3178 days. That's how long it's been between CFL football games in Ottawa. The Ottawa Renegades bid farewell to the CFL on November 5th, 2005 with a 27-17 victory over the Toronto Argonauts. Now the Argos provide the opposition again as the Redblacks hope to open up the new TD Place Stadium with their first win in franchise history.
"It's a moment the fans and the city have been looking forward to for a long time," Redblacks quarterback Henry Burris said Thursday.
"Emotions are going to be running wild. The people can't wait. I know we can't wait. But our focus is on making sure we do our jobs and execute the plays. That's going to be the most important factor in determining if we get the victory or not."
Over 100 Rough Riders and Renegades alumni are expected to be in attendance Friday, including the likes of Russ Jackson and Tony Gabriel. Burris says he's thankful for the legacy they created.
"We truly want to honour this city, the former Ottawa football players, and the people who helped bring football back to this city. We get to take that torch now and carry on the legacy of a proud franchise that won a lot of Grey Cup championships. Now it's time for us to get it out of the drought."
That drought includes no playoff appearances since 1994, no playoff wins since 1982, no winning season since 1979, while the last of Ottawa's nine Grey Cup titles came in 1976. But fans have turned the page, believing things will be different on and off the field. There is no sign of Horn Chen or Lonie Glieberman. No drafting dead people or Mardi Gras promotions.
The local ownership group, spearheaded by Jeff Hunt, has inspired confidence to the tune of over 17,000 season tickets. Tickets on the secondary market for Friday's sold-out opener ranged from $167 to $2,000. It's the hottest ticket in the Capital, and Burris says it will be one of the highlights of his 18 year professional career.
"I played in the first Monday night game following 9/11. I've played in Grey Cups. Those are some pretty emotional times for me. I can only imagine just how emotional and how much energy is going to be in this stadium and this entire city."