Remembering Blue heaven

They didn’t score a touchdown. They didn’t even have a special teams tackle to their name.But when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers thumped the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 33-12 and hoisted the Grey Cup over their heads last year, there were dozens of people behind the scenes who played key roles in ending the 28-year trophy drought. In honour of this Tuesday marking the one-year anniversary of the grand occasion, the Free Press chatted with four Blue Bombers employees, all who have different roles, to discuss what that memorable night in Calgary meant to them and what they’ll remember, probably for the rest of their lives. Brad Fotty – Head Equipment ManagerWhen the final whistle sounded and the confetti began to fall, Brad Fotty didn’t throw on a championship hat and party — he got to work. That’s what Fotty was used to doing after cup games, as the Blue and Gold were 0-5 in Grey Cup finals after Fotty joined the staff full time.”When we actually won, it was weird because my first concern with my (staff) was ‘OK, we have to get the bench cleaned up and get all the helmets. Don’t lose any helmets.’ It’s funny, Gord (Taillefer, assistant equipment manager) for the Stampeders, who was helping both teams during the week because they were the host city, came up to me and gave me a big hug and was like ‘Man, you won. Just go celebrate. We got this for you. Go and enjoy it.’ Because I didn’t know what to do,” said Fotty, who began with the Bombers in 1990 assisting visiting teams’ equipment staff. Although the Bombers won the cup that year, Fotty, now 46, doesn’t count that one for himself.”To me, it was just doing what we normally do after a game, which is cleaning the bench and getting everything out of there. It was so new that I didn’t know what to do.”Unfortunately for Fotty, he had an almost-crippling bout of flu during last year’s Grey Cup week.

“It was awful. It started on the Wednesday morning when I got there. I pretty much didn’t do anything all week. I went out one night for supper with my wife and kids and I couldn’t even last (though) and enjoy the supper. I didn’t do anything else all week,” Fotty said. “It was basically just practice and bed, that’s all I pretty much did right up till after the game. Went out for a little bit, but even after that, it still stuck with me for two or three weeks. It’s not like I got a full celebration in. But if that’s the worst thing that was going to happen to experiencing winning like that, I’d take it anytime.”It’s been a bizarre summer for the equipment guru, as this year was the first time he’s had back-to-back summer weekends off since he was 15. He enjoyed the extra family time, but he’s eager to get back to work so he can win another ring and experience a full celebration.”I don’t know if I could wait another 30 years,” he said with a laugh.Carol Barrott – Ticket and Fan Services ManagerCarol Barrott’s job is to keep Blue Bomber fans happy. As you can imagine, there have been quite a few years when that was not an easy gig.So for her, to see all these Bombers fans in Calgary get to experience the highest of highs, it meant the world.”It was pretty funny because the standing joke has been for a number of years that as soon as we won a Grey Cup I was going to retire,” said Barrott, 68, who started volunteering with the Bombers in 2005 and has worked various roles since joining the staff full time in 2008. She’s held season tickets since 1970.”Well, that changed. I knew at that moment that I wasn’t ready to give it up yet. I wasn’t ready to not be a member of the team.”Barrott had seen the Bombers win the cup in person as a fan, but this was her first time truly being a part of the journey. She’s an individual who puts others first. Asked what her favourite memories are of the occasion, she rattles off countless stories of how much she enjoyed watching other people in the organization react to being champions, especially at the after-party.”I basically stood in the corner by myself watching everybody. The team I work with in the office… watch everyone be immersed in this wonderful day,” she said. “Nobody can take it away from any of us. That’s the big thing.”Alain Couture – Head Athletic TherapistWhen the Blue Bombers lost the 2007 Grey Cup in Toronto to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Alain Couture, in his second season as the team’s head athletic therapist, remembers naively assuming they’d be back soon to claim the silver mug.Apparently, Fotty didn’t tell him how things work in Bomberland.Fast forward to 2018, the Bombers were fresh off of signing linebacker Adam Bighill, who was returning to the league after a brief stint with the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, and Couture truly believed that was going to be the year. Yeah, about that. The Bombers wound up losing the West Division Final to the Calgary Stampeders.”I remember the next night after we came home and I was laying in bed with my wife. Obviously, she knew I was upset from losing, but I was kind of in a different kind of funk. So, she asked me what was up and I was like ‘You know, it’s just getting really hard. The losing is getting harder and harder,'” recalled Couture, who started with the Bombers in 2003 as a student therapist.”Yeah, winning a Grey Cup kind of becomes like a dream where you’re like, ‘Maybe one day I’ll do that’ and then you’re 18 years in and you’re going ‘Geez, is it going to be 22 years? 23 years?’ And then I look at Brad Fotty and I go, ‘man, 29 years for him.’ I don’t think I could do it. It was just getting harder and harder.”So when the Blue and Gold made it to last year’s championship game, Couture knew he couldn’t take it for granted. He reminded himself throughout the week to stop and take it all in because there was no guarantee when, or if, he’d be back. “To get that result for that effort, you can’t really put it into words,” he said. “All the years and all the losing, it kind of all just flashes right in front of you when the clock is ticking down.”Jen Yurick – Financial AnalystBefore general manager Kyle Walters makes a big free-agent signing, he better check with Jen Yurick.One part of Yurick’s role is to figure out how the Bombers can work within the salary cap. As a lifelong fan, it’s a dream gig having a hand in how the team builds its roster. But for Grey Cup week, Yurick’s main role was to be a liaison for the players’ families and make sure everybody was looked after and enjoying their time in Calgary.”Everything about that weekend seemed to run so smoothly,” said Yurick, 40, who’s worked for the club since 2009.”It felt eerily calm. Of course, there were nerves, but there was this sense of optimism. I’ve been one of the many long-suffering fans with this team my entire life, so I’m all too familiar with how a season can come crashing down. There was just something about that week that felt different. All week long you had these thoughts pop in your head that it was going to actually happen this time.”The game was a year ago, but Yurick said everything is still fresh in her mind.”After the game, being on the field under the confetti was an experience I’ll never forget. I was just genuinely so happy for so many people,” she said. “Obviously the players, coaches and football operations staff, but every single coworker at the football club. There’s so many unsung heroes that work tirelessly behind the scenes. I was so thrilled to be experiencing that moment with all of them.”taylor.allen@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @TaylorAllen31

<p>Carol Barrott, ticket and fan services manager for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, outside of IG Field Friday morning celebrating the one year anniversary of the team’s Grey Cup win.</p>
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Carol Barrott, ticket and fan services manager for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, outside of IG Field Friday morning celebrating the one year anniversary of the team’s Grey Cup win.

Taylor Allen

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