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Grey Cup shows why it matters to us

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Calgary Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell shows off his Grey Cup MVP trophy before picking up the big prize, which is on a table behind him. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

Report by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Columnist

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Rob Bridges was among the many visitors to Vancouver this week that reminded me why the Grey Cup matters. A proud Hamiltonian, Bridges travelled more than 4,300 kilometres to cheer on his hometown team, despite the fact they were overwhelming underdogs.

Bridges arrived at BC Place decked in Hamilton Ti-cats gear, hard hat and all. He purchased pricey front-row seats at midfield and cheered on the Eastern Conference champions as they did their best to keep pace with the Calgary Stampeders, who dominated the CFL with a 15-3 record during the regular season.

“I had to be here,” said Bridges, a season ticket-holder for many years. “The Ti-cats mean everything to Hamilton. They mean everything to us. We’re a hard-working town and they represent that in the way they play.”

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Quick Six, the Stampeders’ horse mascot, and rider Karyn Drake were busy during the first half of the 102nd Grey Cup as their team scored two touchdowns early en route to a 20-16 win in Vancouver. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

On Sunday, the Ti-cats showed the never-say-die character that led them to the CFL championship game despite a rocky start to the season and a roster of youthful players. After trailing 17-0, they rallied in front of 52,056 fans at BC Place. Hamilton briefly put a scare in the Stampeders’ fan base when it appeared electrifying kick-returner Brandon Banks had scored a touchdown that would have given the Ti-cats the lead late in the fourth quarter. However, Banks’ return was wiped out because of a penalty and Hamilton lost the CFL championship for a second straight year.

Calgary won its seventh Grey Cup title with a 20-16 victory, capping a party-filled week on the west coast that underscored the cultural significance of a league that is sometimes maligned by critics and media. The CFL is often not taken seriously in a world where pro sports are expanding internationally and commanding big-time dollars from broadcasters and sponsors.

This week, Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson said the game is a part of Canadian culture and the Grey Cup Festival has filled the streets with parades, concerts and performance art. Thousands of fans poured into town from across the country. You could see them decked in jerseys of their favourite team.

During their Saturday night Grey Cup Festival concert, 54-40 brought onto the stage about a dozen fans. Lead singer Neil Osborne spied the audience for jerseys and beckoned a Blue Bombers supporter to join him, then a pair of BC Lions fans with their faces painted in orange, a pair of Edmontonians in Eskimo garb followed, and so on until the band had assembled a motley chorus line for a rendition of their hit “Casual Viewin’.”

It was a true Canadian moment — and there aren’t enough of those. Beyond the annual parties and the economic impact of the game for the host city, the Grey Cup matters because it’s part of Canada’s heritage. It gives a reason for people like Bridges and the fans on stage with Osborne to feel part of a community. Anything that can accomplish such a feat deserves our attention — and our support.

Here are photos for the 102nd Grey Cup and the week-long festivities in Vancouver

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Imagine Dragons put on a radioactive performance during the Grey Cup halftime show at BC Place in Vancouver. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

 

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Hamilton Ti-cats fans arrived in Vancouver in large numbers and were stoked for their team’s second consecutive Grey Cup appearance. Despite a comeback attempt, the Ti-cats lost to Calgary, 20-16. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

 

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The Outriders, the cheerleading squad of the Calgary Stampeders, had plenty to rave about during Sunday’s Grey Cup. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

 

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Coach John Hufnagel (far right) hands the Grey Cup over to his jubilant Calgary Stampeders players following their thrilling victory at BC Place. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

 

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Grey Cup MVP Bo Levi Mitchell drops back to pass during the first half of the Calgary Stampeders’ 20-16 victory over Hamilton at BC Place in Vancouver. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

 

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CFL fans wearing their favourite team’s jersey were invited onto the stage to join 54-40 in a rendition of their hit “Casual Viewin'” during Saturday night’s Grey Cup Festival concert at Canada Place. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

 

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Lead singer Neil Osborne commanded CFL fans onto the stage to help him sing “Casual Viewin'” during 54-40’s Grey Cup Festival performance in Vancouver on Saturday night. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

 

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Rob Bridges flew from Hamilton, Ontario to cheer on his Ti-cats in Vancouver, host city of the 102nd Grey Cup. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

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Adrian is the editor of Vacay.ca and VacayNetwork.com. He also edited "Inspired Cooking", a nutrition-focused cookbook featuring 20 of Canada's leading chefs and in support of the cancer-fighting charity, InspireHealth. "Inspired Cooking" was created in honour of Adrian's late wife and Vacay.ca co-founder, Julia Pelish, who passed away of brain cancer in 2016. Adrian has won numerous awards for his travel writing, travel photography, and fiction, and has visited more than 55 countries. He is a former editor at the Toronto Star and New York Newsday, and was the social media and advocacy manager for Destination Canada. His articles have frequently appeared in the Huffington Post, Globe & Mail, and other major publications. He has appeared on national and local broadcasts, talking about travel, sports, creative writing and journalism. In 2019, he launched Trippzy, a travel-trivia app developed to educate consumers about destinations around the world.