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pw13

Looking for memories of 1991 Grey Cup week/festivities/hoopla etc.

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Hi everyone. I'm new to MBB, and appreciate the opportunity to make a small pitch. I am an author and CFL fan/historian in the Toronto area, currently working on my second book about the Argonauts. The first (Bouncing Back: From National Joke to Grey Cup Champs) was published in 2013 and told the story of the 1983 Argos, who ended a 31-year Grey Cup drought that year, just two years after the worst season in franchise history.

The book I'm working on now is about the 1991 Argos, who were owned by John Candy, Wayne Gretzky and Bruce McNall, signed Rocket Ismail to the largest contract in football (not just CFL, but football, period) history, and won the coldest Grey Cup ever played -- in Winnipeg, of course.

I've interviewed dozens of players, coaches, execs and others associated with the team and the league of that era, and I'm planning a research/vacation trip to Winnipeg in July (to coincide with the Argos' game there -- my first chance to experience IGF!) for interviews with individuals who were involved with the 1991 Grey Cup festival and game. I'm looking for connections to anyone who might have good stories and experiences from Winnipeg's first time playing host to the big game. I'm especially interested in interviewing individuals who had encounters with John Candy that week, but at this point I'll consider any interesting connection that might factor into the story.

I'd also love to find anyone who has any connection to the two frozen beer cans that were tossed at the Rocket as he crossed the goal-line with the kickoff return TD that essentially clinched Toronto's win. I realize it was 28 years ago, and at this point anyone of a certain age could claim to be (or know) the throwers. I'm certainly not counting on being able to positively identify those responsible, and I definitely don't want anyone "brought to justice." But everyone old enough to have seen the game remembers the first beer can almost hitting Ismail before its frozen foam exploded on the turf -- the second can, fired from a different part of the stands a second or two later, has been largely forgotten -- and yet nothing (as far as I know) has ever been reported about who did it, why, etc. A search for the thrower is potentially a fun little angle to pursue along with the much bigger picture of the Argos (and the league) in 1991.

Anyway, all of that is to say, if you have a personal connection to the 1991 Grey Cup game that you think would be worth me hearing about as part of my research, and/or you know anyone who has such a connection, I'd love to hear from you. You can DM me but a better route would be to email me: paulwoods13@gmail.com. 

Thanks!

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You may find about 20 different people who claim to be the person who chucked the beer can on this site. I was sitting in the temporary stands about 15 rows up in the northeast corner (where the old "Rum Hut" would later be situated) and saw Ismail run back the kick right in front of me. Did not see the beer can until it whizzed over my head and on to the field. Can't say where it came from in that section, but it was a ways up in the stands.

Two memories of John Candy, both from a game earlier in the year in Winnipeg. The Argos sideline was more than just players and coaches - there was a real entourage of management and hangers-on down on the sidelines it felt like every game. Add that to the money being thrown about by McNall on the players, and a bit of arrogance from the players, and I can say that the Argos were NOT the crowd favorite on Grey Cup Sunday. They refused to be introduced individually and asked to be introduced as a team for the starting line-ups, which I suppose is OK to represent that no one player matters, and yet they each walked out (slowly, I might add) individually in single file with their helmets off and raised above their heads (akin to a wrestler entering the ring - I could all but hear the intro music playing for them) rather than a group run on to the field. Anyway, back to Candy. He was the antithesis of this attitude. Very fun loving guy who wanted to be on the sidelines not to be part of the spectacle but because he was such a true fan, living out his fantasy, without a shred of false humility. In the regular season game in October, when he came out, the Bombers' PA announcer noted that Candy had donated $20,000 to the local Winnipeg Firefighter's toy drive (I later discovered Candy tried to keep this anonymous, and it was the firefighters who tipped off the Bombers, who chose to announce it). Candy was standing on the east sidelines, and rather than the usual booing and catcalls that would emanate from those stands to opposing players, Candy was hailed with shouts of "Hey, it's Uncle Buck!", "Gil Fisher:, and :Schmengie brothers forever!" The in-house DJ then played a video clip from "Home Alone" where Candy introduces his polka band and starts playing the clarinet in the rental van. Fans ate It up and were dancing in the stands. Candy was laughing his head off and waving at all the Bomber fans, clearly surprised, overjoyed and yet humbled by the adoration. I have never witnessed that kind of affection from Bomber fans to any visiting opponent. Some have said the day he died, a bit of the Argos died too, never to recover completely.

