Dayna Spiring never expected to have her name engraved on the Grey Cup when she joined the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ board of directors five years ago.
She was even more surprised to find out last week that having her name etched onto the CFL championship trophy would make history.
Spiring, who worked her way up to Chair of the Board this January, became the first woman to have her name appear on the Grey Cup after the Bombers beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the title game on Sunday.
“It’s surprising in a lot of ways and it’s about time in a lot of ways,” Spiring said Tuesday in a phone interview with The Canadian Press, moments after addressing a crowd at the Bombers championship rally in Winnipeg.
“I knew in January that I was the first woman to chair the Winnipeg Football Club. … But I watch now and Edmonton has a woman (Janice Agrios) who is chair of their organization, so you see the tides turning and you see the fact that opportunities do exist.
“And I think it’s on women to stand up and take their place there.”
Spiring, born in Brandon, Man., moved to Winnipeg at age 11 and grew up watching the Blue Bombers.
She joined the team’s board of directors upon the urging of former Chair David Asper — who Spiring called “an iconic Winnipegger” — through a public nomination process in 2015.
“I was honoured but also a little bit hesitant and I said to David: ‘I’m never going to be able to tell you who should be quarterback on this team,”’ Spiring said. “And he laughed and said ‘we have enough people to tell us that. We need you on the board for your business skills’ … so I took him up on that.”
The Bombers finished the 2019 regular season in third place in the West, and had to get past the division-best Saskatchewan Roughriders to earn their spot in the Grey Cup.
They then dismantled the league-best Tiger-Cats 33-12 in the championship game Sunday in Calgary, snapping a 29-year Grey Cup drought.
Spiring learned last Thursday from Jeff McWhinney, the keeper of the Cup, that her name would be engraved on the trophy if Winnipeg won.
“He was at an event that I was at and he said: ‘Dayna, do you know what happens if the Bombers win on Sunday?’ And I kinda laughed and said ‘yeah, we’re going to be Grey Cup champions and it’ll be great,”’ Spiring said. “And then he told me that I would be the first woman to have her name engraved on the Grey Cup and I got goosebumps.
“He said: ‘for everyone who has daughters that are playing flag football, this changes the game for them,’ and I could see that it was meaningful for him. Just seeing the emotion in him reinforced it for me and it was a pretty special moment.”
The Grey Cup engraving policy for a community-owned CFL team includes the names of the president, GM, coach and players as well as the Chair of the Board.
Spiring, who also serves as the President and CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg, is the second woman to chair a CFL team after Jo-Anne Polak held that position with the Ottawa Rough Riders from 1989 to 1991.
Spiring was at McMahon Stadium Sunday night to watch the 107th Grey Cup. And while she got to hoist the trophy on the field afterwards, she said she was thinking more of the team victory in that moment.
“I was thrilled for all those players who had worked so hard and played with a gear that I had never seen them play with before,” she said. “And then I was so proud to be able to come back to Winnipeg to celebrate with this city because 29 years is too long to wait for a championship.
“This is our time and it is completely amazing to be a part of it.”