CALGARY — A long Grey Cup drought is about to end.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers last hoisted the CFL’s championship trophy almost 30 years ago. For the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, it’s been two decades.
So the Ticats and Bombers are hunting for their first titles of the 21st century Sunday in the 107th Grey Cup in Calgary.
“I was six years old the last time they won and I didn’t know what the CFL was at that time,” Ticats quarterback Dane Evans said.
“When we left Hamilton today we had, I don’t know the exact number, but we had fans just coming in waves. It was hard to get to the bus. They were kind of mobbing us a little bit, in a good way. The buzz is around town. We definitely want to bring one home for the fans.”
Winnipeg claimed its last Grey Cup in 1990 and Hamilton in 1999. No other CFL teams has gone as long without a title.
“There is really no time to think about ending the drought,” Blue Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill said.
“It’s time to think about preparing ourselves to win. We already believe we’re going to win this game. That’s already been built into preparing for this week, but we have to go and earn it this week.
“We believe we can do it. We have to go earn it. From that standpoint, we know if we take care of the small details every single day and put in the work, the drought will take care of itself.”
Hamilton posted the league’s best regular-season record at 15-3 to top the East Division.
“Any time you can make a journey like this and then have something to play for at the end, it’s special,” Tiger-Cats head coach Orlondo Steinauer said.
The Bombers finished third in the West Division at 11-7.
The teams arrived in Calgary on Tuesday to heavy snowfall, but sun and above-zero temperatures were forecasted for the remainder of the week and for Sunday’s game.
The Bombers were steadfast in saying they will practice outside regardless of Calgary’s weather, while Steinauer wouldn’t rule out going indoors.
Led by receiver Brandon Banks, the East Division’s nominee for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player award, the Ticats are an offensive juggernaut averaging almost 400 yards per game.
The Ticats dispatched the Edmonton Eskimos 36-16 in Sunday’s East Division final.
The Bombers are on a playoff roll on the road knocking off the 2018 Grey Cup champion Calgary Stampeders 35-14 in the division semifinal before ousting the division-topping Saskatchewan Roughriders 20-13 in the West final.
The arrival of quarterback Zach Collaros in Winnipeg via an October trade with the Toronto Argonauts has given an offence that relied heavily on the run another dimension.
Hamilton’s last Grey Cup appearance was a 20-16 loss to the Stampeders in 2014 at Vancouver’s B.C. Place. The Bombers fell 34-23 to the host B.C. Lions there in 2011.
Calgary is the host city of a Grey Cup a decade after the Montreal Alouettes edged the Saskatchewan Roughriders 28-27.
The ‘Riders were celebrating a win when the Als missed a game-winning field goal attempt, but a Saskatchewan penalty for too many men on the field gave Montreal a do-over for the win in 2009.
Calgary organizing committee chairman Mike Franco said Tuesday that roughly 32,000 of 36,000 tickets for this year’s game had been sold.
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie feels multiple connections to this year’s Grey Cup.
“I actually lost to Winnipeg the last time they won a Grey Cup in 1990,” said the former Eskimo, Argo and Stampeder.
“I won my Grey Cup here in Calgary in 1993 against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. One feels completely better than the other by the way in case you’re wondering.”
The 2019 Grey Cup will feature a fifth different winner in the last five years.
Both teams are represented in Thursday’s CFL awards with players going head to head in a few categories.
Steinauer is the East nominee for CFL coach of the year, with Ticats linebacker Simoni Lawrence and Winnipeg’s Willie Jefferson squaring off for outstanding defensive player.
Winnipeg’s Stanley Bryan and Mike Miller are up against Hamilton’s Chris Van Zeyl and Frankie Williams for top offensive lineman and special teams player respectively.
The Bombers have been designated the home team, but will wear their away uniforms and take over the Stampeders’ locker room at McMahon Stadium.
“We knew we were going to have to be on the road all the way through to get this win,” Bighill said. “Why not wear the road unis one more time?”
The Ticats will be in their home black kits and move into the visitors’ digs. The two football clubs last met in a Grey Cup game in 1984, with Winnipeg prevailing 47-17.