WINNIPEG – Everywhere it goes, the Grey Cup captures a crowd.
But making sure it gets there is handler Jeff McWhinney.
The Winnipegger is in charge of keeping tabs on the trophy. He’s only been on the job for seven months but is already a cup connoisseur.
“We have 103 teams on this right now”, said McWhinney. “98,000 players gone through this league. There’s only 3593 on here. As of yesterday, there’s now 283 players in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.”
On top of teaching, McWhinney also packs and polishes the prize.
“I want to make sure the cup looks good,” said McWhinney. “That I can speak to the individual, if fans ask about that individual, I can speak to them on a respectful level.”
The days are long. The Saturday alone before the 103rd Grey Cup game saw McWhinney and the trophy make 14 stops across Winnipeg.
“I’m no stranger to four o’clock in the morning that’s for certain,” said McWhinney.
Fueling him are the fans and their fondness for football.
“I love seeing people come up, they take a look and sneak a kiss,” said McWhinney.
The Grey Cup is well travelled having touched down all over the globe. Fans are allowed to come up and take their picture with it at each visit. There’s just two rules though. They can’t hoist the cup over their head or touch the top.
“The chalice is reserved for our champions so we want to have that reserved for the guys that on the last sunday in november,” said McWhinney.
Winning teams get 60 days with the Grey Cup allowing McWhinney to rest. A man who, for a good chunk of the year, basks in the shine of a silver celebrity.
“This is an icon of our Canadian fabric,” said McWhinney. “It doesn’t just connect our Gridiron greats. It connects everybody.”
A country united thanks in part to McWhinney.