Edmonton and Calgary football fans set aside their long-standing rivalries Sunday to celebrate bringing the Grey Cup back to Western Canada as the Calgary Stampeders beat the Ottawa Redblacks in the 106th Grey Cup.
“Finally,” said Wayne Anderson, dressed in his Calgary Stampeders jersey while watching the game at Hudson’s on 109 St. on Sunday, “after three years, finally.”
For Calgary Stampeders fans watching their team make a third attempt at taking the Grey Cup home in three years, the third time proved to be the charm as they defeated the Redblacks 27-16.
“We deserve this,” said Estaban Sein, a Stampeders fan living in Edmonton while he studies business at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. “It’s our turn to win.”
Cold weather and frozen turf didn’t seem to dampen any spirits during the 106th Grey Cup, the pinnacle of the CFL season, as both teams delivered explosive plays and fans huddled in the stands, at bars and around televisions to catch the action.
Sunday’s win marks the Stampeders’ first Grey Cup victory since 2014. The Stampeders lost 39-33 in overtime to Ottawa in 2016 before dropping a 27-24 decision last year to the Toronto Argonauts.
Running back Terry Williams played a vital role in helping Calgary win the CFL title in its third straight appearance, ending their recent Grey Cup misery.
Williams had a record 97-yard punt-return touchdown on a slippery Commonwealth Stadium turf.
Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell — the CFL’s most outstanding player this season after tossing a league-best 35 touchdowns — was the game MVP with two TD passes but also two interceptions. Stampeders receiver Lemar Durant of Vancouver was named the outstanding Canadian with four catches for 30 yards and a TD and a 22-yard run.
Ottawa — in its third Grey Cup competition in four years — appeared to score on Greg Ellingson’s acrobatic one-handed grab in the fourth quarter but replays showed the ball hit the turf. The Redblacks ended up turning the ball over on downs at the Calgary 7-yard line with just over eight minutes remaining.
After Ottawa turned the ball over on downs again, Calgary’s Jamar Wall and Tre Roberson followed up with interceptions on consecutive Redblacks possessions. Roberson’s pick came with just 1:22 left in the game.
On top of bragging rights and accolades from fans, Calgary players will receive a $16,000 winner’s share while the Redblacks go home with $8,000 apiece.
Despite declarations of “ABC,” shorthand for the Edmonton sports fan’s mantra of cheering for anyone but Calgary, some Edmonton Eskimos fans who didn’t get the chance to see their home team in the championship adopted their rival team as their own, even just temporarily.
One family of Edmonton Eskimos fans loyal enough to live in a house painted green and gold was just happy to see a Western Canadian team take back the Cup.
“Keep it in the West,” said 79-year-old Myrna Greene, who was cheering on the Stampeders from the comfort of her living room inside her Edmonton Eskimos themed house near 93 Ave. and 92 St.
Regardless of the result, most fans left happy just to have been a part of the Grey Cup experience.
“We love the spirit of an Edmonton party,” said Patricia South, cheering on the Redblacks from The Pint on 109 St.. “Edmonton is a great city. People are friendly. We love it. We love coming to Edmonton.”
In the lead up to the 106th Grey Cup championship, Edmonton shut down a section of Jasper Avenue downtown to host a Grey Cup Festival, featuring tube slides, a zip line, bungees inviting all to take part in Grey Cup revelry extending well into the night.
Hours before the game, the Edmonton Eskimos Football Club announced that the 106th Grey Cup had sold out all 55,819 tickets for the championship game.
“This is a situation where words cannot express how we feel,” said Len Rhodes, Edmonton Eskimos president and CEO and 2018 Grey Cup co-chair in the release.
“Edmonton and the entire nation have set a new standard of how to celebrate the Grey Cup together.”
Organizers estimated 500,000 CFL fans from coast to coast arrived in Edmonton to take in the big game, festival, awards and other fantastic events. It is expected to bring an economic boom of approximately $80 million to the local economy by the end of the festivities.
Next year, Calgary will host the 107th Grey Cup at McMahon Stadium.
With files from Kashmala Fida, Nadine Yousif and The Canadian Press
Claire Theobald is an Edmonton-based reporter who covers crime and the courts. Follow her on Twitter: @clairetheobald