Grey Cup touches down

Commanding Officer Fleet Diving Unit (Pacific), LCdr Rick Kappel and Grey Cup trophy handler Jeff McWhinney of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame inspect the trophy and its engraved panels of Grey Cup winners. Photo by Peter Mallet, Lookout

Commanding Officer Fleet Diving Unit (Pacific), LCdr Rick Kappel and Grey Cup trophy handler Jeff McWhinney of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame inspect the trophy and its engraved panels of Grey Cup winners. Photo by Peter Mallet, Lookout

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

Last week, the 109-year-old Grey Cup trophy of the Canadian Football League made a two-day visit to CFB Esquimalt, giving star-struck football fans at the base a chance to get an up-close look.

The cup arrived at the base on the morning of Oct. 2 with its first stop at the Base Commander’s Office. Captain (Navy) Jason Boyd, from Rosetown, Sask, was decked out in his Saskatchewan Roughriders jersey.

He was visibly excited by its arrival and exclaimed “wow” as the trophy’s handler Jeff McWhinney, dressed in a suit and white gloves, declared “Here it is, the champion’s chalice” while carefully handing it to Capt(N) Boyd.

“It was a tremendous thrill and honour to host, and hold, such a legendary piece of Canadian history,” said Capt(N) Boyd. “I can’t believe I got to have a Grey Cup moment both as a Riders fan and a member of the Canadian Armed Forces.”

Later in the morning the cup went on public display at the Naden Drill Shed and the Dockyard Gym where CFL fans of all stripes were able to view the trophy and take selfies. McWhinney said several base employees showed up with their families wearing jerseys and hats of their favourite teams.

“Visiting the base has made this a magical experience for so many and there were some who said they had direct personal and family ties to the cup, including one sailor whose father played on a Grey Cup winning team,” said McWhinney.

McWhinney, along with the other ‘Keeper of The Cup’ Jason Ryan, travel the country showing off the trophy on behalf of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. The cup’s visit to Esquimalt was also made possible by Canada Company, a non-profit that provides post-secondary scholarships to the children of military members that died on duty or by suicide attributed to military service.

Vancouver businessman Daniel Whittle, a former ship diver with the Naval Reserves during the early 1980s, spearhead the cup’s visit to the base and insisted it make a trip across Esquimalt Harbour to Fleet Diving Unit (Pacific) (FDU(P)).

He is also a member of the B.C. Lions group known as the ‘Waterboys’ who promote the CFL team through community relations efforts.

“This is an outstanding moment for the Fleet Diving Unit and also for myself,” said Whittle. “I did my first ship diver courses here in 1981 and it feels great to bring the cup home to share with today’s sailors in the place where I essentially became a man. It’s a great way to show some respect to the unit, and I’m glad we have the opportunity to do so.”

Before viewing the Cup, divers and members from the Damage Control School heard some heart-felt opening remarks from McWhinney on the cup and its strong ties to Canada’s military. He emphasized that several soldiers, sailors and air men who played in the CFL fought and died for Canada during the First and Second World Wars.

That includes two-time Grey Cup winner and Winnipeg Blue Bomber Jeff Nicklin. He served with the Royal Winnipeg Riffles and was killed by German fire in 1945 during the Battle of the Bulge.

“He [Nicklin] was first-class and one of the guys who made a difference in the war; you are all represented by this trophy,” said McWhinney.

Lieutenant-Commander Rick Kappel, Commanding Officer FDU(P), is a life-long Edmonton Eskimos fan and said having the Grey Cup in their presence was a true “privilege” for he and the rest of the FDU members. While thanking Whittle and McWhinney for their efforts he noted their visit was also highly educational because it highlighted the important links between the military and the Grey Cup.

After its stop at FDU(P) it was brought to 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron for another viewing. Later in the day the cup made the trip to CFB Comox for a visit with personnel and staff at 442 Squadron.

Filed Under: Top Stories

About the Author: The Lookout Newspaper can trace its history back to April 1943 when CFB Esquimalt’s first newspaper was published. Since then, Lookout has grown into the award winning source for Pacific Navy News. Leading the way towards interactive social media reach, we are a community resource newspaper growing a world wide audience.

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