One last random memory of Grey Cup '91, that was the year the Stampeders re-claimed the tradition of riding a horse into the lobby of a hotel. First done in 1948 at the Royal York in Toronto, the horse had not made another attempt until Winnipeg in 1991, but that year it made its triumphant return and strode into the lobby of the Fort Garry hotel, and has been doing so (or attempting to) at every Calgary Grey Cup since.

Hope you enjoy your time in Winnipeg this summer, and since you made sure to mention how cold it was during Grey Cup week, hopefully you will mention how warm it gets in the summer in Winnipeg and dispel the myth that we are an igloo year-round.

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16 minutes ago, TrueBlue4ever said:

You may find about 20 different people who claim to be the person who chucked the beer can on this site. I was sitting in the temporary stands about 15 rows up in the northeast corner (where the old "Rum Hut" would later be situated) and saw Ismail run back the kick right in front of me. Did not see the beer can until it whizzed over my head and on to the field. Can't say where it came from in that section, but it was a ways up in the stands.

Two memories of John Candy, both from a game earlier in the year in Winnipeg. The Argos sideline was more than just players and coaches - there was a real entourage of management and hangers-on down on the sidelines it felt like every game. Add that to the money being thrown about by McNall on the players, and a bit of arrogance from the players, and I can say that the Argos were NOT the crowd favorite on Grey Cup Sunday. They refused to be introduced individually and asked to be introduced as a team for the starting line-ups, which I suppose is OK to represent that no one player matters, and yet they each walked out (slowly, I might add) individually in single file with their helmets off and raised above their heads (akin to a wrestler entering the ring - I could all but hear the intro music playing for them) rather than a group run on to the field. Anyway, back to Candy. He was the antithesis of this attitude. Very fun loving guy who wanted to be on the sidelines not to be part of the spectacle but because he was such a true fan, living out his fantasy, without a shred of false humility. In the regular season game in October, when he came out, the Bombers' PA announcer noted that Candy had donated $20,000 to the local Winnipeg Firefighter's toy drive (I later discovered Candy tried to keep this anonymous, and it was the firefighters who tipped off the Bombers, who chose to announce it). Candy was standing on the east sidelines, and rather than the usual booing and catcalls that would emanate from those stands to opposing players, Candy was hailed with shouts of "Hey, it's Uncle Buck!", "Gil Fisher:, and :Schmengie brothers forever!" The in-house DJ then played a video clip from "Home Alone" where Candy introduces his polka band and starts playing the clarinet in the rental van. Fans ate It up and were dancing in the stands. Candy was laughing his head off and waving at all the Bomber fans, clearly surprised, overjoyed and yet humbled by the adoration. I have never witnessed that kind of affection from Bomber fans to any visiting opponent. Some have said the day he died, a bit of the Argos died too, never to recover completely.

One last random memory of Grey Cup '91, that was the year the Stampeders re-claimed the tradition of riding a horse into the lobby of a hotel. First done in 1948 at the Royal York in Toronto, the horse had not made another attempt until Winnipeg in 1991, but that year it made its triumphant return and strode into the lobby of the Fort Garry hotel, and has been doing so (or attempting to) at every Calgary Grey Cup since.

Hope you enjoy your time in Winnipeg this summer, and since you made sure to mention how cold it was during Grey Cup week, hopefully you will mention how warm it gets in the summer in Winnipeg and dispel the myth that we are an igloo year-round.

That's a myth???

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Rockets first return of the game went for 80 yards and he fumbled .

Also... the legend of the heroic Dunnigan being hurt and doubtful for the game and summoning the courage to play was vastly overblown. 

Sports mythmaking is fun but Dunnigan was always going to start.

LLoyd Fairbanks OL Calgary.  16 year career and one and only Cup appearance. Hopes rested on Danny Barrett. Poor guy.

Edited by Zontar

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5 hours ago, TrueBlue4ever said:

You may find about 20 different people who claim to be the person who chucked the beer can on this site. I was sitting in the temporary stands about 15 rows up in the northeast corner (where the old "Rum Hut" would later be situated) and saw Ismail run back the kick right in front of me. Did not see the beer can until it whizzed over my head and on to the field. Can't say where it came from in that section, but it was a ways up in the stands.

