Champs home to party

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:53 AM ET

The 'Party on the Pacific' is over, but the 'Party in the City Of Champions' is about to begin again for the Edmonton Eskimos.

"We didn't want to celebrate in Vancouver," said Ed Hervey. "It was like they didn't want us there. So why celebrate there?

"We waited to get back in town to celebrate with who really wants to celebrate winning the Grey Cup."

That, and they were too pooped to party, too emotionally drained from the first Grey Cup game since 1961 to go into overtime -- a game which featured seven lead changes.

"It was so emotional that in the end we were all left pretty much drained," said kicker Sean Fleming, who ended up 11-for-11 kicking field goals in the post-season after getting replaced by Hayden Epstein at mid-season.

"Despite all the changes this year, it was almost like we'd been there before," said Fleming.

There were 19 players who started this season who weren't Eskimos in 2004, and 26 players as the season ended who weren't with the club in '04.

"It was like the game wore us out."

The arrival on a chartered aircraft yesterday with the Grey Cup was a happy enough happening, but featured few hangovers.

Today the Eskimos will hold their 'Pedway Parade' along the usual route.

Unlike 2003, however, there will be no outdoor Jasper Avenue first stage to the parade before it hits the Edmonton City Centre pedway system at Commerce Place beginning at 11:40, following a private brunch with city officials and the team at the Hotel Macdonald.

The event will end up in the same cleared-out food court location of Edmonton City Centre West where the 'Ricky Ray Please Stay' event was held after the Eskimos won the Grey Cup in 2003.

Traditional player introductions will be followed by an autograph session from 12:45 to 1:30.

Then the winter-long party will begin with players taking the Cup from watering hole to watering hole, restaurant to restaurant and all over town as has been the tradition with both the Stanley Cup and Grey Cup in the City of Champions since the Oilers and Eskimos both won it the same seasons.

"We want to let our fans enjoy it," said Fleming. "We're going to take the Cup around."

The players, as was the case in 2003, will each have it for one day, including Bruce Beaton, who is already making plans for taking it home to Nova Scotia.

After winning it two years ago, Beaton had surgery on both knees and was in massive pain on the day he had the Cup back home. This time he's calling it a career again and is going to enjoy the do-over for all it's worth.

Beaton wore one of the greatest grins.

"I'm done," he declared. "I'd be a fool not to walk away after the game. If you told me there would be a better way to leave than I left the first time after we won in 2003, I'd have laughed. But there it was.

"I'm leaving after maybe the greatest Grey Cup ever played.

"And the best part was that we got to beat the Alouettes again. Losing to Montreal in 2002 bruised me a bit."

It wasn't quite at the stage it became with the five-in-a-row team that had become so used to the Cup that toward the end of the run, a few of them sat around "reading it' -- that is reading the names engraved on it.

Maybe next year.


Photos