CFL fans flood Hamilton for 2-year-old Gray Cup party – Winnipeg | The Canadian News

The Hammer is coming to life.

And Canadian Football League fans say it’s about time.

Now, two days before the 108th Gray Cup is played, the energy level in the city is rising minute by minute, prompting the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Hamilton Tiger-cats to take to the field on Sunday.

But a quick glance around a local sidewalk, pub, or the Hamilton Convention Center will show you that it is about much more than the two teams playing for the supremacy of Canadian soccer; rather, it is a celebration of a sport, a culture and a country.

“It’s a relief,” Toronto Argonauts fan Shelley Foster tells 680 CJOB. “It has been a really fun part of my life. The CFL has the best fans and it’s great to see it. “

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Foster’s in its third Gray Cup, which it believes will be just the beginning of a long tradition.

There is a certain sense of pride surrounding this game and for some, attending it year after year, no matter where you are, who is playing or how cold it may get.

Vancouver player Evan Ozirny has one of the longest streaks here this week, Sunday’s game marking his 28th in a row.

Or 29, if you please.

“I even showed up in Regina last year on the date and time of the game, standing outside (Mosaic Stadium) and taking photos. (I did it) just so no one could question my streak. “

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It’s that kind of dedication that makes the first trip so special and, in most cases, makes it more.

The pandemic has certainly left its mark on the event: players are staying further away from the media than ever before, wearing masks and proof of vaccination are mandatory within events, and sanitizer bottles are lined up in all corridors.

But those who waited for a canceled 2020 season, and the uncertainty that the start of this one brought, say that won’t take away from the experience they waited 105 weeks for.

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And for Hamiltonians, the wait to host a Gray Cup of their own has been much longer than that.

“It is very significant. What the city has done, the league has done, (Ticats owner Bob Young) and the mayor have teamed up to put on a modified show, but it’s still a show, ”says Tiger fan Cindy Stuive. Cats.

“It has been amazing to be a part of all of this.”

“It’s a different Gray Cup, and I think this is just the test to get things back on track in 2022.”

Ozirny says he’ll be inside Mosiac Stadium for that one, and then back in Hamilton the following year, when the city can throw an even bigger party.

Click to play video: 'Organizers adjust to pandemic Gray Cup, but big celebration still expected in Hamilton'

Organizers adjust for pandemic Gray Cup, but big celebration is still expected in Hamilton

Organizers adjust for pandemic Gray Cup, but big celebration is still expected in Hamilton

While sanctioned CFL events may be less plentiful than the Gray Cup regulars are used to, the city’s hospitality sector is taking over.

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“Hamilton is a great soccer city,” says Bombers fan Lauren Girard. “We are happy to come here.”

There is a sense of relief and optimism in the air, and some fans say they are happy to be back at an event they weren’t sure would happen again.

“I think it’s amazing, we only lost one game to COVID-19 this year,” says Ozirny. “I expected much more.”

“It was disappointing not having football in 2020, but we have to stay safe,” says Blue Bombers fan Cathy Girard. “I think the CFL will come back strong.”

If Gray Cup week is any indication, Girard’s prediction is on track to come true.

Click to play video: 'CFL fans prepare for the return of this year's Gray Cup'

CFL fans prepare for the return of this year’s Gray Cup

CFL fans prepare for the return of this year’s Gray Cup

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