Two memories of John Candy, both from a game earlier in the year in Winnipeg. The Argos sideline was more than just players and coaches - there was a real entourage of management and hangers-on down on the sidelines it felt like every game. Add that to the money being thrown about by McNall on the players, and a bit of arrogance from the players, and I can say that the Argos were NOT the crowd favorite on Grey Cup Sunday. They refused to be introduced individually and asked to be introduced as a team for the starting line-ups, which I suppose is OK to represent that no one player matters, and yet they each walked out (slowly, I might add) individually in single file with their helmets off and raised above their heads (akin to a wrestler entering the ring - I could all but hear the intro music playing for them) rather than a group run on to the field. Anyway, back to Candy. He was the antithesis of this attitude. Very fun loving guy who wanted to be on the sidelines not to be part of the spectacle but because he was such a true fan, living out his fantasy, without a shred of false humility. In the regular season game in October, when he came out, the Bombers' PA announcer noted that Candy had donated $20,000 to the local Winnipeg Firefighter's toy drive (I later discovered Candy tried to keep this anonymous, and it was the firefighters who tipped off the Bombers, who chose to announce it). Candy was standing on the east sidelines, and rather than the usual booing and catcalls that would emanate from those stands to opposing players, Candy was hailed with shouts of "Hey, it's Uncle Buck!", "Gil Fisher:, and :Schmengie brothers forever!" The in-house DJ then played a video clip from "Home Alone" where Candy introduces his polka band and starts playing the clarinet in the rental van. Fans ate It up and were dancing in the stands. Candy was laughing his head off and waving at all the Bomber fans, clearly surprised, overjoyed and yet humbled by the adoration. I have never witnessed that kind of affection from Bomber fans to any visiting opponent. Some have said the day he died, a bit of the Argos died too, never to recover completely.

One last random memory of Grey Cup '91, that was the year the Stampeders re-claimed the tradition of riding a horse into the lobby of a hotel. First done in 1948 at the Royal York in Toronto, the horse had not made another attempt until Winnipeg in 1991, but that year it made its triumphant return and strode into the lobby of the Fort Garry hotel, and has been doing so (or attempting to) at every Calgary Grey Cup since.

Hope you enjoy your time in Winnipeg this summer, and since you made sure to mention how cold it was during Grey Cup week, hopefully you will mention how warm it gets in the summer in Winnipeg and dispel the myth that we are an igloo year-round.

How could anyone hate John Candy? It was impossible.

 

Edited by SpeedFlex27

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17 hours ago, TrueBlue4ever said:

You may find about 20 different people who claim to be the person who chucked the beer can on this site. I was sitting in the temporary stands about 15 rows up in the northeast corner (where the old "Rum Hut" would later be situated) and saw Ismail run back the kick right in front of me. Did not see the beer can until it whizzed over my head and on to the field. Can't say where it came from in that section, but it was a ways up in the stands.

Two memories of John Candy, both from a game earlier in the year in Winnipeg. The Argos sideline was more than just players and coaches - there was a real entourage of management and hangers-on down on the sidelines it felt like every game. Add that to the money being thrown about by McNall on the players, and a bit of arrogance from the players, and I can say that the Argos were NOT the crowd favorite on Grey Cup Sunday. They refused to be introduced individually and asked to be introduced as a team for the starting line-ups, which I suppose is OK to represent that no one player matters, and yet they each walked out (slowly, I might add) individually in single file with their helmets off and raised above their heads (akin to a wrestler entering the ring - I could all but hear the intro music playing for them) rather than a group run on to the field. Anyway, back to Candy. He was the antithesis of this attitude. Very fun loving guy who wanted to be on the sidelines not to be part of the spectacle but because he was such a true fan, living out his fantasy, without a shred of false humility. In the regular season game in October, when he came out, the Bombers' PA announcer noted that Candy had donated $20,000 to the local Winnipeg Firefighter's toy drive (I later discovered Candy tried to keep this anonymous, and it was the firefighters who tipped off the Bombers, who chose to announce it). Candy was standing on the east sidelines, and rather than the usual booing and catcalls that would emanate from those stands to opposing players, Candy was hailed with shouts of "Hey, it's Uncle Buck!", "Gil Fisher:, and :Schmengie brothers forever!" The in-house DJ then played a video clip from "Home Alone" where Candy introduces his polka band and starts playing the clarinet in the rental van. Fans ate It up and were dancing in the stands. Candy was laughing his head off and waving at all the Bomber fans, clearly surprised, overjoyed and yet humbled by the adoration. I have never witnessed that kind of affection from Bomber fans to any visiting opponent. Some have said the day he died, a bit of the Argos died too, never to recover completely.

