If it's mid-November cold in Edmonton – and Garry Hlady is sitting in Section K, Row 27, Seat 11 at Commonwealth Stadium – it can mean only one thing: The Eskimos are in the Canadian Football League playoffs.
Neither sleet nor snow nor flesh-scarring winds have kept Mr. Hlady from cheering for his beloved Green and Gold. The Drumheller-born superfan has been an Eskimo season-ticket holder for 39 years. Before that, he took in games as a kid when the team played at Clarke Stadium. Mr. Hlady built a replica of the stadium in his rec room.
With Edmonton hosting the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Sunday's West Division semi-final, Mr. Hlady was asked how best to prepare on a day when the high is expected to be -5 C and the low -18.
One giant leap for fan-kind
"You have to layer up – long underwear then your jeans, your top [sweaters, hoodies, toques]. Then you carry your snowsuit there. You have to do that if you're taking the bus to the stadium because you get too hot otherwise. Once you're inside the concourse, you put on the snowsuit and you look like one of those guys on the moon because of the way you walk."
No more lucky charm
"I used to wear the same sweater when the team was winning five Grey Cups in a row. It was an ugly, brown, woolly sweater and I wore it only at the Western Finals. I stopped wearing it because it was too itchy. I used to bring a flask [of rye and 7-Up] to keep warm. I don't do that any more. You have to pee every five minutes and, with all those clothes on, it makes it really difficult."
Bathroom break: ready, set, go
If you go at half-time, then you have to wait in a lineup. Everybody goes at half-time. I go before that. I run up the stairs and go before the three-minute warning. I time it so I don't miss anything. In all my years, I've never missed a key play by going to the bathroom. Yeah, knowing when to go is part of my game strategy."
Now that's dedication
"I've only missed two Eskimo home games [dating back to 1963]. One was for our honeymoon. I was getting knee surgery and my wife told me some travel dates and I said, 'Sure, sure.' I ended up missing the last game at Clarke. I called my mom from California for updates. The only other one I missed was in 2006. I was deathly sick. That game [a loss] was the one that knocked us out of the playoffs for the first time in 35 years."
Coldest game of them all
"The 1991 Grey Cup in Winnipeg. [It was -35 C with the wind chill at half-time.] I was freezing to death and I didn't have a team to cheer for. It was Toronto against Calgary and I wanted both to lose. [Toronto won.]