Landry: The story of Santa’s annual CFL Christmas trek

Bad news from the North Pole: A flu bug has ripped through Santa’s elves like Andrew Harris shedding a block. No worries, however. The big man has a plan.

You see, Kris Kringle may be most well-known as one of the greatest gift-givers of all time but he is also a savvy general manager, always looking for a way to be prepared for possible roster problems. Sure, his recruitment of Rudolph was pure luck and the ol’ man even buried the red-nosed reindeer on the practice roster until one foggy Christmas Eve but outside of that, Santa’s workshop management and delivery schedules have been the envy of all, once prompting even Chris Jones to say: “Dang, that is one detailed dude, I’ll tell ya that.”

Santa will pick up a CFL elf at every stop this year and here is a timeline that maps out exactly how it will happen.

Edmonton, 10:52 pm, MT, Christmas Eve:

Santa usually starts in the East, and makes his way West, it’s true. That just makes sense, as the time zones cascade naturally as you go. But this Christmas, he begins in Edmonton, touching town at Commonwealth to pick up the essential CFL elf that he knows he must absolutely have.

As he hurries down the corridor, Santa sees a bright light shining out from under a door, and hears a wondrous symphony of brass mixed with heavenly choir voices. He opens the door to a blinding light and a hearty “Ho Ho Ho” coming from none other than Odell Willis, who is seated in a throne wrapped in garland; he, himself, is enveloped in a brilliant green, velvet robe, looking every inch like the Ghost of Christmas Present.

“Odell with your mood so bright,” Santa begins, “won’t you lead my elves tonight?”

They leave Jason Maas a set of headphones, hop in the sleigh and head south to Calgary.

Calgary, 11:01 pm, MT, Christmas Eve:

Santa and Odell land, mid-field, at McMahon Stadium, sending both #CFLrabbit and #CFLsquirrel scrambling to get out of their way. “Where’s Bo Levi at?” bellows Willis, brandishing one of Santa’s empty sacks in his right hand. “I got somethin’ for him,” he says, laughing hysterically.

Santa shakes is head as he pulls out a notebook. “Naughty list, Odell,” he says with pen poised over paper. There is an uneasy silence. Willis slumps. “Nah, I’m just messin’ with ya,” says Santa and the two of them share a belly laugh that knocks all the icicles off the scoreboard.

They leave an assortment of barrels filled with face paint and a gross of moist towelettes for Josh Bell. Then they put Alex Singleton in an elf outfit.

“He’ll help with logisitics,” says Santa. “Always seems to know where to be at any given time. Besides, it gets cold in that sleigh. We can wrap that gorgeous mane of hair around us like a blanket.”

Vancouver, 10:14 pm PT, Christmas Eve:

The crew sets down at B.C. Place where Santa hugs it out with Wally Buono.

“Buono!!,” says Santa, his mitts pounding Wally’s back with a repeated loud thud. “You’re the only one who’s been at it longer than me. Ho Ho Ho!”

“I’m not ‘elfing’ for you this year, Santa,” says Buono, “if that’s what you’re thinking. Take Chris Rainey instead.

“Well,” says Santa, stroking his beard and looking smug, “I could call him ‘Chris the Rain-Deer,’ I suppose…”

Willis and Singleton stare back at him, blankly.

“Chris the Rain– never mind,” says Santa. He’s gonna have to try out, though, Wally.”

Buono laughs, mockingly, and tosses Rainey a pretty Christmas package.

Rainey hauls it in, takes a step to his left, then cuts back, leaving Donner and Blitzen on their knees. He straight arms Vixen and then spin-moves around Dasher, before hurdling Cupid and landing in a seat in Santa’s sleigh. At that point, a tiny little Chris Cuthbert voice exclaims “Did you see that?”

“Sorry,” says Rainey, pulling out his phone. “That’s my ringtone.”

