For 100 years, the Grey Cup has signified excellence in the Canadian Football League (CFL) and for the first time ever a Squamish native will get his name carved on the silver chalice.
Joe Eppele and his Toronto Argonauts teammates defeated the Calgary Stampeders 35-22 on Sunday (Nov. 25) in the big game and Eppele told The Chief the party is still going on for the city of Toronto and his teammates.
“It was absolute pandemonium in the locker room,” he said in a phone interview on Monday (Nov. 26). “I think by the end of the celebration we had about two inches of beer and champagne on the floor of the dressing room. Guys even turned the floor into a slip and slide for a while.”
The Argos were in control of the entire game and Eppele said it was a game he'll never forget.
“During the introductions it was extremely emotional for me,” he said. “When I was standing there in the tunnel I almost broke into tears but I managed to hold myself together. Just jogging onto that field and seeing a packed house was one of the best feelings I've ever had.
The game was amazing, the crowd was phenomenal and the whole city was behind us – it felt like the whole country was behind us. But you know what – I don't think it has sunk in yet that we won the 100th Grey Cup, it's still very surreal to me.”
Eppele, who plays on the offensive line for the Argos, said the team really came together and pointed to the Argos 31-26 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Regina on Oct. 27 as a turning point.
“In the last five games of the season we developed a calm confidence and we had that yesterday,” he said. “It was almost like as soon as we strapped on our gear that we knew we were going to win. It was a complete victory for us, everybody showed up and we just went to work.”
He also praised the play of Argos quarterback Ricky Ray, who Toronto acquired in a trade in the offseason with the Edmonton Eskimos.
“Ricky Ray is an amazing quarterback and a phenomenal leader,” he said. “He has such amazing composure back there. He never says anything bad about the offensive line or anyone else and he's so calm. That calm nature calms everyone down and he gives the offense complete confidence, we couldn't have made it without him.”
Eppele also admitted that in all the pandemonium in the locker room that the Grey Cup now sports a broken handle.
“It's very true,” he said sheepishly. “We broke one of the handles, I think we got a little excited. I don't know who the culprit was but I heard one of the guys was grabbing it while we were pouring beer in it. I think someone just got really thirsty.”
He said he hasn't been able to spend a whole lot of time with the trophy yet but did share that he drank a “significant” amount of beer and champagne out of the cup following the game.
Eppele said he was grateful for all of the support he received from Squamoleans via social media.
“The support from back home was amazing,” he said. “It gave me that extra bit of motivation. Hearing from people I went to high school with and people I knew growing up – it was unbelievable. I didn't think that many people remembered me but it was a really good feeling.”
And Eppele may just get to reward his Squamish fans by bringing the Grey Cup to town.
“Every player gets one day with the cup but I'm going to try and sweet talk the team into letting me have two days with it,” he said. “There are some places I want to take it to in Toronto like my grandfathers grave because he was a big CFL fan. I'm hoping they will let me weasel in there for two days and I want to fly out to B.C. and bring it up to Squamish.”
For now, Eppele will get a chance to take part in the Argos championship parade on Tuesday (Nov. 27) and continue the celebration well into the offseason.
Follow Eppele on Twitter - @JoeEppele59 for more details on his experiences with the cup.