B.C. Lions' Angus Reid believes Grey Cup belongs to fans across the province
It’s quite remarkable that when the B.C. Lions had to turn over the Grey Cup to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame on May 1, Angus Reid didn’t accompany the trophy on the flight to Hamilton, Ontario. The veteran centre and that silver chalice were virtually inseparable during the five months the Lions had it in their grasp, since winning the Canadian Football League title on home turf last November.
Reid has been a tireless ambassador for the Lions and the CFL these past few months, traveling all over the province during a hectic off-season, and almost everywhere he went, he had the trophy in tow.
From Vancouver Island to the Okanagan to the Kootenays to the north of B.C., Reid and many of his Lions teammates made dozens of visits to cities and small towns. And at every stop, people were thrilled to see the football players and even happier to get a glimpse of that most prized possession.
“It’s amazing when you win the Grey Cup how wanted you are,” Reid tells the Straight with a chuckle during a telephone interview as he prepares to hit the road again—this time for training camp in Kamloops, starting on June 3. “It’s been really great. We tried to cover the whole province. You can never get the whole thing done, but I know we hit more places than we ever have in the past, and people’s reaction to the trophy is unreal.”
The football team was prominent at dinner banquets, youth football camps, and schools of all sizes. They took the Grey Cup to the legislature in Victoria, to a Native friendship centre in Prince George, and virtually everywhere in between. In short, the Lions did their best to honour every invitation they got to show off the trophy and share it with the people of the province.
And for Reid, the best part of barnstorming was getting the chance to meet football fans all over B.C. Reid, born and raised in the Lower Mainland, says one key point that was repeatedly reinforced this off-season is that although the football team plays its home games in Vancouver, the Lions are most definitely B.C.’s team.
“We have fans across the province—we are the B.C. Lions—and I think it’s really important to get out there as we did, not just to remind ourselves but to thank our fans in every corner of the province,” he says. “You go to some places hours and hours away and they know who you are and they’ve watched every game. Some of them, they’ll come down to every game. We’re talking 10-, 12-, 14-hour drives. I met season-ticket holders in Fort St. James and Dawson Creek coming down to every game. We’ve got guys in our own city saying they don’t have time. It’s the least we can do to come by for one day and say thank you, take some photos, and sign some autographs.”
Whether it was Williams Lake or Whistler, Trail or Tofino, Reid was struck by the familiarity fans had with the players who had come to visit. And as he prepares for his 12th season with the Lions, Reid says fans continually remind him how times have changed for the better for the football team and the league as a whole. And because the Lions have kept the core of their championship group together, the 2012 team stands a terrific chance of repeating as champions for the first time in franchise history.
“The CFL has always been a league where stability was a hard thing to find, and it’s really great to keep the group of guys together,” Reid says. “It’s great for the team on the field but also for the fan base and the community as a whole. We’ve had stars who’ve been around for a long time, and they stick here and they stay here. The guys fans cheer for on the field are the same guys you see out and about in the community in the off-season. And that’s a great way to get a really strong connection with the fans. You know who you’re cheering for before the season starts. That’s something we didn’t have for a long time in this organization, and I really think that’s special.”
As the Lions embark on the long road to defending their championship next fall, Reid will fondly file away the memories of the people met and the places visited during the past few months.
Considering that the Lions hadn’t won the Grey Cup since 2006, and that, at 35, Reid’s playing days are winding down, he says it was important to make as many personal appearances as he did with the trophy. There are no guarantees in professional sports, and he knows he may not get the chance to do the things he did or visit the places he did ever again.
“You don’t get that opportunity every year, where you’re that important to the place or the cause,” he says of making a difference with a handshake and an hour or two of his time. “So I’ve tried to take advantage of it and tried to get out there and be involved in as many positive community events that we have as a team or on my own. I’ve been soaking it up because this doesn’t happen every year, and there will be a time in life when I won’t be able to do this anymore.”
The hope of football fans everywhere in B.C. is that Reid and his team successfully defend their title. That way, the Lions will be big winners and so will people around the province, people who will surely get another day with the Grey Cup.
Jeff Paterson is a talk-show host on Vancouver’s all-sports radio Team 1040. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/patersonjeff