REGINA – The players won’t be the only ones in a huddle at Sunday’s Grey Cup.
Thousands of fans at Mosaic Stadium will be cozying up to each other in an effort to stay warm in chilly temperatures and block the Prairie wind that locals say can knock your socks off.
“Saskatchewan’s notorious for its wind,” says Trevor Norgan, assistant manager of Fresh Air Experience, an outdoor clothing and equipment store in Regina.
“There’s not a lot of shelter because we don’t have a lot of trees and things, so it just really continues across the entire province. So you get these cold fronts that come in and the key thing that I have found is if a person can stay comfortable, and basically block the wind but have a little bit of insulation, that’s the key ingredient.”
When the Saskatchewan Roughriders hosted the CFL West Division semifinal against the B.C. Lions on Nov. 10, Environment Canada said the temperature at halftime was -15 C. It was a biting -21 C with the windchill. The weather this week in Regina has been bitterly cold with Wednesday’s high -17 C. A bit of relief may be coming with temperatures expected to rise to just below zero by gameday, though the low for Sunday is -14.
Norgan recommends layers to stay warm.
He starts with a lightweight base layer shirt in a merino wool because it can wick away moisture and doesn’t smell the way a synthetic material can, and tops that with a fleece sweater. Those can be followed by down sweaters and a windproof exterior shell “to block that great Saskatchewan wind we have here” or a down-filled parka.
The bottom is just as important, says Norgan. For the legs, longjohns are a must. Ski or snow pants that block wind are a plus too.
Norgan says children and women may need to dress a little bit warmer because they tend to feel the cold more then men, but “it just depends how rambunctious and active you are during the game.”
“The important thing is basically to stay comfortable because you want to enjoy the experience at the game. It’s one of those things where you don’t want to feel that you’re cold or you don’t want to feel that you wished you had something else,” says Norgan.
Dave Ash, a tour organizer and super fan who is best known for wearing a flashing green light mounted on a Riders helmet, swears by goose down-filled jackets.
Of course, Ash tops all of that with a Saskatchewan Roughriders jersey big enough to fit over the parka.
“As part of any Grey Cup festivities, the most important thing is a little survival kit,” says Ash. “Inside you’ll have a warming blanket, but the most important things are these two items: handwarmers and toe warmers — a must for Grey Cup. You’re going to be outside in the cold for three hours. The only way to fight the cold is with heat, remember that.”
Ash says another must is a seat cushion to separate your bum from the cold benches at Mosaic Stadium.
The Regina tour organizer, who has been to 38 consecutive Grey Cups and plans to be there on Sunday, says the coldest was probably the first Grey Cup he attended in Calgary in 1975.
“It was really cold and there was a streaker at that game,” Ash says with a laugh. “It was really cold.”
Norgan remembers going to the Grey Cup as a kid in 1995 and it’s the cold that stands out for him too.
“It was shocking, like I couldn’t describe it any more than shocking,” recalls Norgan. “I can remember the wind was so vicious that if somebody moved four or five seats down, you could feel the wind coming up, so it was actually a community effort to stay warm.
“You see the athletes huddling on the side. You can everybody else in the stands huddling as well.”