An era came to an end yesterday in my hometown of Winnipeg. Canad Inns Stadium formerly known as Winnipeg Stadium hosted its last CFL football game. The old lady on Maroons Road closed out in style as the hometown Winnipeg Blue Bombers defeated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 19-3 in the Eastern Final to advance to the Grey Cup game. After 58 years the doors are closed and the wrecking ball will come out. The Bombers will move to a new stadium near the University of Manitoba in 2012.
So with that, it is time for reflection and memories. Sadly I never attended a concert at the Stadium, which means no U2 or Rolling Stones memories. And my biggest regret is missing Pink Floyd in 1994 at the Stadium. But football memories are the theme. My Top 5 Blue Bomber games I attended at 1465 Maroons Road.
1. November 21, 1993. Winnipeg 20. Hamilton 19.
The 1993 Eastern Final was played in blizzard like conditions and I was not prepared for them. The day started off rather mild and it looked like we would have splendid weather for a huge football game. All of a sudden in true Manitoba fashion, a gale force North Wind brought snow and cold to the masses. I did survive by drinking the worst hot chocolate I’ve ever had, (I should have brought Baileys to the game) and the Bombers winning on a last second field goal by Troy Westwood. After the game I along with many others rushed the field to congratulate our conquering heroes. I was sick for a week afterwards but I’ll always cherish that game.
2. July 19, 1981. Winnipeg 38. Edmonton 28.
My first ever Bomber game. A warm Sunday afternoon greeted these two bitter rivals for an early season showdown. The Bombers were led by the rocket arm of Dieter Brock. The Eskimos had the legendary Warren Moon behind centre. The Eskimos were in the midst of their dynasty and this particular team only lost one game all season long. I was glad to witness it in person. The Bombers jumped out to a 32-7 halftime lead but had to hang on in the end for a huge victory. Not a bad first game to attend.
3. November 3, 2000. Winnipeg 30. Edmonton 18.
The final game of the 2000 regular season was a must win for the Bombers as they needed the victory to secure the final playoff spot in the Eastern Division. The Bombers had missed the playoffs the previous 3 seasons and needed to return to the postseason to win back fickle fans. The Stadium was sold out and the Bombers got off to a great start by recovering an Edmonton fumble in the opening kickoff and returning it for a touchdown. From then on the defence shut down the Eskimos offence, and clinching a playoff berth. The sheer joy from the fans was felt by the players as they ran around the Stadium following the game thanking the long-suffering supporters.
4. October 29, 1999. Winnipeg 18. Toronto 13.
To be honest this wasn’t a great game. In fact it was a completely forgettable game, except for a miraculous finish. The Bombers were down 13-11 with under a minute to go and were at their own 16 yard line. Most of the fans had given up hope as another loss looked upon the horizon. Quarterback Kerwin Bell decided to just heave one up and hope for a miracle. A miracle happened. The ball was tipped by a Toronto defender into the hands of receiver Nigel Williams who raced down the field for an improbable 94 yard touchdown reception. The Stadium went ballistic as no one could believe what happened yet they were overjoyed at the same time. Still the most amazing finish I’ve ever seen in person.
5. November 20, 1994. Baltimore 14. Winnipeg 12.
A heartbreaker here. Canada vs the USA. The CFL had decided to expand to the United States a year earlier and this was Baltimore’s first year in the CFL. The city had not seen professional football since the Baltimore Stars of the USFL in 1985. The Stadium was filled with patriotic fervour as this was seen as the evil invaders from down south trying to steal away our game. Baltimore was a good mix of veteran CFL players and youngsters who learned the 3 down game very quickly. Led by coach Don Matthews, Baltimore were a force in the CFL. The Bombers had their chances in this defensive struggle but couldn’t find the end zone. Some terrible officiating along with some questionable play calling doomed the Bombers. I’ll never forget the crowd singing Oh Canada at the top of their lungs at the start of the game. Yet this game signalled a downward spiral for the Blue and Gold as they sank to mediocrity over the next few seasons.
Those are my memories at least. So long Winnipeg Stadium. You shall be missed.
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