It’s ironic the only CFL Grey Cup game I ever had the pleasure of attending also featured the Toronto Argos and Calgary Stampeders.
Tomorrow in Toronto, those two teams will battle once again for Canadian Football supremacy. But 21 years ago, the game was not inside, Hollywood was an important part of the game, and one of the CFL’s only "million dollar players" would make history.
November of 1991, I was going to broadcasting college in Saskatoon. Even though I was a struggling student, I worked and saved that summer for the big party in the fall.
So I got myself onto an airplane and flew into Winnipeg to meet up with some friends and family, and take part in a legendary party weekend — AND an incredibly cold game! How cold was it? Apparently one of the coldest football games every played in North America ... ever ... 17, and with the wind-chill 25.
When the Argos and Stamps met in Winnipeg met in 1991, three things stood out in my mind:
1) The cold
2) The Hollywood factor
3) Alcohol induced stupidity. (Then again, that is most football games, but this one was an incident for the history books.)
The incredible cold of that day made it hard to even drink. Beer would actually freeze in the can, creating a beer slushy.
As hearty prairie folk, we were not strangers to warm clothes. To prepare, we dressed in layers. I think altogether I had three layers: snowmobile suit, track suit, and long underwear on underneath. All of which would come off by the end of the game. More on that later.
Burton Cummings opened the show, Luba did an Olympic tribute half time show, and in attendance that year were Argo owners Wayne Gretzky and the late John Candy. The ownership group was touted as "Hollywood meets the CFL" as the new rich and famous owners signed the league’s first "million dollar player: Raghib ‘Rocket’ Ismail.
The biggest moment of the game came when my brother-in-law Darren (manager of Peterbilt Brandon) offered to get a round of suds in the fourth quarter.
It was at this moment, the Rocket ran back an 87 yard kickoff return for a Grey Cup record. Surprisingly, Ismail (who went on to a long NFL career) admitted in a recent television interview that he had not seen a replay of the return since the game. The CBC provided him with a DVD copy of the game. As for my brother-in-law, he too missed it.
Our entire section erupted when he returned with two arms filled with beer, and asked: "So, did I miss anything?"
The Argos would win their first title since 1983, and while I don’t remember the score, (you can imagine why), I do remember with some fuzzy recall, the end of the legendary game in Winnipeg that night: an incident involving those three layers of clothes would get me on national television.
In the final minutes of the game, in the biggest outdoor party I’ve ever attended, the urge to "cool off" was overwhelming. Off came layer one, then layer two, and yes, layer three.
At 20 I had enough "antifreeze" to keep me warm, and of course the crazy encouragement of the staff. And in a moment that made my parents especially proud, I waved to the crowd, laughing and cheering, only to look over to my right and see a camera crew filming my little display.
Thank god there were no camera phones/YouTube/twitter/Facebook then. It would have been everywhere. Instead, my little display got me five seconds on TSN and later a friend would later tell me my nakedness made the Plays of the Week. Probably with the commentary, "Obviously 20 wasn’t too cold for THIS guy."
Then, upon completion of the game, Darren and I jumped the rail and onto the field. We were followed by hundreds of other fans at the end of the game, and I remember thinking "they can’t arrest us all."
Twenty-one years later I cringe to think "Oh yeah, they could have." Darren and I ran straight for John Candy and Darren even congratulated him on the win and patted him on the head.
Next thing I remember is waking up in my apartment in Saskatoon with a tiger in my room, missing teeth and a ... OK, that’s the hangover, but you catch my drift.
Oh yes, my parents are so proud. I’ll say this again: Thank god there is no YouTube. However, if someone reading this does have a VHS copy of that game, I do have some cash money to offer you in exchange for destroying that tape.
Have fun watching the game tomorrow.
JOKE This Week
An elderly woman lived on a small farm in Canada, just yards away from the North Dakota border. Their land had been the subject of a minor dispute between the United States and Canada for years. The widowed woman lived on the farm with her son and three grandchildren.
One day, her son came into her room holding a letter. "I just got some news, Mom," he said. "The government has come to an agreement with the people in North Dakota. They’ve decided that our land is really part of the United States. We have the right to approve or disapprove of the agreement. What do you think?"
"What do I think?" his mother said. "Sign it! Call them right now and tell them we accept! I don’t think I can stand another Canadian winter!"
Daryl Lowden - Cherie Kozak - Sharon Pierce - Sarah Kartanson - Ashley Joy-Wilson - Lana Sutherland - Cathy McKay