February 16, 2013

A family that bleeds green and gold

Edmonton Eskimos Staff

Spending almost all of his childhood growing up in Saskatchewan, one would think that Bruce Warawa would live and breathe the Saskatchewan Roughriders pride. His two brothers are die-hards, just like the majority of people in Saskatchewan — but not Bruce, not even close.

He’s got the Green and Gold running through his veins.

Bruce at at Eskimo game after having surgery on his leg.

“You would think that I would have turned out like my brothers. But to be honest, I think it had to do with having two brothers and that brotherly rivalry. We’d have our arguments and fights growing up and just to make them angry I started to cheer for the Eskimos,” recalled Warawa.

“There are times, depending on which game it is over the years, where we literally don’t talk to each other for a couple days because of the rivalry, but it’s all good natured fun. It makes for some good spirited game watching when we get together.

“I have been an Esks fan for as long as I can remember. In fact my jersey number is 63, as in 1963, the year I tell people that I became a fan (the year he was born).”

Warawa has spent the majority of his adult life in the military and no matter where he’s been stationed in Canada, or away on deployment, he’s always stood behind the Eskimos.

So when he and his wife Kimberley (who is also a member of the military) and his two children Danielle and Simone had a chance to move to Edmonton in 2007, he didn’t hesitate to buy season tickets.

Kimberley and Brigider-General Woiden ran in the Terry Fox Run in Kabul

“I started taking them to games at a very early age. We’d go to road games in BC.We lived in Ottawa and Winnipeg, and we’d take them to Renegades and Bombers games when the Esks would be playing. I wanted them to grow up knowing that I had this obsession, and god forbid, I didn’t want them growing up as Rider fans,” laughed Warawa.

“We generally take our girls to two games a year now that we have season tickets. They each have their own jersey and they love it when I do them up with some face-paint. Going to Eskimo games has become a tradition for our family. We treat it as a family event.”

The Canadian military gives its members five days to find a house to live in when they’re getting posted to a new city. When he and his wife arrived in Edmonton and met with their real-estate agent, the first stop wasn’t to their first potential home, it was to Commonwealth Stadium.

“We told him to drive us to the Eskimo store so we could buy our season tickets,” laughed Warawa. “We bought our season tickets before we bought our house in Edmonton.”

When Warawa was posted in Winnipeg in 1997, he made a pledge to go on at least one road trip back to Edmonton to watch an Eskimo game.

“There were just a couple of years that I did not get to come back due to deployments.  One of my favourite memories was when we drove from Winnipeg in 2002 to watch the Esks play Montreal in the Grey Cup,” said Warawa, who grew up a big Danny Kepley fan, and now his favourite player is Eskimo linebacker JC Sherritt.

“The whole week of Grey Cup fervor was fantastic and even with the heartbreak of watching Montreal hoist the Cup, the memories are still some of my favourite.”

Danielle and Simone even have an Eskimo playhouse

The Eskimos do a phenomenal job showing their support for the Canadian military. Every year, they partner with a corporation and raise money and awareness for the troops by holding a military appreciation night for one of their home games during the season.

Last year, the Eskimos partnered with Capital Power and together raised $71,788 for Valour Place.

“In my mind, the Eskimos are the class of the CFL when it comes to supporting the military,” said Warawa.

“I am always appreciative of the fact that the city, and the Esks, takes the time to recognize the military.”

As a non-commissioned officer (NCO) and officer, Warawa spent four tours of duty with the Canadian military in Bosnia and Croatia. His wife recently returned from Kabul and Afghanistan on a tour of duty. Warawa describes being away on deployment as a ‘mixed bag’ of emotions. On one hand, there’s the excitement of the mission, but being away from family is extremely difficult. Warawa forged strong bonds with his fellow brethren. The military is filled with CFL fans and many conversations around the base the topic of football came up.

“There was a very hardcore group of CFL fans, and we’d go watch a game at 3 a.m. and I would have my Eskimo jersey on. It was a way for us to get our mind off of what we were up against,” recalled Warawa.

“During your time away from home, your fellow soldiers become your ‘family’, very much in the way that athletes do. You are housed together, you form very close friendships and bonds. At the end of the tour, your family breaks up and is scattered across Canada as members return to their respective units. However, many of these friendships will last and even though we may not see each other for years, the next time I run into that person we can pick up right where we left off.

“That’s one of the reasons why I love football so much, it’s because in many ways it’s like the military.”

Support our troops – A Great Idea!

Each year, the Eskimos honour the men and women in our Canadian Armed Forces at Military Night. Now you can join us in supporting our troops by donating two tickets to Military Members on this special night for just $50. Please see your renewal invoice or contact an Eskimo customer service specialist for complete details.

Click here to renew your tickets

Click here to purchase new tickets

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Phone: 780-448-3757