TORONTO – It was like a collective paralysis followed by fits of joy for an Ottawa-heavy crowd after the Redblacks beat the Calgary Stampeders to win the Grey Cup in overtime Sunday night.
The Redblacks defeated the Stampeders 39-33 to win the first Grey Cup for the city since the Ottawa Rough Riders won back in 1976.
“I’m feeling frigging awesome! I thought I was going to have a heart attack and now I feel great, good, awesome,” said Karen Greenwood-Milne.
“I even cried a bit — oh man, that was unbelievable, holy crap!”
The victory had special meaning for Daniel Way, who went to Rough Riders games with his father as a child decades ago. On Sunday, he watched his hometown team win with his son and daughter, both of whom live in Toronto.
“It’s great to share this with these two,” Way said. “But I don’t think Toronto gets the Grey Cup and I don’t think they get the CFL, but this was like a home game for the Redblacks tonight.”
It was an unusually warm late November night, 6 C and partly cloudy at kickoff at BMO Field in Toronto.
Before the game, tailgating reviews were mixed as fans of all colours mingled in a jovial and “typically Canadian” party in a parking lot before kickoff.
Redblacks fans said they loved the experience outside the stadium, where beers sold for $4 and fans grilled hot dogs and calamari.
“It’s a really good opportunity for fans to get together, have some food and drinks before the game,” said Lordele Greenyer, who came down from Ottawa a few days ago to take part in the festivities leading up to the game.
“There’s no tailgating in Ottawa, definitely nothing like this and I think they’ve done a very good job of it.”
Some Calgary Stampeders fans said they preferred the tailgating back home. They also complained about the ticket prices and the “terrible” public transit.
“It wasn’t well organized, it was difficult to find out where to go and the volunteers didn’t know where the tailgating spot was,” said Barry Wilson.
“But we had a really good time when we got here — and we can’t gripe about the weather.”
Wilson wasn’t the only one who couldn’t find the tailgating lot — others complained about its location, which was across six lanes of traffic and in the opposite direction of the stadium.
Another Stampeders fan, Denae Lallier, wasn’t thrilled with the $500 ticket price.
She had reason to complain, given she bought her ticket well before the Toronto Argonauts, who are the hosts of this year’s Grey Cup, slashed prices last month in an effort to fill the stadium.
Tickets were being peddled for about half price on the grey market outside the stadium.
It worked as the game had an announced capacity attendance of 33,421 at the recently renovated stadium, although there were empty seats throughout.
Those in attendance weren’t treated to the teams’ respective mascots.
A Redblacks spokesperson said the Algonquin Loggersports Team that traditionally slices a “wood cookie” off a log at home games wasn’t welcome due to space issues and the same went for the Stampeders touchdown horse, Quick Six.
But there were plenty of Canadian heavyweights in the crowd.
The Governor General of Canada, David Johnston, flipped the coin for possession before kickoff and former prime minister Stephen Harper was at the game wearing a Stampeders jersey.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was in Madagascar leading the Canadian delegation to the summit of la Francophonie, sent fans a video message before the game.
“As we all know, anything can happen on Grey Cup Sunday,” Trudeau said.
“I’m looking forward to it like everyone else.”
The mayors of both cities also watched game, eager to collect on their friendly wagers.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi will have to wear a Redblacks jersey, read a poem chosen by Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and donate 10 times the score differential to a food bank in Ottawa.
Watson will also receive salty caramel doughnuts from Calgary.
Nenshi will receive Beaver Tails, a fried pastry that are hot sellers on cold winter days along Ottawa’s Rideau Canal.