B.C. Lions teammates bound by Grey Cup championship rings
Long after the cheers have faded and the memories begin to blur, championship teams in almost all sports are linked for eternity by their rings—a symbol and glitzy reminder of all the hard work that went into being better than the rest.
The 2011 B.C. Lions will be no exception. As the organization prepares to open training camp in Kamloops, the football club will present the members of last year’s Grey Cup–winning squad with their championship rings at a private team function on June 1.
And considering it was the players who did the work on the gridiron last season to bring the Canadian Football League title back to the West Coast for the first time in five years, Lions players were heavily involved in the design process of the team’s rings.
Along with team president Dennis Skulsky and general manager Wally Buono, a group of veteran team leaders was consulted during every step of the ring design, adding input on the look, colour scheme, and inscription on the inside.
“For me, this was the first time I’d ever done anything like this, but the good news was that Wally Buono was around and he’s been through this before,” Skulsky told the Georgia Straight during a recent interview at B.C. Place Stadium (where the Lions open the defence of their title in a Grey Cup rematch with Winnipeg on June 29). “It’s a daunting task—a good task, don’t get me wrong—but you want to get it right because who knows when you’re going to get another chance.”
The ring-design process began a month after the Lions’ Grey Cup victory last November and hit high gear early in the New Year.
That’s when the team sought out recent examples of championship rings from the National Hockey League, National Football League, and the National Basketball Association. The Lions also looked at the organization’s five previous Grey Cup rings to see if there was any significant theme or design concept to carry forward for continuity’s sake.
“The reality is we think we have come up with the best Grey Cup ring design that the B.C. Lions have ever had,” Skulsky stated proudly. “And I know that from a dollar-and-cents point of view, and diamonds and jewellery, our players are going to be really impressed, and, hopefully, this will be the motivating factor to say, ‘Let’s get back there and do it again.’ ”
Although final details are being kept under wraps until the great unveiling, it’s believed that the 2011 championship ring will incorporate images of the new-look B.C. Place Stadium, the Grey Cup, and the B.C. Lions logo. Each player will receive a personalized ring with his name inscribed on the side, and every ring will include an inside inscription that captures the wild ride the football team took from an 0-5 start to the top of the heap.
And there will be diamonds, lots of diamonds—apparently at the insistence of veteran cornerback Dante Marsh. Like other final details, the value of the rings is a secret. But owner David Braley is footing the bill and apparently wanted no expense spared for the gaudy keepsakes.
“He’s been unbelievable, and we’ve been fortunate to have him say these are something special,” Skulsky said. “These are by far the most expensive rings—probably double—than what the Lions have ever spent before. But it’s a statement about the culture that we’re trying to continue to build and about wanting players to be here—the stadium, the community, how they’re treated on and off the field, and now these rings. You want to go over and above.”
And for the players who were part of the design process, it’s been a labour of love this off-season. Travis Lulay, the league’s most outstanding player and Grey Cup MVP, readily admits that he is a better quarterback than goldsmith, but he says it still meant a lot to him to be included in the project.
“At first, I was like, ‘It doesn’t matter what it looks like: it’s going to say 2011 Grey Cup champs and it will be shiny and that’s all that matters,’ ” he said with a laugh. “But it was pretty cool to be a part of the voicing committee, and the club really wanted to hear how the players felt about the look because, ultimately, we were a big part of getting that ring.”
And Lulay is not alone. Veteran slotback Geroy Simon, who won his first Grey Cup ring as a Lion in 2006, believes the fact that he had a hand in the final design of this year’s version will make the ring far more personal. Destined to become the CFL’s all-time leader in receiving yards early in this upcoming season, Simon has accomplished more in his career than most can ever dream of, but he doesn’t think anything will top what he and his Lions teammates were able to do last season.
“I’d say the Grey Cup in 2011 was my greatest moment as a professional because of the way we won it, the way we started, the journey through the season and to win it at home,” Simon said. “It was really special to me and so was being part of the design committee. So this ring is going to be cherished, and I will definitely wear it with pride.”
It’s pretty clear that by involving players from last year’s championship team in the ring-design process, the B.C. Lions wanted to ensure this project was another example of teamwork—the same kind that made the Lions the best in the CFL last year and perhaps setting the tone to do it again this year. Repeat champions? The B.C. Lions think that has a nice ring to it.