Championship rings are more than just a giant piece of jewelry.
To those privileged to earn one they represent the ultimate triumph in team sports. They represent the sweat equity that comes with hard work and the perseverance to keep fighting through injury, through struggles and other challenges.
Most of all, they make the wearer part of a brotherhood/sisterhood that endures through a franchise’s history.
All of that – and more – is what makes a championship-ring presentation ceremony so special. Players, coaches and staff gather for the reveal and the moment often brings gasps at the first sighting, but also emotional outbursts and tears of joy.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers went through that this summer when they were presented with their rings in early August. Actually, check that – a select few experienced that moment together in August at a ring reveal at Confusion Corner Drinks & Food.
But the Coronavirus pandemic robbed the 2019 Grey Cup champions from experiencing it together as many across the country and in the United States had their rings couriered to them instead.
That story – the unique presentation of the rings and the players’ collective response to them – comes in at #3 in our abridged version of the Bombers Year in Review series.
First, the ring itself is spectacular.
Well worth the wait! Introducing the 107th Grey Cup ring!
— Winnipeg Blue Bombers (@Wpg_BlueBombers) August 7, 2020
Designed by Baron Championship Rings – the same company that designed the Toronto Raptors jewelry – they are diamond-studded and featured the iconic ‘W’ as the focal point. Gold and silver in colour, the outer edge of the face is lined with 11 sapphire stones, representing the franchise’s 11 Grey Cup titles.
On the shoulders, one side includes the player name and number in diamonds over the IG Field background. The opposite side features the Winnipeg skyline behind the Grey Cup and Golden Boy and is framed by the team name and year.
“You’d probably think there was going to be a lot of yelling, a lot of shouting, a lot of oohs and aahs,” said Bombers slotback Nik Demski at the ring reveal in August. “But, honestly, everybody was just silent because your breath is really taken away by this.
“It’s amazing. It’s unbelievable. It’s definitely a memory that’s going to last a lifetime.”
Players who did get their rings via courier had similar reactions, albeit without being surrounded by teammates.
— Michael Couture (@MCouture59) August 27, 2020
The players in attendance that night included Demski, Andrew Harris, Adam Bighill, Drew Wolitarsky, Thomas Miles, John Rush, Geoff Gray, Chad Rempel and Brady Oliveira. Those not in Winnipeg got their first peek at the rings in a team Zoom call earlier in the week.
And that’s why Bombers President & CEO was so emotional in speaking to the small gathering at the Winnipeg ring reveal. It was a special evening, yes, but the heart of the event was affected without everyone there to share it.
“That’s the crummy thing about this,” said kicker Justin Medlock. “Obviously, 2020 has been a very difficult year but getting your ring like that and seeing it virtually… it’s not the same feeling. It would be nice to have it and go to a few Bomber events and show that you have it. That’s just not going to happen. That’s tough.”
Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea – who also presented a ring to legendary play-by-play voice Bob Irving of CJOB as a salute to his many years calling the games – asked those in attendance to think big picture.
“That’s irrelevant compared to all the memories you are going to share and think about 20 years down the road,” said O’Shea. “The phone calls you are going to make… the reliving the moments, the great moments and the absolutely epic run through the playoffs and thrashing fantastic opponents one by one and knocking them off.”
Further to that, some players opted to have a message engraved on the underside of the ring. Demki’s for example, reads ‘For Life.’
That’s what will endure.
“It’s going to be a memory for life,” he said. “This is something nobody can take away from us. It’s for life.”
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