For Janice Owen, the Grey Cup has always had shades of green.
The lifelong Rider fan grew up in Saskatchewan as one of six children. Her father had a pair of season tickets at Taylor Field, but it was never a guarantee she’d be the one to join him.
Fast forward to 2007, when it was Owen who took her dad to the Grey Cup in Toronto — where she was introduced to an even bigger fan family.
“Although you go and you’re wearing green and you’re a Rider fan, you go as a CFL fan,” Owen said. “The reception from everyone is truly amazing. It is truly a Canadian thing.”
Two years later, she went to the Grey Cup in Calgary, only to see the Riders lose to the Montreal Alouettes in a heartbreaking final. Despite the outcome, Owen decided she’d never miss another championship.
“I fell in love with the fact that I met people from across the country,” she said. “It’s become my thing every year to kind of get away and just be me … it’s my annual holiday.”
As far as planning goes, Owen gets a game seat, books a flight and takes in all the celebration has to offer.
While her sister is coming along for Sunday’s Grey Cup in Ottawa, Owen often travels solo and meets other CFL fans at events leading up to the big game.
“I’ve got friends now in Hamilton, from Ottawa – I’ve got BC Lions friends,” Owen said, adding each city adds its own flavour to the Grey Cup celebrations.
“Most memorable would have to be 2013 in Regina, just because it was home… the whole city was shaking,” she said of the Rider’s Grey Cup win at Taylor Field. “Getting to host all the friends you’ve met in your home stadium was pretty cool.”
For the single mother of three, the annual trip is a chance to unwind.
A part-time nurse, Owen spends most of her time outside work supporting her twin 15-year-old girls with their activities, while her son just started college in Alberta. She became a widow in 2006, when she lost her husband to brain cancer.
While packing for her ninth consecutive Grey Cup weekend, Owen laid out her collection of signed Rider jerseys, which she’ll wear on rotation over five days in Ottawa. She fondly remembers meeting each player whose number she’s come to cherish.
“My favourite — my guy, Bobby Jurasin,” she said, beaming at the big 71. “Great guy, bought him a couple of drinks. He’s my age, so that was cool.”
It was a twist of fate that Owen was able to witness Jurasin and the 1989 Riders beat the host Edmonton Eskimos in the West Division Final.
Her love for the team — and the league — is something she’s passed on to her children. The family kept their four season tickets from Taylor Field to new Mosaic Stadium.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story had the wrong year of the Riders first Grey Cup.