Doug Gillem (centre right), with late brother Brad (centre left), and nephew James (left).

Super fan Doug Gillem takes the Bills seriously

Group of Dofasco friends have attended the last ten home openers together

Nearly everyone has a passion that brings them a source of excitement, joy and pride.

For Doug Gillem, it is the Buffalo Bills.

Doug has been a fervent supporter of the National Football League team for over 20 years, a fandom that began in the early 1990s with Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly’s “K-Gun” (no-huddle) offence.

“The first time I went to a [Bills] game, I was amazed,” said Doug. “People were having so much fun, the atmosphere was great and fans from both sides were just having a blast.

“From that point on, I knew I was hooked.”

As an employee of Dofasco (Canada’s largest steel manufacturing company) for over 37 years, Doug struck a special shared bond with fellow Hamiltonian staff members Paul Canning, Zoran Pankerich and Lyle Teal – the love of football and the Buffalo Bills.

For 10 years, the Dofasco foursome have shared in the cost of season tickets and made the trek to Ralph Wilson Stadium for the Bills home opener.

“I got stuck being the driver because I don’t drink,” joked Pankerich. “But I enjoy it, hanging out with the guys on game day for all these years has been a lot of fun.”

Since all four men are married with grown children, Doug acknowledges that enjoying a “guy’s day out” together is part of the fun.

“Oh for sure, that’s part of it,” Doug said. “An opportunity to have fun with friends and football, what can be better than that?”

Everyone has their roles – Pankerich is the designated driver, Canning is responsible for tickets, while Doug is in charge of the most important element – the tailgating menu.

“The night before the game, he is setting out all the food,” said Anne, Doug’s wife of 33 years.  “I’m talking sausages, hot dogs, hamburgers … he brings all the condiments, all the cutlery.

“Pretty much anything you can think of, he’s got it covered.”

Never shy in showing his passion, Doug can be heard cheering for the Bills in full-voice in the Gillem household on the eve of kickoff.

“The ‘let’s go, Buffalo’ chants start the night before as he is racing around the house,” Anne said.  “It’s crazy, but he really enjoys it and it means a lot to him.

“He’s like a kid on Christmas morning.”

While Doug usually attends games with the same core group or with his family, there is one special and busy Sunday from eight years ago that he remembers fondly.

“The most we had go to a game was 34 guys back in 2006,” said Doug. “That was quite the adventure to coordinate, but it was a lot of fun.”

As for his expectations for the Bills this season, Doug is hopeful, yet guarded.

“I hope for them to win as many games as possible,” Doug said. “But realistically, unless their quarterback [E.J. Manuel] really develops, it’s hard to see them win more than six games this season.”

Regardless of Buffalo’s performance this season, one thing is for certain – win or lose, rain or shine – Doug Gillem will be there, cheering them on.