HEROES' WELCOME: Sea of long-suffering Blue and Gold fans greet Bombers home
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers returned home on Monday afternoon as conquering heroes before a sea of Blue and Gold fans who turned out to welcome them in the arrivals area at Winnipeg Richardson International Airport.
More than a few in the crowd – five and six deep behind a security rope – thought of family members who weren’t around to enjoy the end of the Bombers almost three-decade championship drought.
“She’s no longer here so this for her,” said fan Cheryl, remembering her mother who was a Bombers fan for 43 years but passed away before the team won its first Grey Cup since 1990. “She didn’t get to see this last one.”
While she took the day off, Cheryl made sure that her two young daughters Addison and Avery were in attendance – holding a sign reading Go Bombers Go that they made Sunday night – along with her husband and father.
“Since we won (Sunday), she was like tomorrow we’re going to the airport to watch the Bombers come in and we came today,” said Addison as she waited for the team to arrive. “It’s fun so far.”
A few feet away, Todd Solar was remembering his father who he would have watched the game with on Sunday.
“We went to the Grey Cup together in 1991 (in Winnipeg) and that was one of my best memories ever with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the CFL even though the Bombers weren’t in it,” said Solar, whose father passed away in 2010. “It was so magical. I just wish I would be able to share this with my dad. But I know that he’s up there somewhere looking down and he’s very, very happy. As soon as the Bombers won the Cup, I said, ‘yeah, dad you’re with me.’ ”
Nearby, long-time fan Ray, 70, and his daughter Gisele were soaking up the moment.
“It’s incredible” said Ray, a Bombers fan since the early 70’s and had seen some awfully lean years on the gridiron. “The game itself was spectacular and the crowd here is unbelievable. It’s a perfect day outside. You couldn’t ask for anything better.”
“I’m vibrating but we’re both pretty excited,” added Gisle. “I went to my first game when I was 14 and I’ve been True Blue ever since.”
For the Bombers, being able to share the moment with their loyal fans was worth everything it took to win the Grey Cup.
“All along we were thinking if we win this for our fan base which has longed for a championship for this long, it would be amazing,” said defensive end Willie Jefferson. the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player. “It’s the way you’ve got to do it.
“This is awesome. I’ve never been a part of anything like this.”
For quarterback Zach Collaros, the impact of what the team accomplished still hadn’t quite sunk in.
“Everybody was so locked in on what we had to get done,” he said. “I don’t think it’s really hit us yet. We’re going to really enjoy the next couple of days. It will hit us at some point.”
Players including Jefferson, offensive lineman Stanley Bryant and quarterback Chris Streveler shook hands, signed autographs and posed for selfies, working their way down the rope lines.
For the men in charge, the victory belonged to the fans as much as the players.
“(Winning the Cup) means a lot for the players,” said head coach Mike O’Shea, speaking from the podium. “This Cup is for you guys.”
“It’s a special day,” added President and CEO Wade Miller, who played 11 seasons for the Bombers. “It’s a special day for the fans, for our city and for these players. They just played an unbelievable game (Sunday).”