Willie Jefferson, Brady Oliveira and Nic Demski gathered around the Grey Cup, and marvelled at one of the oldest and most cherished trophies in all of sports.
The goal, of course, is to get their mitts on it again at the end of this November in Hamilton in the 110th Grey Cup – especially after falling 24-23 to the Toronto Argonauts in last November’s championship, ending the quest for a three-peat.
The Blue Bombers trio, assembled at the Pinnacle Room for Tuesday’s announcement that Winnipeg would host the 112thedition of the game in 2025, could do nothing but dream at what could unfold 2 ½ years from now.
“It’s one of the oldest and unique trophies in sports,” said Oliveira. “We had our hands on it the last little while, but not last year. We were saying that as we looked at it – that Grey Cup is not ours. We’ll look at it from a distance, but we want to hoist it again this year.
“But I was just talking to Demski about this, about running out of the tunnel for a home Grey Cup game. I can’t even imagine it. It’s already a dream come true to run through that tunnel for a regular season game playing in my hometown for the Bombers. So, to be able to run out of it while playing in a Grey Cup at home? That would be the most incredible, breathtaking – whatever you want to call it. “It’s hard to look ahead, but I know I want to be here. We’ll have a good chance at it.”
This week’s announcement the Canadian Football League’s marquee event will be returning to Winnipeg for a fifth time – after hosting in 1991, 1998, 2006 and 2015 – certainly has this town and the province already buzzing.
Demski, along with quarterback Zach Collaros and head coach Mike O’Shea, is one of those already signed through 2025. Clearly when training camp opens in a couple of months the club will be all-in for this season.
Still, a man can dream…
“A home Grey Cup? That would be next level,” said Demski. “I did another interview earlier where I kept stumbling over my words. I can’t even put into words how that feel. It would be crazy. Home games and home playoff games you feel that excitement and the energy from the crowd, so I couldn’t even imagine what a Grey Cup here would feel like.
“It adds fuel to the fire – that’s my favourite saying for today. This adds fuel to the fire and hopefully adds more fuel to the fire for guys to come back here and for this to be an attraction for our team. We’ve set the bar high these past few years.
“Obviously, we didn’t finish last year the way we wanted to, but that adds to the motivation as well. There are so many factors to keep this momentum going. I’m signed for the next three years and adds even more motivation to make sure I’m doing my part to be a piece of the puzzle.”
Jefferson, meanwhile, has some fond memories of the last Grey Cup played in these parts as a member of the 2015 Edmonton Eskimos squad that knocked off the Ottawa RedBlacks 26-20.
“I remember me making (Ottawa quarterback) Henry Burris fumble in the middle of the field,” said Jefferson with a wide grin. “Other than that, I remember the excitement we had in the locker room afterward. It was crazy.
“This is going to bring so much excitement and positive energy to the city, not just around the team, but for our organization, our fans, our corporate sponsors… it’s something for everyone to look forward to and make this Grey Cup the best.”
Asked about his plans to be here in 2025 – Jefferson traditionally signs one-year contract extensions – he added:
“Like I always say, I don’t plan on going anywhere now that I’m here. I’m comfortable with the guys, happy with the organization and the people running it, happy with the city, my family is happy with the city… when 2025 rolls around, negotiations won’t be that hard.”
Oliveira, FYI, attended the 2015 Grey Cup as a fan and was also there to cheer on Edmonton defensive lineman and University of Manitoba product Eddie Steele, who had helped coach and train him through Recruit Ready.
“Now fast forward to now and I realize some of my teammates were playing in that game – Willie played in that game. Mike Miller played in that game,” Oliveira said.
“I remember the atmosphere and thinking how cool it was to have the game in my hometown. Now to possibly be a part of that in 2025? That would be incredible.”