July 1, 2019

“I’m proud to be Canadian.” | Celebrating Canada Day

They come from all over Winnipeg and the rest of the Prairies, from Ontario, from the West Coast and from the Maritimes.

They are the Winnipeg Blue Bombers homegrown talent, hailing from seven different provinces in this country. And following a Canada Day practice Monday afternoon, it seemed only à propos to get a few of them to weigh in on being Canadians playing in the Canadian Football League.

“It’s funny, there’s no holidays in football but it’s still great to be able to celebrate Canada Day and be out here with these guys,” said Andrew Harris, one of the greatest Canadians to ever suit up in the CFL.

“It’s also nice to see the Americans and how much they appreciate Canada. It makes you appreciate your country more when guys from other countries come in and really see what it is, what they enjoy about it, what they love about it and the great things we have in this country. I’m definitely proud.”

Nic Demski, like Harris a proud Winnipegger and Canadian, spent June 30th celebrating Canada Day at his parents’ knowing that he’d be at work today.

But as he gazed out at the collection of players exiting the field, he marvelled at how these men from all over North American – and a couple from Mexico and one from Germany – have found a home here in Winnipeg.

“This league gives Canadian players, American players and now global players jobs that allow us to feed our families and live a good life,” said Demski.

“I’m proud to be Canadian. I love this country. I love what this league has done and it seems to be moving in the right direction and I’m thankful of where I am.”

Ditto for veteran Jeff Hecht.

Now 33, he was this close to taking a scaffolding job in Fort McMurray at this time last year when the Bombers came courting after a rash of injuries to their Canadian talent.

Hecht, who played junior ball before attending St. Mary’s University, is the classic example of a player who has had to scrap for work as an undrafted free agent who is now the club’s starting safety. And now, as a veteran of four CFL teams – including stops in Montreal, Calgary and Saskatchewan – he has grown to appreciate the diversity in a CFL locker room.

“The three things you’re not supposed to talk about are politics, religion and sexuality, right?” began Hecht. “Well, in our locker room we’ve got guys with opinions on all three and many more subjects who are comparing contrasts all season long. These conversations happen every day all year round. It’s one of the greatest places I’ve ever been to have a conversation with somebody who has truly lived their life from a different perspective from you, whether it’s socio-economic or geographic or something else.

“It really allows you to get a different perspective on how somebody else might live their life and how different the world can be. It’s fun. It’s good to get a taste of all of North America without leaving the city.”

“Like we said today, ‘Enjoy Canada Day and do something Canadian,’” added Hecht. “I just reminded everyone that caesars are Canadian and we have some beautiful caesar weather on our hands right now.”


A look at where the Bombers Canadians players hail:


Andrew Harris, Winnipeg
Nic Demski, Winnipeg
Geoff Gray, Winnipeg
Thomas Miles, Winnipeg
DJ Lalama, Winnipeg
Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg


Jesse Briggs, Kelowna
Michael Couture, Burnaby
Jonathan Kongbo, Surrey
Asotui Eli, Richmond
Connor Griffiths, Langley


Derek Jones, Edmonton
Jeff Hecht, Edmonton
Chad Rempel, Sherwood Park
Dexter Janke, Edmonton


Pat Neufeld, Regina


Cody Speller, Caistor Centre
John Rush, Niagara Falls
Daniel Petermann, Stoney Creek
Drew Desjarlais, Belle River
Nick Hallett, London
Johnny Augustine, Welland


Shayne Gauthier, Dolbeau-Mistassini
Kerfalla Exumé, Montreal


Mike Miller, Riverview
Jake Thomas, Douglas


(players not born in Canada who qualify as Canadians under the CFL rules)

Drew Wolitarsky, Santa Clarita, CA. (his mother is from Montreal)