It might go down as the most expensive Canadian Football League penalty call in history.
Karen Kuldys was in line to win $1 million when the Toronto Argonauts' Martese Jackson ran back a kickoff for a touchdown against the Blue Bombers in the second quarter on Thursday night in Winnipeg.
It was all part of the Safeway/Sobeys $1,000,000 Touchdown to Win contest — if any two kickoffs are returned for touchdowns in a CFL game, a lucky fan would win the money.
Fans become eligible by using their Air Miles card at the store while making purchases. But it was all for naught when a controversial blocking penalty flag was thrown just 25 yards from the end zone during the second touchdown return.
"My heart just sank and I thought, 'Oh my God, how close could I get to $1 million,'" the Winnipeg resident said. "You got to be kidding me. My stomach is in knots just thinking about it right now."
Kuldys was in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner while her husband, Stan Kuldys, and daughter Michelle were watching the game in the living room. They erupted in cheers when the Bombers' Ryan Lankford started the game by returning the opening kickoff for a 105-yard touchdown. One kickoff return down.
But here's the thing: Kuldys had no idea she could potentially win $1 million.
"When the second touchdown happened, it didn't really dawn on me what was happening. Like I wasn't jumping up and down. I just thought maybe I was entered to win a million dollars," she said.
She was thrilled to learn she had won a $25,000 entertainment system as a part of the same contest, but when her husband clued in to what was going on, they were all heartbroken.
"I'm kind of stunned," Karen Kuldys said. "I didn't really understand what was happening to begin with. But my husband said if it wasn't for that penalty, we would have won $1 million. I couldn't believe it. One bad call away from $1 million," she said.
"I'm not a gambler by any means. I buy 6/49 tickets. This is as close as I've ever come to winning something like this."
Penalty call causes controversy
Her husband is a diehard CFL fan and watches most of the games. He still can't believe a penalty flag was thrown on the play.
"That should have been a touchdown," he said. "I need to get in touch with the CFL. The guy was eight yards behind the guy running into the end zone. And the Bomber guy fell on his own."
On top of it being a bad call that cost them the money, it came late in the play.
"The league is going to say they made a bad call, but that doesn't bring us our $1 million."
While Karen Kuldys doesn't know the rules as well as her husband, she has strong feelings on this call.
"That's terrible. This one was a really, really bad call. I go to football games and don't know the rules really well, but this was bad."
What the $1M would have meant
The couple say they would have given a lot of the $1 million to their daughter so that she could look after her one-year-old daughter.
"First thing I said to Stan was that Michelle could stay home with the baby," Karen Kuldys said. "Yesterday she said, 'Mom I'm pretty emotional, it'll be hard to go back to work.'"
In two weeks, their daughter returns to work at Superstore after a year of maternity leave.
"[Michelle] wouldn't have to go to work to take care of her one-year-old," Stan said. "She said she'd rather go on welfare before taking her daughter to daycare."
The couple also said they would have used the money to pay off their mortgage.
At least someone came out a winner: The Blue Bombers went on to defeat the Argos 33-25.