Top 10 Exclusive | Grey Cup Celebrations

The Winnipeg Football Club has 90 years of history to celebrate, dating way back to the days of leather helmets and the Great Depression.

Over that time there have been countless great plays authored by superstar players… and average Joes, too. There have been memorable games featuring iconic moments and, dating back to 1930, this franchise has captured a Grey Cup championship 11 times.

Each week cracks open the record book, dusts off the archives and dives deep into our collective memory banks for our Top 10 Exclusive list.

This week: Top 10 Grey Cup Celebrations

Perhaps it’s because IG Field and stadiums across the Canadian Football League have been silent for over a year. Or maybe it’s because the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ 2019 Grey Cup victory ended a championship drought that dated back to 1990.

For so many of us the Bombers’ 33-12 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on November 24, 2019 remains as real as if it happened only yesterday. The in-game images – Andrew Harris scoring twice, Willie Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat getting into Dane Evans’ face, Thiadric Hansen blowing up two Ticats on a kick return – are still so vivid.

So, too, are many of the post-game celebration moments. And while our Top 10 this week is a purely subjective list, here’s one man’s take on the Top 10 Grey Cup celebration moments from a year ago. (Note: these are impossible to rank, so we left them all as #1 and in no particular order):

1. The Andrew Harris-Nic Demski Embrace

The 2019 Grey Cup had so many compelling storylines and subplots, but one that really resonated – especially locally – was the contributions of so many homegrown players with Andrew Harris, Nic Demski and Thomas Miles all on the game-day roster while Geoff Gray and Brady Oliveira were on the injured list.

And just after Zach Collaros kneeled down to end the game there were Harris and Demski embracing and skipping down the field for a few seconds in a perfect snapshot of pure joy.

1. The Mike O’Shea Gatorade shower

Officially, the ceremonial Gatorade shower wasn’t part of the post-game celebration, as it came with 1:39 left in the game and the Bombers ahead 33-12.

Coach O’Shea is as by-the-book as they come, but he seemed to sense the shower was coming even before Adam Bighill and Jake Thomas emptied the container as he closed his eyes and pulled his shoulders together as the liquid poured over him.

1. A fur coat, a cowboy hat, a pair of jorts and beer. Lots of beer.

It’s hard to limit the Chris Streveler Grey Cup celebration – an experience that lasted a few days – to just a couple of paragraphs. His legend began to grow as he kicked open the door at McMahon Stadium en route to the team bus right after the game while chomping a cigar and holding the iconic trophy and then morphed into something bigger over the next few days.

And his speech at The Forks on parade day? Priceless.

“All I’ve got to say is, have you guys seen the Grey Cup yet? That’s pretty awesome, man. We’ve got the best fans in the CFL. It’s not even close. I love you guys. We love you guys. This is ridiculous.

“I’m lit right now, you’re all lit right now. This is amazing. I love you guys. And we’re Grey Cup champions, baby! That’s all there is!”

1. An ecstatic, defiant, jubilant Harris

Imagine all the pent-up emotions for the Winnipeg product heading into Grey Cup Sunday, from the desire to help bring the trophy back to his hometown, to the anger at being snubbed for awards bubbling over into a controlled rage.

It was all encapsulated when he accepted the Grey Cup MVP and Most Valuable Canadian awards after the game and again with his ‘You got my back?’ give-and-take with the fans at The Forks on parade day.

1. Jake gets his moment

Jake Thomas was the longest-serving Blue Bomber on Grey Cup Sunday, having been selected by the club in the fourth round of the 2012 CFL Draft. He had been there through some horrible times and was part of the rebuild that culminated with the Bombers victory over the Ticats.

And Coach O’Shea honoured him by selecting the Acadia product to be the first player to accept the Grey Cup from CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie.

1. The locker room celebration

It’s a common scene in pro sports: the lockers in a dressing room covered in plastic as a championship team celebrates by spraying champagne all over the joint. The Bombers did that, and then some, in an outburst as emotional and spirited as any these eyes have seen in 33 years of sportswriting.

1. Richie Hall’s emotional rollercoaster

Watching the TSN telecast of the Bombers Grey Cup victory offers a glimpse at the range of emotions shown by the club’s veteran defensive coordinator as the game ended.

Cameras caught Hall leaving the spotter’s both with time still remaining and then grinning from ear to ear as he made his way down the sidelines to join the team. Later, overcome with emotion as he remembered the sudden passing of his brother just a couple of months earlier, Hall was seen in tears during the celebration. It was, in a word, powerful.

1. O’Shea, O’Shea, O’Shea, O-Shea… Ooooh-Shea!

It was in the summer of 2016 and following a 1-4 start that some CFL media began wondering aloud – quite loud – if Coach O’Shea might be on the verge of getting fired. The organization didn’t go there, thankfully, and the build from that point into a contender was obvious.

It was with that perhaps serving as the backdrop when fans started up an ‘O’Shea, O’Shea, O’Shea, O’Shea… Oooh-Shea!’ chant when the club arrived home the day after the Grey Cup. It was a show of love for the head coach from the fan base, and it did bring a tear in reaction.

1. Parade Day

it wasn’t just the crazy scene at The Forks that was so memorable, from the speeches of Streveler and Harris, to Jermarcus Hardrick banging on drums he had borrowed from a pipe band member, to Jake Thomas body surfing.

Everything about the Grey Cup parade was sensational, as thousands of fans flooded the route from around Bell MTS Place down Portage and Main to the Forks. Beers were tossed to players on trucks, there were banners, signs and flags everywhere and a constant stream of fans would inch forward to shake hands and simply say ‘Thank-you’ to the players.

1. A loyal fan base lets loose

The Bombers had 28 opportunities between 1990 and 2019 to win a championship and had swung and missed on each occasion. That leads to a lot of pent-up frustration and emotion over the years… decades.

All that was unlocked as the Bombers marched to victory on Grey Cup Sunday. You can see it on the faces of the fans in the Bombers-dominated crowd at McMahon Stadium, from the tears, the shrieks of joy, from those who gathered at Portage and Main to those who posted their own reactions on social media.

That continued for days after the victory and into the 2020 offseason.

Here’s to getting to experience that again.

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