Chapter 3 – Winnipeg
Ok, so I am going to get a little bit out of the chronological order here. This story is from Labour Day weekend 2022 in Winnipeg.
Shout out to Winnipeg for being…well Winnipeg. I think I hold a special spot in my heart for you because people talk you down a bit, but you’ve got so many hidden (and not so hidden) gems.
I am gonna focus on the journey, not just the destination, because there are so many things to enjoy about you.
Ok so let’s start with our arrival. Me, Mark and Miro Swooped out to Winnipeg. We decided that, based on our advanced cartography skills and a quick chat with the Barkeep at the airport, we could walk from the airport to the first of many microbrews we’d hit. Yes it was close. No there weren’t any sidewalks. But when we got to Torque all issues were left behind. What problems can’t a flight of delicious local beer solve, right?
Then it was on to the next establishment, and so on. Delicious beer, a Mexican Food Truck, and lots of friendly folks along the way. But the key thing here was that on one of the subsequent bus rides to our lodging we passed Pine Street. Those of you raised by Canadian television and educated about our fine history by the Canadian Post Office will know the significance of that street. We’d just laid eyes on THE Valour Road (oh, now I get it! Valour FC!). If this means nothing to you, watch this…and enjoy your Canadian History rabbit hole it will likely elicit. You’re welcome!
We arrived at our Air BnB on a lovely leafy drive in the French Quarter. Winnipeg has a French District. But of course it does, because of Louis Riel and the proud Métis heritage there. Man, Post Office, you really let me down on that one. At any rate we made our way out for excellent food and better drinks (Shoutout to Pasquale’s Italian Ristorante and that awesome fancy cocktail bar across the street). But no sight of the enemy anywhere.
But we did see the opportunity on social media to find them the next day in their own haunt – the King’s Head. It is the Valour Supporters home base, and provides a shuttle to the game and a pint for a low price. We were in.
When we arrived the next day at the pub, not even the throaty, extended booing could take the shine off the place. It was a proper footy pub. Whatever mood you are in before you arrive, you are in a soccer state of mind once you enter. Scarves from everywhere hanging all over the place. And a selection of local pints on tap to die for. Wait, what was I talking about again, oh yeah, soccer.
We all piled on the bus, and the three Forge fans settled in for a bus ride full of abuse. Instead we were treated to conversation and joviality. (A lot of fellow Voyageurs). The ride was a bit long and bumpy but we eventually made it out of downtown to the stadium.
So here is where I have been forced to have a change of heart. So far we’ve discussed the football festival feel of ATCO and the proper size, location and atmosphere of the Wanderers Grounds. But IG Field is a behemoth that stands out like a disaster of awesomeness. It is just too big for our little league.
Until you enter. A sense of awe sweeps over you. It looks so clean, crisp and massive that you can’t quite believe it is a Canadian Stadium. Don’t we specialize in outdated cement mausoleums. This is futuristic and cool.
First stop was the restrooms. Sorry, but pubs’ll do that to ya. And of course, no lines, plenty of clean modern stalls and urinals. I wanted to take a picture. The guy next to me seemed off-put by my camera though. Fair enough.
Now it is at this point that I should probably explain my game day attire. I am happy to arrive at games in that most egregious of outfits for fans, the full kit. Of course, a regular full kit gets boring over time, so I had the incredible good fortune to have the ever-talented Stephanie Smith commissioned for a Full-knit version. (Actually crocheted, but Full Knit Wanker sounds better – and hardly commissioned – she made it for me for free, cuz she is a gem!).
So as expected this get-up gets a fair bit of notice: from laughter, to jeers, to incredulous waves of envy. Less of the latter. But it also breaks down walls and gets you into a lot of selfies or ussies. So maybe that air of friendly welcoming is colouring my memory, but I was impressed with all of it.
Where to begin?
