On and off the field, Manitobans playing key roles for Grey Cup weekend in Regina

Even though Regina is hosting this year’s CFL final, people from Manitoba are playing important roles during the Grey Cup festival that will culminate in Sunday’s game.

Amanda Smart, who is a part of a Vancouver-based production company called PRP,  is one of the stage managers for Sunday’s pre-game, halftime show and post-game shows.

Smart, who now calls Winnipeg home but is originally from The Pas, in northern Manitoba, says her job is all about timing.

While she’ll have a great view on game day, she likely won’t be able to watch it, because she’ll be busy co-ordinating her shows. 

“When I start to bring things out at halftime, I’m close enough to the field to see something, but I focus with my volunteers and I focus on the comms…. That’s my priority,” she said.

While there’s a rivalry between the two cities’ football teams, Smart said it’s great that Regina and Winnipeg are so close geographically, since crew members from the two provinces can find support with each other.

“Case in point, this weekend, that’s happening,” Smart said. 

Smart said she’ll have a great view of the game, but she’ll be focusing on her shows. (Joanne Roberts/CBC)

While Smart will be on the sidelines on game day, a few Winnipeggers will be on the field.

Brady Oliveira, Nic Demski and Geoff Gray will be vying for the Grey Cup with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, while Andrew Harris will be playing for the Toronto Argonauts. 

Some fans suggest there’s a rivalry between Harris and his former Winnipeg teammates — especially Oliveira and Demski, as all three players played high school football with Winnipeg’s Oak Park.

But running back Oliveira doesn’t see it that way. He says his relationship with Harris has only grown. 

“It’s a brotherhood that we got going on,” Oliveira said. “Him and I have chatted throughout the week. It’s going to be cool seeing him across the sidelines, battling against him tomorrow. But at the end of the day, it’s all love.”

Bombers running back Brady Oliveira stands on the field at the Mosaic Stadium in Regina, where he will competing with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for its third Grey Cup in a row. (Joanne Roberts/CBC)

Winnipeg’s involvement in the Grey Cup extends beyond the stadium too. Jeff McWhinney, who is the keeper of the Grey Cup, is also from Manitoba’s capital city.

McWhinney, whose duties involve the care of the trophy itself, said this year he’s had to clean up some scratches, but it’s otherwise polished and ready to go for Sunday’s game. 

“I want it in good hands. I want it in a great Canadian’s hands,” McWhinney said when asked who he hopes will hold the cup after Sunday’s game.

He said to him, the Grey Cup represents the greatest history book in Canada — but it also represents more than the 3,899 athletes whose names are currently on it.

“[It represents] guys that went out and fought for our country and gave us freedoms. There’s religious freedoms, there’s racial freedoms, there’s transgender freedoms,” he said.

“Just like they’re going to do on Sunday, [people] are going to catch the dream and run with it.”

Jeff McWhinney, who is the keeper of the Grey Cup, said it’s the greatest history book in Canada. (Joanne Roberts/CBC)

Kickoff for the Grey Cup game is at 5 p.m. CT.