What the B.C. Lions have done to get to the Grey Cup is nothing short of miraculous. They opened the season with five straight losses. Since losing 30-17 to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Aug. 13 at home, B.C. has won 11 of 12 games. The team will ultimately be judged on the result of the 99th Grey Cup at home in B.C. Place Stadium.
This orange and black team can become the first Canadian Football League squad to win the Grey Cup on home field since the 1994 Lions beat Baltimore on Lui Passaglia’s dramatic last-play field goal. That was also on a Nov. 27.
The Lions have battled a bad economy and new competition in the form of the Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League Soccer. Commentators speculated that the Lions would be overshadowed by both the Vancouver Canucks and Whitecaps. The Canucks were Stanley Cup losers and the Whitecaps mired in last-place with 18 losses to end their first MLS campaign.
“As players you can’t approach a season on what media thinks who’s going to be the biggest team in the league, how are we going to fit into the media circle and what are fans going to think of us? All we knew was we were losing games early on,” said veteran centre Angus Reid.
“That’s the beauty of this team: we never looked outside of the room, we had to pull together, we don’t point fingers, we don’t cannibalize each other…
“Look at what’s happened. The media’s behind us, the city’s rallied behind us. That came with us doing our jobs as football players, not worrying about public image.”
Not only is the game an opportunity for the 2011 Lions to become one of the greatest teams in CFL history, but it could also further the healing for a city bruised by the June 15 Stanley Cup riot. The last time the Canucks lost in the Stanley Cup and fans rioted, the Lions won the championship at home.
“There’s going to be almost 60,000 people in one building that will be filtering out together. That’s a recipe for anything. I’m not going to compare CFL fans with NHL fans, because a lot of that wasn’t sports fans, they were just idiots being idiots,” Reid said.
“We can take this opportunity as a city and prove that we can have a mass amount of people here involved in a massive sporting event, where I’m sure there will be alcohol involved, and I’m sure there will be all the fuel you’d need to be a bad situation and, yet, we have it be a joyous celebration regardless of outcome.”
“It’s a great event, let’s just enjoy it for what it is and prove that this is a city that can have great things here and not screw it all up.”
News and views on Vancouver 2010 (and beyond) from Bob Mackin.