One last random memory of Grey Cup '91, that was the year the Stampeders re-claimed the tradition of riding a horse into the lobby of a hotel. First done in 1948 at the Royal York in Toronto, the horse had not made another attempt until Winnipeg in 1991, but that year it made its triumphant return and strode into the lobby of the Fort Garry hotel, and has been doing so (or attempting to) at every Calgary Grey Cup since.

Hope you enjoy your time in Winnipeg this summer, and since you made sure to mention how cold it was during Grey Cup week, hopefully you will mention how warm it gets in the summer in Winnipeg and dispel the myth that we are an igloo year-round. 

Thank you for this -- very interesting and helpful.

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Further to my earlier query, I'm trying to figure out the specific section from which the first (most infamous) can was hurled. The Rocket ran up the sideline that was inhabited by the Stampeders, which I'm guessing would have been the Bombers' sideline normally? The first can seems to have come from the last section of permanent seating on that side (although that is at odds with TrueBlue4ever's memory that it came out the temporary seating). It looks clear to me in the CBC coverage that the second can did come from the temp stands. Based on a map I found of Canad Inns Stadium, it looks as if the goal-line Ismail crossed (near where the can landed) was in front of Section A. Can any longtime fans familiar with the old stadium or at the 1991 Grey Cup shed any more light on any of this? 

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I was really young but my memories were that it was fackin cold,  the concessions were god awful and for the most part the crowd was pro Calgary.  For the most part people behaved and I didn't see to much trouble in the crowd.  

 

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13 hours ago, Zontar said:

Rockets first return of the game went for 80 yards and he fumbled .

Also... the legend of the heroic Dunnigan being hurt and doubtful for the game and summoning the courage to play was vastly overblown. 

Sports mythmaking is fun but Dunnigan was always going to start.

LLoyd Fairbanks OL Calgary.  16 year career and one and only Cup appearance. Hopes rested on Danny Barrett. Poor guy.

Have you read Dunigan's book?

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13 hours ago, Zontar said:

Rockets first return of the game went for 80 yards and he fumbled .

Also... the legend of the heroic Dunnigan being hurt and doubtful for the game and summoning the courage to play was vastly overblown. 

Sports mythmaking is fun but Dunnigan was always going to start.

LLoyd Fairbanks OL Calgary.  16 year career and one and only Cup appearance. Hopes rested on Danny Barrett. Poor guy.

From what I understood, Dunigan had a separated shoulder or some form of break, was shot up with painkillers to have a numb shoulder, and relied on the cold weather to keep it tolerable until the half when he was shot up again. Said he heard a click in his shoulder with every pass. Don't think there was ever any doubt he was playing, and not sure how much pain he was in, and add to it the fact that he was not very effective that day (7 for 18, something like 180 yards with a couple of long bombs making up a good chunk of the yardage), but he did suck it up and play on a bum shoulder. I'm sure the truth falls somewhere between "legend" and "vastly overblown". But seeing how you are a Ticats fan I can see why you'd lean towards "vastly overblown", and how that sentiment will fall on deaf ears on a Bomber fan site where most equate Dunigan to the "legend" of a 713 yard passing game.

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1 hour ago, pw13 said:

Further to my earlier query, I'm trying to figure out the specific section from which the first (most infamous) can was hurled. The Rocket ran up the sideline that was inhabited by the Stampeders, which I'm guessing would have been the Bombers' sideline normally? The first can seems to have come from the last section of permanent seating on that side (although that is at odds with TrueBlue4ever's memory that it came out the temporary seating). It looks clear to me in the CBC coverage that the second can did come from the temp stands. Based on a map I found of Canad Inns Stadium, it looks as if the goal-line Ismail crossed (near where the can landed) was in front of Section A. Can any longtime fans familiar with the old stadium or at the 1991 Grey Cup shed any more light on any of this? 

It would have been section S that you are identifying, the notorious student section, adjacent to the temp stands. Didn't see the angle of the throw, just noticed the can flying over my head from the vantage point. Did not mean to suggest it definitively came from the temp section. Odds are much better that it WAS from section S. BTW that sideline was the typical visitor's sideline. Toronto was the assigned home team for that game, but requested to wear their road whites for that game.

And as everyone remembers, the beer can was an OV tall boy!

