WINNIPEG — After a Grey Cup drought that lasted almost three decades, Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans packed the arrivals area of the city’s major airport Monday to welcome home their Canadian Football League champions.
The crowd chanted and screamed as Bombers players walked out from a secure area to a stage set up to celebrate the end of the longest Cup-less streak in the league.
The Blue Bombers won their 11th Grey Cup with a 33-12 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Sunday in Calgary. It’s their first championship since a 50-11 win over Edmonton in the 1990 title game.
Jill Bristow was one of many fans who lined up more than two hours early to secure a good vantage point.
“We no longer have this thing that’s just eating at us that says we haven’t won this in 29 years,” she said.
Beside her, Jeannette Ali said the championship is just what Winnipeg needed following a lot of bad news recently, including a spike in crime that has the city on track to record a record number of homicides this year.
“We needed something to really lift our spirits and this couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Ali was so excited about Sunday’s victory, she wore a shirt from the Bombers last cup win in 1990 and had someone record video of a bucket of water being thrown on her.
“I got someone to throw a bucket of water on me to say the drought is over.”
The Bombers appeared impressed by the enthusiastic turnout. The excitement seemed contagious as, at one point, the Grey Cup came apart in two pieces as some of the Bombers raised it on stage.
“This is for you guys. We brought it home for you,” linebacker Adam Bighill yelled to the fans.
Quarterback Chris Streveler took time to sign autographs and shake hands with the fans.
“I don’t think I fully understood how much it meant to these people until we got off the plane.”
Streveler said the Bombers determination to overcome injuries and adversity was a good match for the city.
“We’re a gritty team and Winnipeg’s kind of a gritty city,” he said.
“We play hard, we play physical and we’re champions, man, and I hope all these people are proud of it.”
Quarterback Zach Collaros said the big win was still sinking in.
“It still hasn’t really hit us yet. We’re just enjoying the moment and going to ride it out as long as we can.”
The celebrations are to continue Tuesday with a parade.
“I think it’s going to be absolutely nuts,” Streveler said.