Sidney resident Mike Mehlmann remembers watching former B.C. Lions stars like Joe Paopao, Roy Dewalt and Mervyn “Swervin” Fernandez bring excitement to the old Empire Stadium.
And he thrilled to the exploits of such Lions stars as Doug Flutie, Lui Passaglia and Ray Alexander on the turf at B.C. Place Stadium.
Now a combat systems engineering chief petty officer on HMCS Regina, Mehlmann, 43, will be living the dream when he joins other service men and women in carrying the colours onto the refurbished B.C. Place field for Sunday’s 99th Grey Cup championship game between the hometown Lions and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
“I was born and raised in Surrey and I have been a B.C. Lions fan since I can remember,” he wrote via email on a break from his sea duties on Regina, which is out of port on manoeuvres this week.
The 23-year navy man said he’ll feel a sense of honour and pride performing the ceremonial duties, which he’s never done before, on a big stage in front of an estimated 50,000 fans.
“I have been a part of the Canadian Forces for a long time and look forward to representing the naval uniform,” he said.
Crew members aboard Regina found out a couple weeks ago that the ship was asked to provide a colour party for this Saturday’s Vanier Cup, Canada’s university championship game, in Vancouver. Mehlmann volunteered immediately, figuring it would be a great honour to represent the ship and the navy. He later found out the “fantastic” news that the small group would also march out the colours and perform a general salute during the national anthem at the Grey Cup. “I’m excited to be part of it,” he said.
His family; wife Aileen, daughter Jenna, 18, and son Christopher, 13, — they’ll watch on TV at home — are also very excited and proud, Mehlmann wrote. “I know several of my civilian friends think it’s amazing.”
A resident of Sidney for 17 years, Mehlmann has kept close watch on the Lions this season, seeing the team rebound from a poor start to take the league by storm and battle its way to a Grey Cup berth on home field.
His prediction for the game?
“B.C. Lions win 37-24 and (quarterback) Travis Lulay is the most valuable player.”
While his job will be to salute the flag and his country, the longtime Leos fan will indirectly be saluting his favourite team and, with any luck, sending them to victory.