the West Final.
“I don’t know anything about who the tickets were sold to but I would love it if people would make the five-hour trip down the road to come to the game and make it a home crowd,” O’Shea told the media after the game.
This year’s Grey Cup sold out in September when the Saskatchewan Roughriders remained firmly in the playoff hunt. Assuming a portion local fans are willing to part with their seats after watching Winnipeg qualify for the big game, there are likely to be plenty of tickets available on the secondary market.
O’Shea knows how much of an advantage local fans provide his team, particularly in the friendly confines of IG Field. There were over 30,000 fans in attendance for the West Final and they made their voices heard early and often, disrupting young quarterback Nathan Rourke as he tried to lead the Lions’ offensive attack.
“Can’t say enough about the crowd. Tack them onto the defensive side. They made it so difficult on B.C.’s offence to run those plays at the end and the clock was just ticking down,” said O’Shea. “The fans chewed up so much clock for the defence, for our team. It was unbelievable.”
B.C. gained possession of the ball down eight points with 1:35 remaining in the fourth quarter. They struggled to manage the clock, running only three different plays in the final minute of the game. Head coach Rick Campbell indicated that the crowd noise made it impossible for the club to make any adjustments, which caused the long delay between plays.
“We’re trying to communicate. Of course we want to try to be better at that but [Winnipeg’s] fans are really good here. You can’t hear a thing,” said Campbell.
This year marks the first time that Regina will host the Grey Cup since 2013 when they beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats by a score of 45-23 on home soil. It will also be the first Grey Cup ever held at Mosaic Stadium since it was opened in 2017.