Saturday, November 26, 2011

Angus Reid: "Let's just enjoy it"

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."

Vanier Cup protest foiled?

Federal sport minister Bal Gosal was at the 47th Vanier Cup -- a Canadian football game like no other -- but not Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Harper was in Vancouver earlier Nov. 25 to commemorate the renovations at Science World. He was protested there by members of Occupy Vancouver.

Someone at the McMaster versus Laval epic evidently wanted to remind fellow Canadians of Harper's habit of limiting the number of questions he takes from reporters at news conferences. His handlers also pre-screen questions, though us crafty journalists try to avoid that problem by adding a second, so-called "dirty" question when it's our turn.

I spotted this sign inside Gate H at B.C. Place on Nov. 26, near garbage cans that were used during the previous night's Vanier Cup. It says "I want a Prime Minister that's not afraid of live questions from reporters."

By the way, anyone else get the same creepy feeling I got when I saw a Canadian Security Intelligence Service "Intelligence Matters" recruitment ad on the big-screen at B.C. Place?

The glum, downbeat musical score and impersonal nature of the creative was off-putting, to say the least. Then again, maybe Canada's spy agency really bears no resemblance to the jet-setting, womanizing and martini-drinking lifestyle of spies from the James Bond flicks.

Oh, say can you see?

The official sellout of the 99th Grey Cup game, announced in July, was 52,511. B.C. Place Stadium is said to hold a maximum 54,500. But will every seat truly be occupied on Nov. 27?

While the panoramic view can be described as spectacular, the renovation of the stadium left hundreds of seats near the top of level 4 with obstructed views. From some seats, only one of the two end zones is visible. You may also not be able to see the giant, centre-hung, shoebox-style video board for replays. The first, and often second, aisle seat in the top four or five rows of level four is impeded by structural columns.

If you have aisle tickets in rows VV-ZZ on level 4, you should contact TicketMaster or the Grey Cup committee. (Then email me to tell me about your experience.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Occupy eviction intended to protect Grey Cup bank

What's really behind the City of Vancouver’s rush to disband Occupy Vancouver’s camp from the bark mulch and concrete of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s north plaza?

Grey Cup Festival organizers fear protesters could disrupt the Nov. 26 Grey Cup parade and embarrass a major sponsor. The B.C. Supreme Court granted an injunction that allows police to evict protesters if they don't remove tents and structures from the Vancouver Art Gallery's north plaza by 2 p.m. Nov. 21.

No Grey Cup events were planned for the VAG plaza, where the protest began Oct. 15, and the Saturday morning parade route uses Burrard Street. There is no intelligence that such a protest would happen and Occupy Vancouver has not made a public statement against the Grey Cup festival or its sponsors. But a source involved with the 99th Grey Cup game organization indicated that nobody wants to risk embarrassing Scotiabank.

The Occupy movement’s protest targets have included banks. In Vancouver, locations of TD Canada Trust and RBC have been protest sites. Occupy protesters have also picketed against Enbridge, the company that wants to build a pipeline between the Alberta tarsands and coastal British Columbia to carry oil for export to Asia. Aboriginals opposed to the proposed pipeline attended the Scotiabank annual general meeting in Halifax last April. A Yinka Dene Alliance news release claimed Scotiabank raised $10 billion for Enbridge.

The newly re-elected Vision Vancouver-dominated city council enacted restrictive measures before the 2010 Winter Olympics to protect VANOC sponsors. No similar bylaws are in place for the Grey Cup. Mayor Gregor Robertson and his opponent Coun. Suzanne Anton are among the Grey Cup Committee members.

Planning for the Grey Cup Festival has been complicated by the ugly legacy of the June 15, 2011 Stanley Cup riot. The 1966 Grey Cup parade was a night-time affair and revelers rioted with Vancouver Police and RCMP outside the Hotel Georgia and courthouse (now the art gallery).

Freedom of Information requests for agendas and minutes of the large events oversight committee, central management team and Grey Cup committee have been denied in-full by the City of Vancouver.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Riot redemption or Eskimo jinx?

The Edmonton Eskimos are back in Vancouver for the third time in less than two months to seek their first win under the new roof at B.C. Place Stadium.

If they win Nov. 20, they will get a chance the next week to get their second win -- in the 99th Grey Cup.

The more times the teams play on the new synthetic turf field, the greater the odds that the Eskimos will finally win one. But will that win spoil the B.C. Lions’ ambition to finish the season as the home team in the Grey Cup?

Edmonton has rained on the parade before. Enough that you might suggest there is a green and gold jinx.

Every time the Lions have met the Esks in the West final of a B.C. Place Grey Cup hosting year, the Esks have eliminated B.C.

Nov. 23, 1986: Esks 41-Leos 5 in Edmonton (Mike Kerrigan and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats beat the Esks 39-15 in the Grey Cup).
Nov. 22, 1987: Esks 31-Leos 7 in Vancouver (Gizmo Williams and the Esks beat the Toronto Argonauts 38-36 in the Grey Cup.)
Nov. 20, 2005: Esks 28-Leos 23 in Vancouver (The Danny Maciocia-coached Esks beat the Montreal Alouettes 38-35 in overtime to win the Grey Cup).

What’s more, the Calgary Stampeders eliminated B.C. on Nov. 21, 1999, 26-24 at B.C. Place. The Stamps returned the following week to lose 32-21 to Darren Flutie and the Ti-Cats.

Could the Stanley Cup riot be a good omen?

The last year in which the Vancouver Canucks were losers and fans reacted by rioting in downtown, the Lions beat an Alberta team in the West final and won the Grey Cup at B.C. Place.

The Lions edged the Stampeders 37-36 in dramatic fashion in the snow at Calgary on Nov. 20, 1994. On Nov. 27, 1994, Lui Passaglia kicked the game-winning field goal on the final play to beat Baltimore 26-23. That remains the greatest sports moment in the history of 1983-opened B.C. Place and, arguably, the greatest 20th century moment in Vancouver sports history.

Vancouver was rocked by another Stanley Cup riot when the Canucks were losers on June 15, 2011.

Can the city end this year with a home-won Grey Cup as consolation?

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