'The city deserves it': Blue Bombers gear up for first home playoff game since 2011
But whatever the weather brings, the team will be mentally preparing for the game, writes Ed Tait
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The author remains anonymous. But his message has come to represent the attitude of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as the Grey Cup playoffs approach.
Written on the white board in the Bombers locker room at McMahon Stadium in Calgary last Friday – a night in which the temperature at kickoff was an ugly -14C – was the following weather report:
Temp: Not Cold Enough
Wind: We Don’t Care
It turned out to be prophetic, as the Bombers stiff-armed the cold en-route to a 23-5 victory over the Stampeders that guaranteed the West Semi-Final will be played at Investors Group Field against the Edmonton Eskimos this Sunday.
Now, the early week forecast calls for sunny conditions and a high of -2C, but that’s almost of no matter at this point. This time of year isn’t just about talent or scheme, it’s also about mental toughness; about an ability to improvise and adapt.
Look, the Bombers know the Eskimos – who enter the playoffs as the CFL’s hottest club on a five-game win streak – are going to be a handful on Sunday.
And they know the questions about the availability of quarterback Matt Nichols and the assortment of other injuries to key personnel like Maurice Leggett, Darvin Adams and Jamaal Westerman, likely means the visitors will be favoured by Vegas bookies.
But there are certain perks to playing at home, even if Bombers fans can be excused from remembering what they are, seeing as the last playoff game in these parts was back in 2011.
The Bombers, for example, have a .683 winning percentage at home and when IGF gets rocking, it is the loudest building in the CFL. And in a win-or-go-home scenario, those are factors that get multiplied by a zillion.
“Edmonton is a team that gets a lot of their signals from the sidelines,” said Bombers running back Andrew Harris on Monday. “The noise is huge for the defence… it’s just the emotion. We get so excited when we score we jump into the crowd. There’s just so many different factors.
“It’s the fact that you get to wake up in your own bed, have a nice meal… for me that’s huge. Just the overall experience is huge for us. The biggest thing is, you talk about the history and there hasn’t been a home playoff game here for a while. The energy and hype that’s going to be in this building is going to be outrageous and it’s going to be one of a kind.
“It’s going to be exciting to be in that environment and really just take it to another level.”
The Bombers are going to need to find that next level, too. This time of year is when heroes are born, after all. The weather won’t matter, to be sure, but the results most certainly do.
And when the playoffs begin all everyone wants is to survive another week.
“Our fans are great,” added left tackle Stanley Bryant. “They deserve this. The city deserves it.”
Ed Tait is the Blue Bombers Director of Content. His columns appear weekly in the Metro. Follow him daily at bluebombers.com.