The Winnipeg Blue Bomber will take the field for the first time in almost two years, facing off against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
On Monday morning, the Canadian Football League (CFL) announced this year's season was going ahead, starting on August 5. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers will host the Tiger-Cats in the first game of the season at home.
"We as a league know it's important to play as many games possible and that's what we're doing. And it's great for our players and coaches and fans that we're getting back and kicking off the first week of August in a 14-game schedule with the Grey Cup finishing in December and look forward defending our championship," Winnipeg Blue Bombers President and CEO Wade Miller says.
Literally counting the days, Miller says it has been 630 days since their last game.
"I missed the opportunity for our players to play in front of our great fans, that are loudest in the CFL, and see IG Field rocking."
Darren Cameron, Senior Director of Public and Player Relations says stadium capacity, vaccination requirements, and group sizes are all still to be determined.
There is a "clear line of sight" for the team to see the field again. What this could look like in Manitoba, which has some of the strictest COVID-19 Public Health Orders in the country, will depend on two key things.
Tickets and game schedule
"The revised 14-game 2021 Blue Bombers schedule features seven road and seven home contests. Of the seven dates at IG Field, three will be held on Saturdays, two will be Friday night games with one each on Sunday and Thursday," the Bombers say in a statement.
The Bomber's first two games as defending champions will be at home, first on August 5 and the second on Friday, August 13 against the Toronto Argonauts.
The Labour Day Classic and Banjo Bowl will commence in September, with the Saskatchewan home game on Sunday, September 5 and the Banjo Bowl on Saturday, September 11 in Winnipeg.
Their last regular-season game is on the road in Calgary against the Stampeders on November 20.
The Grey Cup will be hosted in Hamilton on December 12.
"I think that's going to translate into a CFL season that's going to be successful. So we don't have those specifics, it's a little bit away, but we are working actively," Manitoba's Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Brent Roussin says in a Monday press conference.
Roussin says increased vaccinations and decreased cases will make a big difference.
"I hope in the near future we're going to have a bit more insight into that. I don't think we've definitely worked out things on the specifics but, as I say, I expect this to be a good Manitoba summer," Roussin says. "(We are) hoping to have some more specifics on that but I'm optimistic about that season."
The CEO agrees with Roussin, saying vaccines will make a difference in fans in the stands.
"We look forward to hosting as many fans as we can and as we get closer to that date we're going to announce our plans for bringing back our fans to IG field," Miller says.
As of last week, 70 per cent of all adults in Manitoba have received their first COVID-19 vaccination. Canada is leading the world in first doses. These efforts will also play a role in other gatherings this summer.
2021 Season goals
The Bombers, who currently hold the championship title as the last winners before the pandemic, will be going for another.
"It's something that our team's ready for, and (we are) ready to hit the field and get back playing some CFL football," Miller says. "We have an opportunity every year for a championship and this will be no different."
This year's championship game will be held in Hamilton, Ontario, in December.
The CFL says they will release more information on how the season will work on Tuesday.