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February 22, 2018

Mark’s CFL Week Itinerary Revealed

It’s been described as Grey Cup week meets March break. And for fans of the Canadian Football League, it is both a welcome respite in the middle of the offseason and a chance to rub elbows with the game’s current and future stars.

Details of the Mark’s CFL Week, to be showcased in Winnipeg from March 21-25, were made official at a press conference at the Mark’s Polo Park location on Thursday with the league and the Blue Bombers vowing to build on the touchdown scored at the inaugural event last March in Regina. The week offers a variety of platforms for fans and players to engage and has been touted as a ‘Celebration of the CFL.’

Just as important, it’s another few days during the long offseason when the CFL can generate a buzz with fans.

“It’s a great week all in all and it’s a really exciting time to get geared up for the season,” began Bombers running back Andrew Harris, who attended last year’s event. “It’s really the last time we’re friendly with the opposition so it’s good to communicate with your peers, have some fun with them and look forward to the upcoming season. CFL Week means we’re just another week closer to the season starting.”

Harris took part in many of the events last year and felt the chance to hang out with contemporaries – minus the stress that comes during the season – was one of the highlights.

“Even one of our own that we just signed, Adarius Bowman (who attended last year as a member of the Edmonton Eskimos), I hadn’t really talked to him at all until last year and that was at CFL Week,” said Harris. “You get the opportunity to talk to someone that you wouldn’t normally talk to… offensively guys usually talk to defensive guys on the field and vice versa. It gives you the opportunity to talk to another running back or another receiver. It’s the top echelon of the league and it’s great to be part of and an absolute honour, to be honest with you.”

“It’s more fun than anything in all the photo shoots and all the activities that we do. At the end of the day it’s about the quality of the players we have out there, the characters we have in this league and it’s really nice to highlight that.”

Bombers President and CEO Wade Miller began lobbying to get the event to Winnipeg not long after arriving in Regina for CFL Week a year ago.

“We were about an hour into it last year in Regina when I said, ‘We need this event in Winnipeg next year,’” Miller said. “You could see what a unique event it was for the players, for the fans of the CFL and also the community.

“When you bring 50 CFL players and all the coaches together in the offseason, it’s a different dynamic because they’re not going out to play each other the next day. There’s a lot more camaraderie and it’s a fun, exciting environment for the fans to see and for them to get to see an evaluation camp for the college kids trying to make it to the CFL.”

The CFL is hoping to build on the momentum created in Regina last year with some tweaks and improvements. But most of all, the league has managed to establish an offseason event that helps keep it from disappearing during the winter months.

“Our fans told us they wanted to engage with their teams in the league 12 months a year,” said Christina Litz, the CFL’s Chief Marketing, Digital and Strategy Officer. “We were happy to see that come to fruition last year when all of Saskatchewan turned out at some point during the few days to celebrate the league, interact with players. What really surprised us last year was that fans were interested in interacting with all the players that were there. You’d think they were just there for their team, but what was so exciting was they were seeing all of our stars as the stars we know they are.

“This is still a new event for us and we’re still in build mode. With the success of Saskatchewan last year and definitely the Bombers desire to host this, we looked for a place where we knew this was going to be strong. And I think the proximity to Saskatchewan doesn’t hurt because we’ve already heard from a ton of fans that they are coming out. To me, that feels like momentum and so (Winnipeg) was a natural choice, for sure.”

Mark’s CFL Week events include:

  • The Stars Come Out: The league will fly in 50 of the CFL’s top players for a TSN/RDS photo and video shoot – Harris, Adarius Bowman, Weston Dressler, Maurice Leggett, Darvin AdamsMatt Nichols and Taylor Loffler are the Bombers attending, along with Mike Reilly, Zach Collaros, Jonathon Jennings, Solomon Elimimian, Alex Singleton, Marken Michel, C.J. Gable, Willie Jefferson, Jeremiah Masoli, Simoni Lawrence, Ricky Ray, S.J. Green, Trevor Harris, Greg Ellingson, Josh Freeman and Chris Williams.
  • CFL Fan Fest: This will run all week at the RBC Convention Centre, as the league will bring in a turf field for fans and for the CFL Combine of the top draft prospects. Fan Fest will also feature autograph sessions with current players and alumni, live shows featuring CFL personalities, a beer garden, entertainment and trivia nights.
  • Welcome to the Shrine: The CFL will unveil the 2018 Canadian Football Hall of Fame class at a special VIP Reception on March 21 at the Pinnacle Club in Investors Group Field. Bomber legends Doug Brown, Paul Bennett, Matt Dunigan, Milt Stegall and Chris Walby will join fans to salute the incoming class. To purchase tickets for the Canadian Football Hall of Fame VIP Reception, click here.
  • Jumpstart Games: Mark’s will be holding a Jumpstart Games event on March 22nd to introduce 150 kids to the game of football through 10 top CFL players. Jumpstart Charities is a national charity dedicated to ‘help kids overcome financial and accessibility barriers to sport in order to provide inclusive play for kids of all abilities.’
  • Shaw Respect Camp: Shaw and the Canadian Red Cross will bring together hundreds of local school children to learn about the importance of treating each other with respect at a special gathering that features CFL personalities.
  • CFL National Combine: The top prospects for this May’s CFL Draft will compete in front of football personnel from all nine CFL teams on March 24-25 at the RBC Convention Centre and University of Winnipeg Recplex. The prospects are put through a variety of drills, including the 40-yard dash and bench press, and then one-on-one sessions. To register for free tickets to the CFL Combine events, click here.
    The Western Regional Combine, the last chance for local talent to earn an invite to the national event, will also take place in Winnipeg on March 22 at Subway Soccer South.
  • CFL Think Tank: Coaches, GMs, and league executives discuss the state of the game in meetings of the league’s Rules Committee and Competition Committee.
  • Passing Showcase: The stars of U SPORTS take the field on March 25 for a very special Passing Showcase – a fast-paced, high-scoring brand of football. Members of the University of Manitoba Bisons, University of Saskatchewan Huskies, University of Regina Rams and the University of Alberta Golden Bears will display their skills at Subway Soccer South.