55 Yard Line - CFL

For all the focus on this week's football events leading up to today's Grey Cup game (preview here, live blog starting at 6 p.m. Eastern), it's important to remember that the event's about more than just a football game. It's really a week-long celebration of the CFL, its teams, its fans, and even Canada, and it's one that plenty of people from around the country enjoy. This week, I ran into people hailing from everywhere from Atlantic Canada to B.C. and plenty of points in between. Saskatchewan fans (some of whom are pictured above) predominated, as expected considering the Riders' popularity, proximity and presence in the game, but I also met fans from the Argonauts, Tiger-Cats and every other team. Work obligations obviously prevented me from checking out too much of the nightlife, but here's some observations on the parties I did make it to and some thoughts from other reporters on the ones they attended.

Chairman's Bash (Wednesday night, Lux Steakhouse): This was one of the highlights of the week for me. 2010 Grey Cup co-chairs Doug Goss and Rick LeLacheur threw a tremendous party, complete with entertainment, food and drinks. Most of the media corps made it out, so it was fun getting to know some colleagues outside of the press box. It was a little more upscale than most of the week's other events, but that can be fun too. The Grey Cup even showed up! (pictured at right).

Spirit of Edmonton (most of the week, Westin Hotel): I didn't get a chance to check out this legendary party last year in Calgary, but I'm glad I rectified that this year. I made it out there for a little while Friday night and had a great time meeting and talking with fans from Hamilton, Saskatchewan, B.C. and other places. Some of them are pictured at right. Michael Grange of The Globe and Mail also has a photo diary from his time there the other night.

Gibson's Finest Player Awards (Thursday night, WinSpear Centre): Technically, I wasn't actually at this party, as I was working on a piece on the awards from inside the media lockup room. I got to watch the awards ceremony on closed-circuit TV, though, and it was quite well-done; I also heard good reports from those fans in attendance.

B.C. Lions' Den (most of the week, Fairmont McDonald, pictured from the outside at below right): I wasn't there to party, but rather to interview PavCo president/CEO Warren Buckley (and get the news from him that the renovated B.C. Place is in fact set to open in September). However, he and the B.C. Place model were both located in the middle of the party, which was packed even at three in the afternoon Saturday. It looked pretty good from all observations, and it also featured plenty of luminaries. When I walked into the hotel, CFL commissioner Mark Cohon, B.C. Lions/Toronto Argonauts owner David Braley and Lions' coach/general manager Wally Buono were all standing in the lobby talking to each other.

The Sherlock Holmes Pub (downtown location): This bar wasn't hosting an official CFL party to my knowledge, but it was packed with plenty of fans when I stopped in briefly after Thursday's awards. As an avid Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fan, I couldn't resist the chance to check out a bar with that name (I avoided the adjoining Moriarty Wine Bar on principle, however). It's quite a solid place with a wide beer selection, and the CFL fans in attendance seemed to be having a great time.

The Hat Resto/Pub: Again, not an official CFL party (I don't think), but I stopped by there briefly Saturday night to hang out with Ryan Gallivan from The Gally Blog and found it packed with plenty of CFL fans. Most of them were clad in green Riders' jerseys, as was a recurring theme, but I enjoyed getting the chance to meet some new people. It's quite a nice sports bar with a wide variety of drinks.

The Playboy Party: Unlike Sportsnet's Perry Lefko, I didn't manage to wrangle an invite to this one. Certainly sounds like quite the event, though.

Overall Impressions:  I think the week went quite well for Edmonton. Such a horde of out of town fans descended on the area that it was often tough to get a cab or find a place to eat, but the many locals I ran into seemed to be mostly having a great time as well. That's good to see, as it isn't much fun for a city if everything's targeted for visitors alone. It also seemed to be a reasonably welcoming atmosphere for most fans; despite the predominance of Riders' partisans, those from other cities (including the Hamilton fans shown at right) largely seemed to be getting along just fine with the green-clad menace. Of course, when you put large amounts of people in the variety of substantial quantities of alcohol, there are bound to be a few regrettable incidents; the police showed up at The Spirit Of Edmonton the night I was there (to break up a fight, I believe), and one cab driver complained to me of receiving racial insults from a group of Saskatchewan fans. On the whole, though, it looks from this vantage point like the Grey Cup committee put on a great show for locals and out-of-towners alike-even those whose choice of attire trends "watermelon".

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