Wel­come home

Dem­ski, Lafrance re­turn to Bombers for a chance to win — and it was best fit for them

Winnipeg Sun - - SPORTS - PAUL FRIESEN

This was go­ing to be a heart­warm­ing col­umn about two Win­nipeg­gers com­ing home to play foot­ball.

A tale of how the pull of the ’Peg was too much to re­sist, over­shad­ow­ing all else when Nic Dem­ski and Kienan Lafrance hit the CFL’S free agent mar­ket, Tues­day.

How they turned down other of­fers, maybe even more money or bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties, for the chance to bring that long-awaited Grey Cup back to Man­i­toba.

The only trou­ble with that an­gle is that’s not re­ally how it is.

Dem­ski and Lafrance, both for­mer Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers, signed one-year deals with the Bombers be­cause it made the most sense for their foot­ball ca­reers.

They didn’t take home­town dis­counts. In fact, they’ll be paid well for their roles, one as a start­ing slot­back (Dem­ski, an es­ti­mated $145,000), the other as a backup run­ning back (Lafrance, $80,000).

Dem­ski, in par­tic­u­lar, made it clear this was about an op­por­tu­nity to see more foot­balls and make more plays than it was about some­thing tug­ging at his heart­strings.

“Hon­estly, it wasn’t even re­ally about com­ing home,” Dem­ski, 24, said on Wed­nes­day. “It was about what kind of of­fence it is, and my skill set is go­ing to be great in this of­fence. They like my ver­sa­til­ity and with a guy like Matt Ni­chols throw­ing you the ball and hav­ing weapons around you, a lot of stuff is go­ing to open up

“Ob­vi­ously, com­ing home just adds to that.” It’s the ic­ing on the cake. But with­out the cake, it’s just a mouth­ful of sugar and fat.

“I was look­ing for the best op­por­tu­nity for me,” Dem­ski added. “It was never in the plan to sign with Win­nipeg im­me­di­ately af­ter my con­tract was done.”

Truth is, the prod­uct of Charleswood, Oak Park High and the U of M Bisons wants no part of the added pres­sure that can come with play­ing at home.

Pres­sure An­drew Har­ris has grabbed with both hands and shaped into mo­ti­va­tion since he came over from the B.C. Lions, two years ago.

Har­ris seems to have taken the mis­sion of end­ing this city’s 27-year Grey Cup drought onto his shoul­ders the way he some­times puts the team on his back to win a game.

But not every­body is An­drew Har­ris.

And while Dem­ski talked with Win­nipeg’s start­ing tail­back, those con­ver­sa­tions weren’t about how to man­age home­town ex­pec­ta­tions.

“He says that Win­nipeg is a great or­ga­ni­za­tion, every­body gets treated right here,” Dem­ski said. “As for the pres­sure as­pect, you just can’t think about that. If you’re go­ing to think about the pres­sure then it’s just go­ing to mess with you men­tally, and I’m not will­ing to let that get in the way.”

In some ways, it’s eas­ier to play away from home, with­out the dis­trac­tions of friends and fam­ily.

Of note, both play­ers signed just one-year con­tracts, as op­posed to the twoyear deal inked by free agent de­fen­sive back Chandler Fen­ner, who’s from Vir­ginia and has no con­nec­tion to Win­nipeg.

Lafrance, 26, grew up in St. James, at­tend­ing Stur­geon Heights High and play­ing for the St. James Rods.

The Rid­ers re­leased him be­fore free agency. Be­fore the Bombers plopped an of­fer on his ta­ble, Tues­day, he was un­cer­tain about his fu­ture.

“You’re tech­ni­cally un­em­ployed, but you’re still wait­ing for the next op­por­tu­nity,” Lafrance said. “It’s fun and it’s a lit­tle stress­ful.”

And maybe a lit­tle eas­ier the sec­ond time around.

Lafrance spent his first two sea­sons in Ot­tawa be­fore sign­ing as a free agent with the Rid­ers a year ago.

He left Ot­tawa with a Grey Cup ring and high hopes, hav­ing bro­ken out as a po­ten­tial starter in the Red­blacks’ play­off run.

A year of spot duty later, he’s still search­ing for a big­ger role.

“I’ve al­ways felt I bring more to the ta­ble than just play­ing run­ning back,” Lafrance said. “I’m hop­ing we can ex­plore those tal­ents. I spoke with the coaches a lit­tle bit, and voiced that I’m def­i­nitely here to make some plays ... I love how they run their of­fence and how they’ve in­cor­po­rated all the dif­fer­ent play­ers within the of­fence.”

As for the ups and downs that come with play­ing in front of, and liv­ing amongst, the CFL’S long­est-suf­fer­ing fan base, Lafrance is non­plussed

It seems The Drought isn’t a topic of con­ver­sa­tion with his in­ner cir­cle.

“I don’t think they talk about it at all, to be hon­est,” he said.

Maybe not when he was a Red­black or a Rider.

Now that he’s a Bomber, things change.

Ev­ery­one in blue and gold takes on a piece of that drought.

Whether they like it or not.

MARK TAY­LOR/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Nic Dem­ski, a Win­nipeg na­tive, agreed to terms with the Blue Bombers roughly an hour af­ter be­com­ing a CFL free agent. Dem­ski will earn an es­ti­mated $145,000 for this sea­son.

KIENAN LAFRANCE

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