Keeper of the Grey Cup cares for trophy won by his dad — Glenn (Keeper) McWhinney
'I hope that I show the Cup as much respect now as I did when I was 8 years old'
Jeff McWhinney has a rooted connection to the Grey Cup that goes deeper than a love for the game.
McWhinney is keeper of the Grey Cup, which means he's in charge of keeping tabs on the CFL's cherished silver trophy.
But Jeff McWhinney isn't the first Grey Cup keeper.
His dad, Glenn McWhinney, was nicknamed the Keeper in his rookie year with the Edmonton Eskimos because of his skills on the field.
In a game against Saskatchewan in 1952, Winnipeg-born McWhinney saw the line break open, so he ran for the touchdown.
Now, as keeper of the Grey Cup, McWhinney says holding that title is an honour as he is able to connect with his father again.
"Bringing the keeper back to the CFL, it's not only a designation; now I can speak to people who have asked about my dad and still have him around us," McWhinney says. "It was tough to let him go."
"As long as I'm respecting my father, I can teach others what it's like to honour a great man," McWhinney says. "So some of our young children, like my nephew, will see how I respect his grandfather."
Glenn McWhinney's career was cut short when he broke his neck on the field in 1956, just a year after he was named the CFL's most valuable Canadian player as a Winnipeg Blue Bomber.
"Former Winnipeg Blue Bombers coach Bud Grant would say, 'Your dad was a man who made good players great and great players all-stars,'" McWhinney says.
Being a part of the McWhinney football legacy led Jeff to work in a field he's passionate about. McWhinney started with the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2009 has been the Cup keeper since April 2014.
Considering the Grey Cup turns 109 this year, it carries a lot of history, and Jeff McWhinney lives and breathes CFL folklore.
"A lot of these fellas [engraved on the Grey Cup] are war heroes," McWhinney says. "They battled on the gridiron and they battled on the battlefields."
"There are so many great community-minded guys on the Cup, and some who are no longer with us," he says. "They set the tone for guys like Chris Walby, who is one of our hometown greats."
Leading up to the Grey Cup championship, McWhinney's days are long and busy, from 6 a.m. until late in the evening. He typically makes 13 to 17 stops with the Cup each day, including visits with partners and alumni.
The energy and fans keep McWhinney going.
"When people first see the Cup, there are a lot of tears and joy," McWhinney says.
"One of the most fun things is how all of the teams come together and party under one roof."
McWhinney wants to ensure every Canadian has some sort of attachment to the silver trophy, so he encourages people to engage with it.
Fans are allowed to take their picture with the Cup, but they must abide by two rules: no hoisting the Cup above your head and no touching the chalice.
On Grey Cup Sunday, the winning team is given the silver trophy for 60 days.
"We surrender the Cup at the end of the Grey Cup game. It's like sending a kid off to school. I'm looking at it and thinking, 'Don't leave,'" McWhinney says. "It can be very emotional."
Once the Cup is returned, McWhinney is back on the road with it right away, with as many as 150 visits across the country each year.
Football memories run deep for McWhinney, going back to playing in Fraser Grove Park as a kid.