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Former Stampeder Stanley Bryant hopes to hoist Grey Cup with Bombers

It’s been five years since Stanley Bryant won the Grey Cup with the Calgary Stampeders.

The all-star offensive lineman hasn’t hoisted the Canadian Football League’s holy grail since.

Heck … he hasn’t even touched it in that time.

And Bryant wasn’t about to this week when he got up close and personal with the coveted prize.

Not when he’s mere hours away from a chance to lift it in celebration with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers after Sunday’s Grey Cup finale at McMahon Stadium.

“It’s been five whole years,” said the affable Bryant, getting a good look-see at the 110-year-old chalice. “It took me five years in Calgary to get one,” continued Bryant, recalling his road to the 2014 Grey Cup victory with the Stampeders. “I didn’t think that it would take another five years to get another. So it’s kind of ironic that’s it’s five and five.

“Five and five, so … that might be a good thing.”

Might be a good omen, indeed.

But just don’t touch the cup until then.

That’s perceived to be bad luck — a tradition in all sports, to be sure — to touch the championship trophy before it’s won.

You just don’t lay hands on it before it’s yours.

Both the Blue Bombers and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats subscribed to that superstition when the teams laid eyes on it in the lead-up to the final.

“I don’t think that’s a thing — nobody touches it,” Bryant said. “We’re going to wait until after the game Sunday to be able to touch it. We don’t want to touch it anytime before that

“You see the guys there all eyes on it and no hands near it. Just hanging out around it … just don’t touch it.

“I honestly don’t know why not,” Bryant continued. “It’s always been don’t touch it for my purpose, so I don’t know.

“Should I touch it? No … I’m not going to touch it.”

A few of the Bryant’s teammates got their noses right up in it, hoping to find a couple of fabled or friends’ names on the champions’ plates.

Or maybe even just to get a whiff of its tradition.

But as close as they got, nobody let their fingers come into contact with the hardware.

“There seems to be a forcefield that’s pushing everybody away,” said a white-gloved Jeff McWhinney, an employee of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and one of the Grey Cup’s bodyguards and travelling partners. “You see (Bombers star running back) Andrew Harris here, but he’s not touching it — and he’s a member already. He’s keeping his distance.”

“It’s funny,” McWhinney continued. “For the fans that love this Cup so much, the base of the Cup is theirs. We want them to engage with it. Last year when (Stampeders legend Larry Robinson) passed away, I happened to be here in Calgary with the Cup and over 2,000 people touched the 1971 champions plate going into the stadium just to say goodbye to Larry Robinson.

“But the chalice part of it is the holy grail. No one touches it. It’s Grey Cup-ready. Since we’ve received it back from the Stamps, no one’s touched it. The only people would be the trustees, my colleague in Hamilton and myself to keep it Grey Cup-ready until November 24th.”

That’s, of course, in two days time when Bryant hopes to get his hands on it.

“It’s been a longtime coming,” Bryant said. “It’s good to be back here in Calgary and be here with a chance to win the Grey Cup. It’s been a long time since 2014, so just happy to be here and get a chance to win it on Sunday.”

Bryant, a native of North Carolina, was a pivotal o-lineman on the Stamps from his rookie CFL season in ’10 through to the Grey Cup victory in ’14, playing in 66 games and earning league all-star honours in both ’13 and ’14.

“I didn’t think it would take this long to get back,” said Bryant, who was runner-up to the Tiger-Cats’ Chris Van Zeyl for the league’s best offensive lineman this season. “But it’s great to be here with this group of guys. When I went to Winnipeg in 2015, I knew it wasn’t something that was going to happen overnight. But I just trusted the process. Now we’ve got an opportunity Sunday to win the Grey Cup and bring it back to Winnipeg.

“We just have belief all around. A lot of guys just believe in what we have here with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. We know that by going out and working hard that anything is possible.”

Even hoisting that Cup once again.

“I actually didn’t see my name on it,” Bryant added. “A couple of guys said they say it. But it’s good to have that name on the Cup. I’d like to get it on there again.”