Saskatchewan Roughriders – The team for you?

Saskatchewan Roughriders – The team for you?
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Are the Saskatchewan Roughriders the team for you? We recently ran an article giving you some pointers as to which CFL team you might want to support. It was about making the right choice for you.

That was a brief introduction to each team. Following on from that I thought it might be fun to look at each of the nine teams in a little more depth. Especially because, in that article we noted, “You need to find an affinity. Feel a connection. Have something that makes them, however they perform, very much your team.”

We started with a look at the the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and Ottawa REDBLACKS. This time though we are crossing over into the West Division to take a look at the Roughriders and see if there is something there that will make a connection for you to hang your support on.

The Stadium

Mosaic Stadium looking good for its first Roughriders game in 2017. Image from cfl.ca

The Saskatchewan Roughriders call Mosaic Stadium home. The stadium has a capacity of 33,350 and can be expanded to seat 40,000. It is home to the Roughriders as well as the Regina Rams (U Sports), Regina Thunder (Canadian Junior Football League), and Regina Riot (WWCFL – women’s tackle football).

Built to be opened for the Riders in 2017 it is the newest CFL stadium on the block. It replaced the storied Taylor Field (latterly Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field) that had been the Roughriders previous home. Taylor Field had been there since 1936 and seen plenty of history so the new Mosaic Stadium had a lot to live up to.

The Riders hosted their first game at the new Mosaic Stadium, a pre-season game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, on June 10, 2017. That game was a 25-25 tie. Riders fans will be hoping the stadium is a symbol of success, as since moving in they have had three progressively improving winning seasons, and made three playoff appearances.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders History

The Roughriders were formed as the Regina rugby Club in 1910. Those first teams played in gold and purple, and lost their first game 7-6 against Moose Jaw as part of an 0-4 season. Success would follow however as they would finish first in the SRFU Divisional standings every season that was played between 1911 and 1935. During that span they would also take the Western Final on 15 occasions. However, they would be on the losing end in all 7 of their Grey Cup appearances.

In 1924, the team changed its name from the Regina Rugby Club to the Regina Roughriders. The Ottawa Rough Riders had been around since the 1890’s, but at this time were called the Senators.

By 1936 the Roughriders were moving into the WIFU, the predecessor to the CFL West Division. According to Saskatchewan’s own website, 1948 saw clubs in Moose Jaw and Saskatoon fold, and the Regina Roughriders began to bear the name of their province – the Saskatchewan Roughriders. This was also the year they began to wear their famous green and white colours.

The Roughriders finally win the Grey Cup

The Riders celebrate their first Grey Cup in 1966. Image from: Regina Leader-Post

It took Saskatchewan over half a century to get there, but in 1966 they won their first Grey Cup. Aside from the 7 defeats mentioned above they had lost in 1951 when they had lost to the Rough Riders from Ottawa. 1966 offered another ‘Rider bowl’ – but this time the green Riders triumphed in a 29-14 upset win.

It had been 14-14 at the half but behind RB George Reed’s 31 carries for 133 yards including a 31 yard touchdown scamper and a strong defensive showing, they wore Ottawa down.

The Roughriders remained one of the top teams in the CFL for the next decade, qualifying for the post-season in every year up to 1976. Between 1966 and 1976 they were an impressive 117-55-4 in the regular season. However, there was more Grey Cup heartache for their fans as they lost in the Grey Cup in 1967, ’69, ’72 and ’76. They also lost 6 Western Finals over this period too.

A period of decline followed. Between 1977 & 1987 the failed to make the playoffs once. Poor attendance reflected at the gate and in 1987 they held a telethon and a raffle to raise money against debts.

After you’ve experienced such lows though the highs are all the sweeter. The Riders had their first winning season in years in 1988, and in 1989 won their second Grey Cup.

Like all teams the Roughriders have had periods of highs and lows since then. They even claimed two more Grey Cups, – in 2007 and lastly in 2013. The Roughriders have an all time regular season record of 593-612-23. They have appeared in the Grey Cup on 19 occasions and won it 4 times. 

The Saskatchewan Roughriders today

Saskatchewan Roughriders fans supporting their team. Image from @sskroughriders

The Roughriders are a team trending in the right direction. Rider fans will be greatly encouraged by the consistency they have started to show, winning at least 10 games in each of the past three seasons, going 35-19 over that span and being within one game of the Grey Cup twice.

With the opening of Mosaic stadium in 2017, and their first ever home playoff game in 2018, and first home Western Final at Mosaic in 2019 things are looking good in Riderville.

Starting QB Cody Fajardo had a breakout year in 2019 as he was named a CFL All-Star. he now has former Edmonton Head Coach Jason Maas as his offensive coordinator who has a reputation for creating great passing offences, so there could be more to come.

Are they right for you?

There are nine teams to choose from. This is the third. But could the Rougriders be the ones for you? It could depend on how popular the team you want to support is.

The Roughriders sell out regularly and have some of the rowdiest fans in the CFL. They are certainly one of the CFL’s best supported franchises, with excellent attendance, and great merchandise sales as standard. How big is their fan base? Well, anecdotally I can say that invariably if somebody goes on social media & decides to support a team based on how many responses they get from each franchise’s fans they will end up supporting Saskatchewan in a landslide!

The Roughriders sell a lot of merchandise too. In fact more Rider merchandise is sold than any other sports team in Canada with the exceptions of the Toronto Maple Leafs & Montreal Canadiens. They are also a team with history – The Riders are the 3rd oldest pro football team in continuous existence as a single franchise behind the Arizona Cardinals and the CFL’s own Argonauts

The Watermelons

Rowdy fans? Check. Watermelons on the head, er check! Image from thestarphoenix.com

If you think Roughriders fans, you also think watermelons. Watermelon helmets/headgear are something of a signature look for Rider fans. Melons are purchased a few days prior to the game, carved out and the green and white rind turned into a watermelon helmet comensurate with team colours.

I have no idea where this tradition originated. This video suggests an origin in the early 2000’s, but briefly alludes to it having a much longer past, (8:09 mark), and it’s that past that I’d love to know about. Either way though, the main thing is it’s just another way for Roughriders fans to express their love of the green and white.

Robokicker – a UK connection

The CFL is not known over here for its British talent in the same way that the NFL is. But that does no mean that there hasn’t been British talent in the league. Back in the 1980’s and early 90’s there was a British connection – Saskatchewan Roughriders kicker Dave Ridgway.

The man known as ‘Robokicker’ hit “the kick” that went down in team folklore picking up their second Grey Cup in 1989. Ridgway, who is in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, hailed from that well-known hotbed of CFL talent, Stockport in England. He is a Canadian citizen. Having emigrated as a teen and taken citizenship he was even voted ‘Most Outstanding Canadian’ in the 1989 Grey Cup. But that doesn’t mean we can’t claim the link – he was born in Greater Manchester after all.

You can read a bit more about how celebrated Ridgway and teammates are in Saskatchewan here.

Banner Image from riderville.com

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