OTTAWA — Henry Burris says he's "itching" for this year's Grey Cup championship game on home turf — even if he won't be among the players battling for championship rings.
Burris, who led the Ottawa Redblacks to victory last year against Calgary before announcing his retirement from the Canadian Football League in January, watched while standing among dozens of fans Tuesday as the famous trophy was returned to the nation's capital to kick off the 105th Grey Cup festival.
"You will get an itch for a game like this, just as I got an itch for all the playoff games," Burris said as the Cup was carried to Parliament Hill atop a Canadian Forces light armoured vehicle.
"You always miss being out there with the guys, you miss the moments, you miss that intensity."
While the Redblacks are not playing in this year's championship game, having been defeated in the Eastern semifinals by the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said the city is still captivated by football and is embracing fans from Toronto, Calgary and elsewhere.
"I've been to a couple of Grey Cups where the home team is not part of the activity, and it's still a wild party," said Watson.
"The people (who) come here, the dedication to the CFL and to their team, even if their team's not in the Grey Cup, is still very evident."
Regardless of where the fans reside, football is a uniting force, even a "religion," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said as he officially welcomed the Cup to Parliament Hill and joined in starting the festivities.
Trudeau recalled how his uncle Tom Walker, who was also his godfather, spoke on many occasions about his time playing defence in the 1960s for the B.C. Lions.
"He raised me, as a good godfather does, talking about religion — the religion of football and the CFL," said Trudeau, who planned to be in the stands Sunday with his family.
Both Trudeau and Watson said it's especially significant to see the Grey Cup game played in the capital as Canada celebrates the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
For Burris, though, this Sunday's contest will give him a chance to view the game he knows best not as a quarterback focused on winning, but as a spectator joining a city in celebration.
"Will I miss being out there, battling hard to win a championship? Yes I will," said Burris.
"But for me to be able to experience the game from this standpoint, it's something that I've always looked forward to and I'm really looking forward to that moment."