FRIESEN: Bombers get historic ring for historic run
The Winnipeg skyline. The Golden Boy. A custom, individual inscription. One sapphire for each franchise championship. A blue-and-gold colour scheme.
And the diamonds. Too many to count, but apparently there are 149 of them.
It’s a Grey Cup ring befitting of the historic drought it ended.
“I’m doing a workout just holding it up right now,” Blue Bomber slotback Nic Demski said, showing off his new jewelry at a Winnipeg restaurant, Thursday night. “Honestly, everything about it is just amazing.”
The Bombers unveiled the prized hardware to players in a Zoom call Wednesday night.
A relatively small group got together here in town the next day: Demski and fellow Winnipeggers Andrew Harris, Thomas Myles and Brady Oliveira, along with Adam Bighill, John Rush and Chad Rempel.
Receiver Drew Wolitarsky even drove up from Minnesota.
All were apparently speechless when they opened the boxes that housed the one thing players seem to cherish above all others when it comes to trophies.
There’s the name engraved on the Cup, and then there’s the ring.
“You think that there’s going to be a lot of yelling, a lot of shouting, a lot of oohs and aah’s,” Demski said. “But honestly, everybody was just silent. Your breath was really taken away by this.”
It had been 29 years since the Bombers last hoisted the Grey Cup, so the occasion demanded something unique.
The individual inscriptions are one example.
Demski chose “For Life.”
“This is something that nobody can take away from us,” he said. “It’s for life.”
Bighill went another direction.
“FIFO” is what he wanted on his ring.
It’s a mantra of head coach Mike O’Shea’s, and hangs above the door in the Bomber locker-room.
It stands for “Fit in or f– off,” a fitting slogan for this team if there ever was one.
Bighill, who’s made Winnipeg his home, says the team unity is something that reaches out into the province, where it feels like everybody is on board, even if the ship has seen more than its share of turbulent water over the last 28 seasons.
“To be able to celebrate with this entire province… that’s really what it’s all about,” Bighill said. “You’ll be able to remember this forever, the people you did it with. But most importantly you can celebrate this with everybody here that cares so much about it. Those are some of my favourite things, to see other people’s reactions and see how happy they are that we brought this back.”
Bighill was on the design committee, and saw the drawings progress. And grow.
“One of the last things we told Wade (Miller, team president) was, ‘Bigger. Bigger.’ And he came through… it blows you away.”
The Bombers used a different manufacturer than the CFL usually uses, and won’t say what the rings cost. But they believe they’re among the top baubles the league has ever seen.
All this comes as a not-so-little distraction from the ongoing and maddening uncertainty around the still-alive but hanging-by-a-thread possibility of a shortened season.
Deadline after deadline has come and gone, with no decision. CFL governors met yet again on Thursday to discuss their last attempt to pull off the miracle, the mother of all Hail Mary’s.
If Bighill and Demski have a gut feeling about which way it’s going to go, they didn’t share it. They weren’t feeling sorry for themselves, either.
“There’s a lot of people that have been out of work,” Bighill said. “There’s a lot of people that have been struggling to put food on the table. So there’s no point in us acting like we’re the only ones. It’s all about safety. If we can prove a safe model, that’s extremely important. From there it comes down to financial things and making it all work.”
Those things are left for the tall foreheads in the league office and in government to work out.
“I’m just waiting,” Demski said. “I’m on standby.”
For one day, at least, the players had something to distract them from the uncertainty.
Something tangible. Something they can feel with their fingers.
A reminder of a historic run.
And if they want to kill some time, they can try to count the diamonds.
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