656 days. Lions fans, that’s how long it’s been since we last saluted you walking off our home turf at BC Place.

It was a disappointing end to a disappointing season, the Grey Cup dream officially shattered two weeks prior. But it would be mere peanuts compared to what the next several months would bring us, and the rest of the world. Nothing, not even a 2019 season that fell short of expectations and hype, could have prepared us for what was ahead.

Yet, we’re not here to reflect on what was lost. The Canadian Football League and British Columbia Lions have both absorbed punch after punch over their great and storied histories. And like the classic fighter who employs the rope a dope style, it always comes back swinging even harder. Coming out of the pandemic will be no different.

As we welcome you back through the turnstiles after such a long layoff, it’s time we once again come to appreciate all the great things about attending a Lions game at BC Place.

Before I was lucky to land a dream job with the organization, I made a point to make it to every home game that I could.

Home at last. After 657 days, we finally get to welcome our great fans back through the turnstiles of BC Place. We get knocked down but we always get up.

Yours truly will never forget his first BC Place game experience. July 21st, 1991. The thing I remember most against the 37-36 win over Edmonton was the fact seven-year-old me rolled his ankle playing football in the backyard earlier that day. Not taking no for an answer, I attended the game in a baby stroller. A pudgy seven-year-old being wheeled up to the gates. Crazy right? Sorry, no photo evidence to back it up.

I loved it so much I begged my Dad to bring me back the next week for what was the crazy 52-41 win over Rocket Ismail and the eventual Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts. Over 50,000 loud, rabid fans. That game is still talked about to this day.

Getting to attend my first games in the year Doug Flutie was our starting quarterback truly was special.

There are many other nights in the dome I won’t ever forget. I was here for the near sellouts. I was in attendance at the 1994 Grey Cup win over Baltimore, begging my parents to go immediately after Danny McManus hit Darren Flutie with no time left for a stunning Western Final upset in Calgary.

Home at last. After 657 days, we finally get to welcome our great fans back through the turnstiles of BC Place. We get knocked down but we always get up.

I was here when we played other American teams with goofy names and goofy uniforms. A personal favourite colour scheme of mine was that of the Birmingham Barracudas.

I was here for what seemed like too many nights when there were maybe 8-10,000 fans and we were able to move from our $9.99 Safeway end zone seats to mid-field. Not going to lie, those were anxious times. Would we be back next year? Will I one day have the chance to give my own kids a similar Lions game experience? Who was I kidding? This is the CFL, the fighter that never gets knocked out.

I was here for the franchise’s resurgence built by Wally Buono and the late Bobby Ackles, at that time with my own season tickets shared with my close buddies. Who would start? Dave Dickenson or Casey Printers? How many Geroy Superman poses would we see that night? How many times would Brent Johnson get to the quarterback so fast his head would spin? These were the glory years of Lions football for me.

Home at last. After 657 days, we finally get to welcome our great fans back through the turnstiles of BC Place. We get knocked down but we always get up.

Now in year six with the club, I view all games through a different lens but I still get a jolt of adrenaline every time I walk into BC Place. No different than every one of you will experience being back inside BC Place for the first time in nearly two full years.

Bring that roar factor. Paint your faces. Shed a few tears. Enjoy the taste of that first stadium beer and stadium hot dog a little bit more than you normally would. Because each and every one of you great fans have earned it.

From the Mountains to the Sea, we are the pride of all BC. The song lyric rings truer than ever it has.

Just like my first game 30 years ago, this long-awaited return home is also against Edmonton, albeit the re-branded Elks. Mountain Lions feast on Elks. Perfection.

We’ve overcome another round of heavy punches, no doubt. But indeed, we are home at last. Both the Lions and the CFL have proven once again, you can kick us, but we will never stay down. And damn, does it ever feel great?

Matt Baker: [email protected]