Time to “Huddle Up” in Saskatchewan Again?
Published: Thursday, Oct 11th 2018, 9:10am
By: Sheldon Jones (@SheldonJones83)
Word came on October 1 that the Saskatchewan Roughriders were bidding to be the host for the 2020 Grey Cup and with it the immensely popular Grey Cup Festival. It's no secret that the Riders would love to have the CFL’s championship played in New Mosaic Stadium, as it is one of the best stadiums in the league. As far as the festival goes, with the Affinity Plex and the brand new International Trade Centre, the facilities for the team parties and festival area will be top notch and all situated in one area for ease of navigation. The CFL is quite aware that Regina has been known to go above and beyond when it comes to hosting sporting events and special attractions. Regina has been host of three previous Grey Cups, 1995, 2003 and most recently (and memorably) in 2013.
1995 was the first year that the CFL’s Championship game was played in Regina. The theme of the week-long festival was “Huddle up in Saskatchewan”. The home of the Roughriders, Taylor Field, was previously thought to be too small to host such an event. Its capacity was 33, 347, not nearly enough for the Grey Cup game. A plan was put forth to add temporary seating to bring the capacity to 55,438. The Grey Cup Festival took place in various venues, two of which being the Agribition Building situated on the exhibition grounds and a giant tent downtown on Scarth St. On game day the Baltimore Stallions faced the Calgary Stampeders. Coming into the game both teams had identical 13-5 records but Tracy Ham and the rest of the Stallions were too much for the Doug Flutie led Stampeders and won the game 37 - 20. This marked the first (and only) time an American team hoisted the Grey Cup. Baltimore would fold that off season and move to Montreal to revive the Alouettes. Local musician Jack Semple performed as the halftime entertainment.
In 2003 the Grey cup made its return to the Queen city. This time the tagline was “Flat-Out in Saskatchewan”. The festival used much of the same approach to the festival as in 1995 and in doing so did not anticipate how much the aurora had increased and realized after the first day they would run out of beer at the downtown tent. This year the halftime spectacle featured Canadian superstar Bryan Adams and up and comer Sam Roberts performing. Again there was two teams with 13 - 5 records facing off in the big game. Ricky Ray and the Edmonton Eskimos met Anthony Calvillo’s Montreal Alouettes. This marked the rematch of the 2002 Final and Don Matthews’ second Grey Cup appearance in Regina. While Montreal won the Grey cup the previous year, the Eskimos would be champions on this day. Ricky Ray threw two touchdown passes to Jason Tucker (including a 41 yard bomb) and rushed for another to lead the Eskimos to a 34 - 22 victory.
2013 brought the “Celebration in Rider Nation”. The Festival committee had big plans in making this year’s Grey Cup Festival the best one yet. With the exception of the Spirit of Edmonton all team parties were located in the newly constructed Credit Union EventPlex Soccer Facility and the Cooperators Centre Hockey rinks built on the exhibition grounds. Due to overwhelming demand a lottery system was held for fans wanting to buy team passes to gain entrance to the parties. There was also again festivities downtown for family fun to be had by all. November 24, 2013 will be a night that Rider fans will never forget. Former QB and Enemy #1 Henry Burris brought his Hamilton Ti-cats to Old Mosaic Stadium to do battle against Darian Durant and the home town Saskatchewan Roughriders. The Riders started out poorly with Durant fumbling the ball on the first two offensive series. The second fumble however seemed to magically find the hands of starting running back Kory Sheet and he rumbled 39 yards for a first down. On the next possession Durant found Geroy Simon in the end zone to take a 7 - 3 lead. The second quarter proved to be pivotal for the Riders as they scored 3 more touchdowns including Geroy’s second of the night a 42 yard strike to make it 31 to 6. Earlier in the quarter one of the most memorable plays was when Smilin’ Hank was caught off guard as the snap came quicker than he anticipated. His reaction was priceless to all Rider fans as Saskatchewan recovered the fumble. Kory Sheets took over the game in the 4th quarter and rushed for a CFL Grey Cup record 197 yard to go with his 2 touchdowns and was named the Most Valuable Player. The celebration of the Roughrider Grey Cup victory spilled out on the streets of Regina on what is now known affectionately as the “Green Mile”. Adding to the fun was a halftime performance by Hedley featuring fireworks, flamethrowers and flying snowmobiles.
The CFL awarding the hosting duties of the 2020 Grey Cup to the Saskatchewan Roughriders seems like a sure thing and frankly should be. The only stumbling block could be the fact that the previous 2 games will also be played in Western Canada with Edmonton hosting this year and Calgary in 2019. However with the way the Western Conference teams have been performing the past few years compared to their Eastern counterparts, it just might be justified.