Regina, 1:03 am CT, Christmas Day:

Arriving in Regina, Santa walks out onto the field at Mosaic, turning to gaze all around. He whistles. “Holy sugar plums,” he says. “Do I really need to get them anything for Christmas?”

“Hell, yeah, you do,” a voice from one of the tunnels hollers. Emerging from the darkness, Duron Carter smiles as he gives St. Nick a bear hug.
He whispers in Santa’s ear. “I want to throw a touchdown pass next year.

And I wanna kick a field goal. From 60 yards.”

Santa replies that he’ll see what he can do but that Willis has already asked him for a 60-yard field goal for himself, so….

Santa has a deal to offer Carter. “If you join the elves and do a good job, that’ll bode well for your Christmas wishes,” he says. “I need elves who can handle packages being tossed at ’em from every which way at a high rate of speed, no dropsies.”

Stunned, Carter takes two steps back, pulls out his phone and shows Kringle his one-handed snag against the Argos. “How is it you haven’t seen THAT?” Carter wails.

“I don’t have cable at the pole,” mutters Santa as he trudges towards the sleigh, Carter following closely behind.

“No cable?” laughs Carter. “What a bout WiFi? You don’t even have any digital? You need a plan, man. You gotta get a plan….”

Winnipeg, 1:24 am, CT, Christmas Day:

The sleigh zips over the city of Winnipeg and lands at Investors Group Field, skidding the length of the field and coming to a halt in the Northwest corner, where it nudges the wall at the base of section 138.

“Perfect,” exclaims Santa. “Grab all the egg nog from that bag right there,” he says.

The group trudges up the stairs to the concourse, the bells on their elf shoes jingling all the way. At the top, they pause a moment and smile when they realize what is unfolding.

Blue Bombers’ Head Coach Mike O’Shea is inside the Rum Hut, leaning casually on the counter. “Top these up, barkeep,” laughs Santa, handing over a dozen partially filled bottles of nog.

O’Shea doesn’t move, outside of narrowing his eyes a little. “First things first, buddy” he says, all business. “You got ’em?”

“Yeah, I got ’em,” sighs Santa, handing over an entire sack, stuffed and soft. “Really, Mike,” he says with exasperation. “How many pairs of tan cargo shorts does one man need?”

O’Shea grabs the bag and ignores the question, instead posing one of his own.

“Who ya want?”

“Gimme Travis Bond,” replies Santa. “I just gotta see a guy that size in an elf costume.”

Hamilton, 3:45 am, ET, Christmas Day:

Landing in Hamilton, the crew first hits up a drive-thru for some Timbits to dunk in their egg nog. They then proceed to the Ticats’ offices and pound on the office door of June Jones.

“Luke Tasker,” Santa says without hesitation, to a sleepy-eyed Jones, who peers out through a crack in the door. “Those parcels come flying pretty fast. And when I get only one chance to deliver a present, I need an elf with sure hands.”

“I only need one,” roars Carter from the sleigh.

“But Brandon is more elf-sized than Tasker,” says Jones. “And all you have to do is deploy him in the proper fashion.” Jones then hands Santa a binder filled with Brandon Banks elf schemes.

“Impressive,” coos Santa. “I’ll take him. But I want Tasker, too. The guys have already picked out a name for him.”

“Jujube, the Jedi Elf!” yells Willis.

Toronto, 4:07 am, ET, Christmas Day:

Arriving at BMO Field, Santa is besieged by a group of soccer protesters who are up in arms over him landing his sleigh on the grass. Now behind schedule, he gets right to the point with Marc Trestman.

“You should take Ricky,” says Trestman.

“Aw, I don’t know,” says Santa, taking off his hat and scratching his head. “He’s kinda old and he’s had those injuries… I need to be able to rely on my elves for spot on delivery and…”

Trestman interrupts. “Wait, did you not see, like, any games this season?”

“He doesn’t have cable,” yells Carter, laughing derisively while stomping his feet and spinning in a circle.

