It took two solid weeks to recover from the 103rd Edition of the Grand National Drunk and longer still to put fingers to keyboard. I’m late, so what? Dock my pay!
The first actions of the trip were to collect the rental car and purchase some rocket fuel for the weekend. What did I see on the way through the terminal to the rental desk? An LC! Never thought I’d say it but here is Winnipeg showing the rest of Canada what progress looks like.
Smitty’s on Regent Ave. (1/5)
This used to be the wing joint (ten years ago). The place is exactly the same but the service was an order of magnitude shittier than I remember. The wings took over an hour to arrive cold. I do believe that was my last visit to Smitty’s.
CFLPA Player’s Party at Club Regent Casino (2/5)
This cost $80 but you could get in without buying a ticket to the awards show (usually $150 total) so I figured it was worth a shot. It’s actually amazing that fans can buy tickets to this sort of thing at all and it could have been great except for two things: I was demaskulated upon entry and I couldn’t recognize anyone inside except for maybe a few TSN personalities and a half dozen players (though certainly the place was full of them). The free food looked amazing but I was too full of beer to be interested in any of it. However, I did get a few autographs/pictures and met a few other fans, most of whom looked just as lost as I.
I woke up in my hotel with a hungover, just as the Hoser’s Guide predicted, but slayed it with a plate of Eggs Benedict and half a mickey of Bailey’s. Fifteen years ago I worked for the same hotel chain cooking this exact dish. The gentleman delivering the morning’s breakfast was the same to whom I used hand cooked room service meals to years earlier. In Winnipeg, plus ça change…
The Commissioner’s State of the League Address (2/5)
I think the average age here was 52 and when asked about it the Commissioner didn’t have any insight into how he was going to solve that problem. The event was well run and I was able to find a chair even though I arrived almost exactly at the scheduled start. There’s plenty of other commentary already out there concerning the content of the hour so I won’t address it here (hint: terrible). Though I will probably go again next year if I’m up early enough. Make of that what you will.
Touchdown Manitoba (5/5)
Best TD MB I’ve ever attended, which stands to reason given this year’s host city. The venue was great and there was an abundance of food both paid and free. Also, I think every cheerleader in the CFL came to do a performance. This was probably the top Grey Cup party of the weekend (that I saw). They advertised player signings but I did not see any of them. It didn’t help that I was about seven beers deep by about 4pm. I met many loyal readers here and it was a highlight of my weekend!
Hobbos wouldn’t let us in, we tried twice! We even had a Cats fan with us!
The Woodbine (4/5)
…the Woodbine, with a patronage comprised almost entirely of poor Aboriginals, has a woeful reputation in Winnipeg. The bar, which at times resembles a saloon out of an OK Corral movie set, is often gripped by violence and has become the brunt of ill-informed jokes among service industry employees in the neighborhood.
The place possesses a thick, rugged urgency; a sense that some fight or anguished outburst is being temporarily avoided by the fact everyone is having too much of a good time…
I heavily resisted going here but am thankful, in retrospect, for the experience. The waitress was hard as nails and it looked like our downtown passports were about to be revoked at any second. I asked the bartender what was on tap.
Red River, but I wouldn’t drink it.
Two Kokanees for $4.50 on a Friday night, just like The Hoser’s Guide said…
The Kingshead (3/5)
The Kingshead is a very well known pub in River City. I went in along with about nine others of my squadron and recall seven of us having the highly recommended “best vindaloo in Winnipeg”. As delicious as it was, without a doubt, seven of us were never eating it again after Saturday morning.
The Woodbine Redux (3/5)
Hey when’s beer’s cheap, it’s cheap. Also, increasingly terrifying as regulars show up.
Spirit of Edmonton (4/5)
No lines even though we showed up close to 10pm. I have to admit that my memory of this venue is somewhat clouded given the previous events of the day though I recall it much the same as 2014. The only difference being that it seemed less busy, almost certainly because of location. Still, a great party and I had a great time from what the pictures tell me.
I had originally scribed the sacrilege committed against the porcelain gods Saturday morning but I have self-censored. There was no mustering into the thriving metropolis of Winterpeg until the sun was nearly set.
Street Festival (2/5)
Yawn. There wasn’t a whole lot here but I wasn’t expecting much outside in Manisoba.
Family Fun Zone(4/5)
It should have had way more action. Maybe it wasn’t promoted enough? The family fun zone was really well done and to be honest a bit of a tragedy that it was left so empty on Saturday afternoon.
Grey Cup Parade (1/5)
Lame, late, and cold, meaning I didn’t stick around long enough to take any pictures.
Atlantic Schooner’s Downeast Kitchen Party (3/5)
Much better than last year, though it was still mostly a bunch of strangers sitting at a table. They executed a really well done jersey auction which I’ve never seen before. There was also interactive CFL trivia done on the big screen linked to people’s phones and the crowd got really into it, great idea! I didn’t see the lobster rolls but I heard they were around the corner. This had the most crowd interaction.
Shannon’s Irish Pub (2/5)
Pretty sad for an Irish Pub but the beer was cheap and the crowd CFL. Service was terrible but the Dropkick Murphys were on repeat so it balanced out a bit.
Shut ‘er down we did.
Fan March (2/5)
This was a total bust compared to the previous three years and I have no idea why. Obviously the CFL had forecast as much because the organization was completely different. They had Jeff McWhinney on the back of a pickup pointing people out of the maybe 120 person crowd. There were no wristbands, unlike previous years. Anyone who wanted got a touch.
We ended up tailgating in the value lot with the local riff raff. I wasn’t spending $50 for the VIP tailgate party and I didn’t make it into whatever was going on around the stadium. Sorry I can’t report on it.
The pre-game ceremonies were a bit lengthy and boring. Even though I was in the first row of the upper deck, I couldn’t see the F-18s fly by on either pass, which was extremely disappointing since I certainly heard them. IGF truly is the best stadium in the league despite its flaws (narrow, leaky concourses). The sight lines are amazing and it really does feel intimate. It’s tragic Hamilton (and Toronto) didn’t build theirs similar.
Beer and bathroom lines were exactly as forecast though I was able to get enough beer to drink as long as I waited patiently. I enjoyed the game and the half time show wasn’t nearly as excruciating as I thought it’d be, in fact the fireworks were actually pretty impressive.
We took our time leaving at the conclusion of the match, as one does from IGF.
Instead of the official after party we elected to try another dive bar as per the weekend’s modus operandi. Bonus: the Pemby had amazing Grey Cup specials.
The nacho platter was an absolute steal at $10 and quite tasty. The only problem was that it gave me abdominal cramping and diarrhea. Monday was rougher than the waitress at the Woodbine.
By midnight we were all falling asleep in our chairs. Mission accomplished.
Overall, some of the most fun I’ve ever had at Grey Cup, though I was seeing a lot of old friends so that definitely skews my interpretation of things. I did notice that in general the parties were much thinner at 103. Many less were travelling to the city and it was obvious.
Tickets to the game were way too expensive! This is something the league must address going forward. Vancouver didn’t sell out and Winnipeg only did because of “last minute” corporate bail outs.
An informal poll of my local comrades indicated they knew nothing about the festival as it hadn’t been promoted before hand. They only attended at my urging. I suspect this was the case for most citizens of Winnipeg.
Boom: Touchdown Manitoba
Bust: CFLPA Player’s Party
What the hell happened: Fan March
Sorry: Josh and Jo for what I did to your commode. Thanks for putting up Irish Dave and I.
Another season in the books and a long wait for June.
See you in 2016!!!