WINNIPEG — It was the kind of bare-chested, beer-downing, roaring celebration you might expect for a team that put an end to a 29-year Grey Cup drought.
The Blue Bombers paraded their Canadian Football League championship trophy for 90 joy-filled minutes through downtown Winnipeg streets Tuesday as thousands of fans, many dressed in blue and gold, cheered, clapped and hollered.
On the back of a pickup truck, quarterback Chris Streveler braved the light snow shirtless, wearing a cowboy hat and, intermittently, an open fur coat. He pounded back a can of beer to the loud applause of fans, some of whom were too young to remember the last Bombers championship team.
“We did it baby!” running back Andrew Harris told the crowd who chanted “MVP” to the Winnipeg-born fan-favourite. At one point, he tossed the Grey Cup in the air a few times and caught it undamaged.
The trophy appeared much more sturdy than the previous day, when it came apart during a ceremony at Winnipeg’s airport.
Harris became the first Canadian to capture Grey Cup most-valuable-player honours since 1969 and thanked the crowd for standing behind him during the season.
“You got my back?” Harris asked the crowd assembled for a rally at the end of the parade route.
“We got your back!” the throng yelled back.
Harris was suspended for two games in August following a positive drug test for an anabolic steroid. He said he didn’t knowingly use a banned substance and believes a supplement he took was contaminated.
The Bombers won their 11th CFL championship with a 33-12 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Sunday in Calgary. It was their first Grey Cup since a win over Edmonton in 1990.
Head coach Mike O’Shea wore a T-shirt from that long-ago victory.
“Time to get some new gear,” O’Shea said to loud cheers.
Police estimated about 10,000 people showed up at the parade.
Samantha Roy was two months old the last time the city took home the Cup. She was excited to take her eight-year-old daughter, Reimi Rapinchek, to the parade this time. The two were dressed head-to-toe in Bombers gear. Even their lips were painted blue.
“It makes us feel like winners,” Roy said.
Fan Barry Kopulos said the win has energized a city struggling with a spike in violent crime. “We really needed this, like we were on the downside before this,” he said.
“The energy’s positive. The mayor’s happy. The police are happy about this. The premier’s happy. It’s great for the city.”
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, calling the city “Winner-peg,” congratulated the team.
“This is long overdue and we know it. Let’s do it again real soon!” he yelled.
Mayor Brian Bowman thanked every member of the team “for showing the grit and the passion that Winnipegers demonstrate each and every day. We are so proud of you.”
Receiver Nic Demski, also from Winnipeg, capped off the rally’s speeches with one sentence and a loud thud.
“All I gotta say is the drought is over,” Demski said before dropping the microphone onto the stage.