Ray picks up a parcel and loops it through the air about 35 yards, landing it softly on the front seat of Santa’s sleigh. Right side up. “I call that a Posey,” says Trestman. “Or a Wilder, doesn’t matter.” The elves hoot and holler, except for Travis Bond who is still very uncomfortable, trying to adjust his leggings.

Santa smiles and slips his hat onto Ray’s head. “He’s baaaack,” St. Nick says joyfully.

“Well, maybe,” answers Ray. “Thinking of retirement.”

“Retirement? What in Donner’s dander are you talking about? I’m 1,700 years old and still doing it,” cries Santa. “Suit up, old man.”

Ottawa, 4:16 am ET, Christmas Day:

The team lands down at, well, Lansdowne.

Arriving in Ottawa, their egg nog supply depleted, the elves are in good spirits, Willis having led them in a rollicking if somewhat blue version of “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.”

Bond is also feeling jolly, having ripped out so many of the seams of his elf costume in order to give him some extra room. “ELF SMASH,” he yells as he destroys a half-dozen parcels, before the other elves converge on him and tickle him into submission, their giggles echoing through TD Place as, one by one, the lights come on in the condos on the West side.

They regain their composure after a dressing down by Santa. “I learned that from a guy named Mike Sherman in Green Bay,” he says. “Wonder whatever happened to him?”

Santa then grouses about being left yet another wood cookie with his milk. “That never gets old,” he deadpans. Ironically, Rick Campbell will say the exact same thing when just a few hours later, he sees he’s gotten yet another pair of plaid socks from St. Nick.

They pick up Diontae Spencer – “No substitute for speed,” says Santa, “particularly in my business.”

Montreal, 4:29 am ET, Christmas Day:

Approaching a room at the end of a hallway at the Alouettes’ offices, Santa and his burgeoning team of All-Star Elves (as voted by members of the media; send your complaints to Football Writers of Canada President Mike Hogan) see a flickering light and a grey-haired man at a laptop, looking at video. It is Mike Sherman, watching’s Top Ten “What The?!” Moments from 2017. After each highlight, Sherman does, in fact, utter the words “what the…” under his breath.

After Santa and Sherman get caught up, and Carter once again ridicules Nick for not having cable, the crew invites kicker Boris Bede aboard.

“Well, we’re pretty much done, actually,” says Santa, who then turns to the others, a look of great satisfaction on his face, “but I have always wanted an elf I could name… Mistletoe!”

Crickets. Santa spreads his arms wide and steps forward with a stomp for emphasis as he repeats it: “Mistletoe!”

More uncomfortable silence, until it is broken a few seconds later by “Did you see that… Did you see that… Did you see that?”

“Sorry,” says Rainey, I gotta get this.”

“Alright, get in the sled,” an aggravated Kringle hisses. “Got another stop.”

“But we’re done,” protests Willis, as the sleigh climbs over Quebec. “Why are you heading East? Don’t we go back to the pole, now, for a massive after-party or something?”

Santa says nothing at all until he gets over the Maritimes, circling Halifax and Moncton and the like.

“Just wanted to do a quick recon over here,” he says, “in case I need to add it to the itinerary.”

5:13 am, ET, Christmas Day

Santa and the CFL Elves begin their trek back to the North Pole, Kringle once again fighting off Carter’s request to take control of the sleigh.

“But you know I can do it,” insists Carter.

“Not gonna happen, Gumdrop Gainer,” replies St. Nick.

“That’s another thing,” Carter protests. “My elf name should NOT have the word ‘drop’ in it.”

Their voices fade away as they ride off into the distance.

“Lemme drive the sleigh, Santa, you know I’ve gotta do that. You afraid I’ll drive it better than you?”

“No, Duron…”

“Everybody wants to see me drive the sleigh, Santa… C’mon, give me the reins… I’ve GOT to drive the sleigh…Chris Jones’d let me drive the sleigh… people would pay to see me drive the sleigh… you need to see me drive the sleigh….”

And to all a good night.