Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff Keeper of the Grey Cup Jeff McWhinney carefully removes the legendary CFL trophy from its case during a visit to the Red Deer Advocate on Tuesday.

Grey Cup and its “Keeper” make Red Deer stop

Jeff McWhinney has been taking care of the Grey Cup since 2014.

The McWhinney family have produced two Grey Cup “keepers.”

In the 1950s, quarterback Glenn McWhinney was dubbed The Keeper for gutsy plays holding the ball.

A broken play in his first CFL game saw McWhinney take charge and run the ball into the end zone himself. He was ever after The Keeper.

His name appears on the Grey Cup along with his 1954 Edmonton Eskimo teammates and legends Jackie Parker, Norm Kwong and others.

“Interestingly, I’m now the Keeper of the Grey Cup,” said son Jeff McWhinney, vigilant escort for the CFL’s cherished trophy for the past three years.

A white-gloved McWhinney gave the giant trophy a quick polish before he took it out of its travelling case on Tuesday. It wasn’t quite reverential, but it was close.

The amiable McWhinney is a fountain of CFL lore and tossed out Grey Cup facts non-stop during a visit to the Red Deer Advocate. He and the cup were in town as part of the Alberta Common Ground Alliance’s Safety Conference at the Sheraton Hotel Red Deer.

McWhinney said the cup belongs to all Canadians.

There are limits however. When an enthusiastic fan posed next to the trophy with his hands on the handles of the chalice that tops the trophy, McWhinney quickly jumped in to gently tell him to hold the trophy body please.

“The chalice is reserved for the champions,” he explained. “That’s their goal. That’s the standard they want to get to.”

Not to mention, legend has it that if a non-champion touches the chalice they bring bad luck to the team they cheer for.

“But the base is about us as Canadians connecting with the team, connecting with the country, connecting with our players …” he says.

“See what she’s doing?” he says as a fan puts her arms around the trophy to pose for a photo. “She’s embracing the entire country at that point.”

Given its 108-year history, the trophy also carries the weight of remembrance.

Sixty per cent of the 3,693 grid iron veterans whose names are engraved in the trophy are now dead.

McWhinney is full of fascinating information. For instance, during the Second World War, the Grey Cup was contested between military teams as a morale booster. The Toronto RCAF Hurricanes won the cup in 1942, followed by the Hamilton Flying Wildcats and the St. Hyacinthe-Donnacona Navy.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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