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30 minutes ago, TrueBlue4ever said:

From what I understood, Dunigan had a separated shoulder or some form of break, was shot up with painkillers to have a numb shoulder, and relied on the cold weather to keep it tolerable until the half when he was shot up again. Said he heard a click in his shoulder with every pass. Don't think there was ever any doubt he was playing, and not sure how much pain he was in, and add to it the fact that he was not very effective that day (7 for 18, something like 180 yards with a couple of long bombs making up a good chunk of the yardage), but he did suck it up and play on a bum shoulder. I'm sure the truth falls somewhere between "legend" and "vastly overblown". But seeing how you are a Ticats fan I can see why you'd lean towards "vastly overblown", and how that sentiment will fall on deaf ears on a Bomber fan site where most equate Dunigan to the "legend" of a 713 yard passing game.

I like Dunnigan. But didn't like him then.

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2 hours ago, TrueBlue4ever said:

It would have been section S that you are identifying, the notorious student section, adjacent to the temp stands. Didn't see the angle of the throw, just noticed the can flying over my head from the vantage point. Did not mean to suggest it definitively came from the temp section. Odds are much better that it WAS from section S. BTW that sideline was the typical visitor's sideline. Toronto was the assigned home team for that game, but requested to wear their road whites for that game.

And as everyone remembers, the beer can was an OV tall boy!

Thanks! I originally thought it might be Section S, but then I got crossed up when I looked again at the seating map and compared it to the broadcast images.

So Calgary was on the visitor's sideline even though they were in their home reds? That makes sense as I've been told by an Argo that when they arrived at the stadium that week, some guys made a beeline for the lockers of the Bombers they hated most, like Wild West and Ty Jones. So that would mean Argos used the home locker room and the home sideline (assuming the locker rooms were on both sides of the stadiums.)

I always thought it was a Coors or Coors light. The video is so grainy that it's hard to tell. Was OV the most popular beer in the stadium back then?

Sorry to be asking so many questions and looking for so many details but I want to nail every aspect of this story down tight if possible. Little details like the brand of beer can help make the story come to life for readers. I really do appreciate all the comments, and hope the discussion continues! 

 

Edited by pw13

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As for Dunigan, I can confirm that there was no doubt in his mind all week that he would play, despite how serious the injury was. But he did not practice or throw a pass until he got the shoulder shot full of painkillers in the hotel ballroom at dinner time on the Saturday, then tried some throws while Argo coaches and medical staff watched. He wrote about this in his book (written with the late, great Jim Taylor). His description to me of how the needles felt and how he felt during the game were pretty vivid and graphic, but I will save most of that for the book.

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46 minutes ago, SpeedFlex27 said:

You could hear that from the stands? It may have been his shoulder pads or brace he wore..

I recall Dunigan later talking about the sound when he threw the ball that day. But go to the source if you can, pw13.

I must also cop to another error in re-watching the game on youtube. The Argos did get introduced individually at the start of the game, but the part about them walking out slowly one by one with helmets raised is accurate. And Don Wittman said kickoff temperature was -18, windchill hit -24 according to Environment Canada archives. Some sites (Wikipedia for one) said Dunigan's stats were 12 of 29 for 141 yards, but I cannot verify anywhere. The site also said he had a separated shoulder in the same write-up, so take that (in)accuracy for what it is worth. 

As for the OV tall boy, re-watching the video of the Grey Cup, you can see an inflatable OV can in the end zone, so I'm guessing that they were a corporate sponsor for the game. I am 99.999% certain that I DO remember the can thrown being a tall boy can, because the Bombers normally served Labatts at their games, but would have bowed to the league sponsor for that game, and the tall boy can was a fairly new fad at that time. 

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13 hours ago, TrueBlue4ever said:

I recall Dunigan later talking about the sound when he threw the ball that day. But go to the source if you can, pw13.

I must also cop to another error in re-watching the game on youtube. The Argos did get introduced individually at the start of the game, but the part about them walking out slowly one by one with helmets raised is accurate. And Don Wittman said kickoff temperature was -18, windchill hit -24 according to Environment Canada archives. Some sites (Wikipedia for one) said Dunigan's stats were 12 of 29 for 141 yards, but I cannot verify anywhere. The site also said he had a separated shoulder in the same write-up, so take that (in)accuracy for what it is worth. 

As for the OV tall boy, re-watching the video of the Grey Cup, you can see an inflatable OV can in the end zone, so I'm guessing that they were a corporate sponsor for the game. I am 99.999% certain that I DO remember the can thrown being a tall boy can, because the Bombers normally served Labatts at their games, but would have bowed to the league sponsor for that game, and the tall boy can was a fairly new fad at that time. 

-24 that's all. It seemed a lot colder than that. Everyone was so layered up in my section that people couldn't fit in the row, not like those benches had enough space on a good day. 

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