I guess maybe with the unlikely. As we three orange-festooned Forge fans walked across the concourse to get to our seats, we bumped into another lone fan from the Hammer, the ever-cheerful Chelsea Decoster. She had flown out by herself to visit a friend and take in both Forge vs Valour matches. Legend! So we joined her.
The drums sounded great in the Trench. We entered the stadium from the end furthest away from them, but they carried. The numbers in the Trench looked sparse, but they were loud and into the game right from the off. We sat nearby and soaked in the atmosphere while also cracking off a few chants in the rare gaps.
On to the match. We lost, who cares. (I kinda did at the time actually). At this point though it was a nil-nil-er, right up to the half. At half-time we went for a walk and decided to change seats to watch Forge attack the other goal. As you’d expect their was a crowd response to me and my ridiculousness. A woman named Paula stepped up to me and handed me an ice-cold premium beverage as a thank you for coming out. (Paula, if you are reading this, I’ve got the next round but you’ll probably get the cheap stuff, not a Heineken. All the travel has forced me into a budget).
The fun didn’t stop there, the game wasn’t an instant classic, but Forge looked like they’d eventually break ’em down. Then in the 73′ Brett Levis scored to break our hearts. Luckily we met the proud papa of Matteo de Brienne and congratulated him on his son’s wonder goal the previous game. He shared some behind the scenes intel, and took an ussie with us. Delightful.
The Road To Olympic Gold – FC13 Podcast
After the game we waited to clap for the players for a hard-fought, but disappointing effort. One came over to the sidelines to see us. Actually it was Emery Welshman coming over to greet and thank his aunt and uncle. So they graciously took a photo with us and we had a chat. Also delightful.
The CPL is still such a young venture that rivalry really only lasts between the whistles. (Except for with Cavalry, I see you FootSoldiers, and I bristle still every time, even in an airport. A story for another time).
So I guess that is it for my trip to Winnipeg. I mean there was the return bus ride, a great meal at the Kingshead, an invite to watch the Bombers/Riders game at someone’s house and a province-wide security alert for a stabbing suspect that seemed a little to day-to-day casual to our new Winnipeg friends for my liking, but all in all, a great time.
Oh yeah, and I bumped into this guy on the way out…again. (Picture of Commisioner Mark Noonan)
Gotta love the CPL!
Bonus Extra tips:
Visit these Microbreweries, but pacing is important. Little Brown Jug – nice multi-level outdoor patio, good beer. Torque Brewing – cool theme, nice selection. Kilter Brewing Co. – can a microbrew ever be too hipster-y? Nope. Great beer, vibe and eerie number of exceptionally attractive people, both staff and clientele, plus board game selection and cool hot dogs. Half-Pints – with the aforementioned hook up to the taco truck! Yum both beer and food. There were more, but that much beer wreaks havoc on the memory.
Pubs – the Kingshead, full stop. There was also a great fancy cocktail bar in a hotel near us called…
Culture/History – Do not miss an opportunity to walk around at the Forks. Literally life-altering experience. Feeling your own footsteps in line with those of the past. Also nice local beer selection in the market, I may have a problem. Also make sure you leave time to see the Human Rights Museum. It is heavy, but necessary. Really necessary. I also had excellent moment in the cemetery as I visited Riel’s grave almost accidentally, and the ruins of the Cathedral there. A moving and tense juxtaposition for a Catholic-raised, POC, in a traditionally Indigenous place, at a time of reconciliation.
Fun extra – grab street crepes by the bridge on the way to the museum. You will not regret it (unless you don’t get both a sweet and a savoury).
And for Hamiltonians only – if you enjoy our own hometown dive-y bars, you gotta hit this place, the Club St. B. We had a blast there, but sad we missed karaoke. (Well one of us didn’t actually).
The final thing I’ll say is don’t look away from the issues, Indigenous homelessness, as well as other evidence of poverty is stark in spots. But it is in cities everywhere. Don’t let your biases turn you away from opportunities to learn and grow. And stay kind.
I’ll definitely be back Winnipeg.
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