Grey Cup week in Regina kicked into high gear with Tuesday’s arrival of the CFL championship combatants.
The Toronto Argonauts touched down in Saskatchewan’s capital city an hour ahead of the two-time defending champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
The Bombers will pursue a three-peat Sunday at Mosaic Stadium, while the Argos are looking for their first title since 2017.
Winnipeg linebacker Adam Bighill’s hands glittered with three Grey Cup rings. He won in 2021 and 2019 with the Blue Bombers and in 2011 with the B.C. Lions.
The most hype 45 minute flight ever 😅 pic.twitter.com/x7ZcW2AluH
— Winnipeg Blue Bombers (@Wpg_BlueBombers) November 16, 2022
“It’s a reminder of why we’re here, how important this week is, how much hard work goes into these moments,” Bighill said at the Regina airport.
“Playoffs, I always wear these just because of that reminder all the time. There’s a lot that goes into getting one of these. It’s time to sacrifice everything you have in this week. The difficulties that lie within it, you’ve got to make it work for you.”
The last team to win three in a row was Edmonton during a run of five straight from 1978 to 1982.
“I think we’re an underdog, any time you’re playing the back-to-back Grey Cup champs right?” Argonauts head coach Ryan Dinwiddie said. “To be the best you’ve got to beat the best. The pressure is on them, not really necessarily on us.”
Regina is a Grey Cup host city for the fourth time since 1995, but it’s the first time at the new Mosaic Stadium that opened in 2017.
Regina was to host in 2020, but that season was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sunday’s game will be the earliest Grey Cup since 2006 when Winnipeg hosted Nov. 19. The forecast is for a mix of cloud and sun and a high of -5 C.
Snow is predicted for Wednesday to Friday. While an indoor facility is available to both teams, the Argos and Bombers intend to practise outside.
“We’ve got to get acclimated to the weather,” Dinwiddie said.
The host Saskatchewan Roughriders and CFL jointly announced a sellout back on Sept. 28, which would put more than 33,000 people in the stadium Sunday.
The CFL announced earlier this month that three country music artists — Jordan Davis, Tyler Hubbard and Josh Ross — will collaborate in the halftime show.
Winnipeg (15-3) is the betting favourite over Toronto (11-7) and will likely have more fan support thanks to travellers from neighbouring Manitoba.
A CFL team on the verge of the first three-peat in 40 years is just one subplot of the 109th Grey Cup.
The state of Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros’s right ankle is another.
The West Division nominee for Most Outstanding Player twisted the ankle late in Sunday’s division final victory over the Lions and was seen limping slightly at the end of the game.
Collaros, who didn’t speak to the media at the airport, grabbed the railing while walking down the stairs from the plane, but wasn’t limping as he collected his suitcases.
“I think he’ll be good,” Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea told reporters. “You’re not going to get much more than that. It’s that time of year.”
Winnipeg-born Argonauts running back Andrew Harris, the CFL’s rushing leader from 2017 to 2019, helped the Bombers win their last two Cups before he was cut loose by the club and signed with Toronto this year.
— CFL (@CFL) November 16, 2022
O’Shea has more championship experience than Dinwiddie, who will be making his Grey Cup head coaching debut.
Not only has O’Shea coached Winnipeg to two straight Cup victories, but he also won another as Toronto’s special teams co-ordinator in 2012. Dinwiddie was quarterbacks coach of the victorious Calgary Stampeders in 2018.
Argonauts defensive lineman Ja’Gared Davis will play in his sixth straight Grey Cup after three appearances with the Stampeders (2016-2018) and two with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (2019, 2021).
“I’ve been blessed to be a part of some great teams, some great organizations and Lady Luck has definitely been on my side,” Davis said.
“To make it to one Grey Cup is a feat in itself, but being able to do it six times in a row is unimaginable.”
Davis, 32, owns one championship ring from 2018.
The record for Grey Cup game participation is nine held by several players, including punter Hank Illesic who appeared in seven straight from 1977 to 1983.
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