CALGARY – The Calgary Stampeders basked in the adulation of more than 2,000 screaming fans Tuesday as Calgarians celebrated the team’s Grey Cup victory with a public rally at city hall.
Most of the attention was on Canadian running back Jon Cornish, defensive star Juwan Simpson and quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, who was named the outstanding player of the Stampeders’ 20-16 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Sunday in Vancouver.
“Now get to fulfil a dream I’ve wanted to do for a long time – pass it to Mayor (Naheed) Nenshi. The trophy’s pretty heavy,” laughed Cornish, who was holding tightly to the Grey Cup as the festivities began.
“The most important part of our organization is our fans so I’d like to thank each and every one of you for your support today and throughout the season. If it wasn’t for you we wouldn’t be standing here today.”
Mitchell appeared embarrassed when the crowd starting changing “MVP, MVP” in reference to his performance during the Grey Cup.
“Y’all are amazing. Obviously I’ve got to thank every single person here and everybody in this city for being a part of this,” he said.
The players, wearing white cowboy hats, stayed on the stage after the rally, talking to fans and throwing foam footballs into the crowd.
It was a bittersweet moment for slotback Nik Lewis, who becomes a free agent.
Lewis, at one point the top receiver for the Stamps, was a 1,000-yard receiver in each of his first nine CFL seasons. He suffered a broken fibula in August 2013 and has totalled just 69 catches for 777 yards and three TDs over the last two years.
“I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else but it’s a game, it’s a sport,” Lewis told reporters. “Right now I am just enjoying this but next week before I go back to Texas I’ll sit down with Huff and sit down with Dave and we’ll figure something out.”
“Personally it wasn’t the greatest year but I grew up a lot this year I’ve had to learn to grow and I think that just made me a better person, a better teammate and it’s a special day to be a part of this,” he added.
“Up until August 17th, 2013, my life was great. It was easy. I could put up 1,000 yard seasons. It was easy but when I got hurt that day it changed a lot. Just to fight to get back to this moment is awesome.”
Nenshi paid tribute to the team, its success and fans and declared Dec. 2, 2014 Calgary Stampeders Day.
“I love Canadian football. I love the CFL. This is Canada’s game,” Nenshi said.
“This folks is a team of destiny. This is the best team the CFL has seen in years … OK the best team ever.”
Fans bundled up and put on their Stampeder colours to show their support.