Some football fans across the country say COVID-19 is not going to stop them from having a ball while watching the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers play for the Grey Cup on Sunday.
The Blue Bombers are hoping to successfully defend their 2019 championship, after the 2020 CFL season was cancelled because of the pandemic.
Most provinces had strict gathering restrictions or bans in place this time last year. Public health measures haven’t disappeared entirely, but things have loosened up now, in part because people have been able to be vaccinated.
Steven King of Vancouver is meeting his friends from other parts of the country at Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field to watch the game live.
“I have a mask, I have three vaccinations, so I’m feeling really good about this,” said King, adding he’s been a diehard Bombers fan since 1964 — the year he was born.
“Everybody has to show proof of vaccination with the federal travel ID you get when you fly. It has to be scannable and you also have to show your ID to match up to that.”
Mitch Reuthers said he and some others will party at a friend’s home in Winnipeg.
“I’m double vaxxed and not extremely worried about it,” he said.
“We’ll be decked out with flags, signs and bells, making noise in the basement and making my wife mad.”
Mike Reuthers, 70, is Mitch’s father. He said he’ll be calling his son before, during, and after the game from Alberta, a tradition they have been following for years.
“I’ve been recording every(CFL) game since 2019 and have rewatched them on my 60-inch TV in the basement,” the elder Reuthers said.
“My wife says goodbye and then she goes upstairs and I sit and watch.”
While some are feeling safe in groups, others say they’ll keep to themselves for Sunday’s game.
Bill Jeffrey, 48, is tuning in from St. John’s, N.L., with his wife and two kids.
“We’ve got the TV set up and, because it’s so late in the season, we’ve got all of our Christmas decorations and a CFL football underneath the tree,” he said.
“We have already decided what’s on the menu, too, and it’s served every quarter.”
Jeffrey said it’s a healthier menu that includes turkey balls and turkey burgers.
“I had a heart attack a couple of years ago, so we’re off the heavy, good stuff.”
University of Toronto student Brett Szmul plans to watch the Grey Cup in his apartment. Skipping the game is not an option, he said.
“When I was a teenager, my family and I actually used to go to the Grey Cup every year, wherever it was, and so it’s a real sort of a family tradition,” he said.
Szmul has a lot of family in Saskatchewan and, as a Saskatchewan Roughriders fan, was disappointed that the team lost to the Bombers in the West final.
“That’s why I will be sitting at home cheering on the Tiger-Cats.”
If there was no pandemic, Szmul said, he would have travelled more to Western Canada to watch games with his family.
“I’m looking forward to hopefully a day in the future where it’s a lot easier to get around, because my family and I bond over (football) quite a bit, even if we’re separated.”
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press