For the first time ever I volunteered to help out at the Grey Cup Festival in Toronto in November of 2016. My duties were primarily directing people to various events. As such I had fun because I got to meet many other equally fanatical Canadian football fans.
I also got the chance to try out the obstacle course set up by the Canadian Armed Forces. I wasn't at all pleased with my performance and I still had skinned and bruised elbows a week later.
In addition I took advantage of the opportunity to get my picture taken with Milt Stegall up on the The Sports Network desk.
Milt retired after the 2008 season with the lifetime CFL marks for receiving yardage and touchdowns, the second of which isn't likely to be broken any time soon. He's been working as a commentator for TSN since 2009 and he's really good at it.
Since the ticket prices were set substantially higher than they'd ever been previously, the game wasn't entirely sold out. We volunteers were therefore given free tickets to the game. Mine had a face value of $599 and was on the thirty yard line about twenty rows from the field!
The fellow sitting to my right was big, very big. I realized that he also seemed to be in great condition so I asked him whether he was with any team. Well he turned out to be Peter Dyakowski, a well known offensive lineman with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats!
Peter was with LSU in 2003 when LSU won the U.S. College championship and was the Hamilton Tiger-Cats nominee for Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2011. But best of all he was a first-team Academic All-Canadian while attending high school in Vancouver and was named Canada's Smartest Person by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation after being the victor on the program of the same name in 2012!
It was a great game, one of the very best Grey Cup games ever played. The 16-2-1 Calgary Stampeders had fallen behind 27-7 to the 9-9-1 Ottawa RedBlacks early in the third quarter but then rallied furiously and had a great chance to win the gamewith the ball second and goal on the Ottawa two yard line with less than a minute to play. But on the next play the RedBlacks hung a two yard loss on Calgary and the Stampeders settled for a game tying field goal with seconds to play. In OT though it was RedBlacks receiver Ernest Jackson who made a spectacular grab to score a touchdown that Calgary then failed to match. Final score:
Ottawa RedBlacks 39 Calgary Stampeders 33
It was only the third Grey Cup game out of 104 that went into OT. The two teams combined for a Grey Cup record of 882 passing yards with Ottawa QB Henry Burris accounting for 491 yards and Calgary pivot Bo Levi Mitchell 391 yards. Burris also tied the Grey Cup record Ricky Ray of the Edmonton Eskimos set in 2005 with 35 completions. His 35 completions were also a personal high in a game for Burris as well as an Ottawa club record. Like I say, it was one of the most exciting Grey Cup games ever!
Peter though looked wistful after the game. He was clearly wishing that he and the rest of his Tiger-Cat teammates hadn't come up short again this year and were the ones celebrating a Grey Cup victory on the field.