I attended the Eastern Final today between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Hamilton Tiger Cats.
Bombers won, Ticats lost and Canad Inns Stadium hosted her final game ever. What a way to be closed than with a touchdown as the final play with the final game being a hosted playoff. It’s a fun piece of sports trivia that will live on long after Canad Inns Stadium is gone.
Question: What was the final play at Canad Inns Stadium?
Answer: Touchdown by Chris Garrett.
Somewhere about halftime I found myself remembering my love/hate relationship with the stadium. In 2001 Canad Inns became a common ground for myself and my dad. As we started to attend games together we also found a new place on which to transition to an adult relationship as football became the topic we could speak to each other about as equals. Even when we couldn’t talk about anything else we found common ground with Milt Stegall and Khari Jones and we really helped our relationship grow.
The summer of 2002 I baked my way through my first pregnancy. I can remember one game in which Kevin attended with me vs Calgary that I was hot, cranky and hungry so we left around halftime. Didn’t I look a fool when they came back in the 4th to win in an amazing performance that folks would talk about for week’s on end. Lesson learned…never count the Bombers out ever.
I did get some Jrs take out so I’ll call it a draw.
Fun fact about Season Ticket holders. We all get to know each other, we all know when one of us has missed a game and we all like to razz each other about things.
You also get to know each other and eventually it becomes a community. The guys around me know I have 3 kids and in fact saw me through all three pregnancies, cheered my recent run at being an MLA, watched me struggle with my cane, and saw me come back with two ceramic hips. I can remember being told by a fellow season ticket holder that the pain was bad but after the surgery it would all be well and he was right. He was the recipient of a knee replacement before my hips ever became a serious issue.
Season ticket holders often also have their lives intersect in strange ways. A young man that I watched grow from obnoxious kid (sorry but any kid with a plastic horn is obnoxious even my own) to pretty great adult played football as a youth. His coach was my friend and when that friend passed away a few years ago from a heart attack unexpectedly we shared that grief together.
Winnipeg it is the biggest small town you could ever hope to find.
There are things I won’t miss about Canad Inns Stadium. Washing my hands in November with freezing cold water in the ladies room. Having to wait for the accessibility cart so as not to struggle up the ramps with limited mobility, severe pain and no where to sit while waiting. Folks misjudging the stairs on upper deck and wondering if this is the time I will get to enjoy a beer shower (also no fun in November).
I won’t miss the phantoms that still follow me of the times when it was all I could do to show up for the games. I don’t think fondly of the times when I felt less than whole both physically and emotionally but I remember the kindness of the volunteers at the Stadium as a bright spot in something that was such a struggle to live with. From the folks who drove the cart who held out their hand to help me in, to the folks that would call a cart when I would go to leave a couple of minutes early so as to avoid having to deal with crowds and stairs with a cane and to my fellow season ticket holders who never focused on the cane but instead always made sure to high five me…even when I couldn’t stand to cheer the touchdowns with them.
The good memories are there though. Nathaniel’s first football game saw him watch Milt Stegall break the touchdown record. In fact Nathaniel went as Milt that year for Halloween. Bribing Ashleigh to hang in until halftime with mini donuts. Kevin and I watching a game on a date night while I was pregnant with Ashleigh. Showing off my kids hospital pictures after each delivery.
The most striking memory I will have of Canad Inns Stadium is the one where I realized that I had come full circle. A moment of realization so powerful that the emotion overwhelmed me and I had a rare moment when I lost my composure in public. I’ve blogged about it before (State of Normal) but it is a moment I will carry in my memories forever. It was one of those moments that we have in life that leaves it mark on you. Like giving birth to my children, my wedding day, the moment I met Kevin, my parent’s wedding, and my near death experiences.
Tonight the lights are out at Canad Inns Stadium and they will never turn on again. Next time the Bombers take the field in a home game it will be in a new stadium never before played on.
There will be no memories attached to the space only opportunities for memories to be made.
Time again for firsts to happen. First coin toss, first first down, first touchdown, first punt, first field goal and first Grey Cup game.
As much as I look forward to those firsts I will miss the space that tonight sits dark.
My seat on Upper Deck East Side sits empty now.
But I carry it with me in my heart always.