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Riders Theme Nights as Predictable as Ever

Published: Wednesday, Apr 12th 2023, 4:04pm

By Alex Dormuth (@RealAlexD)


It’s one of my favourite times of the CFL year… when the Saskatchewan Roughriders announce their all too predictable theme nights for the upcoming season.


First, theme games don’t make me want to attend games. I have my tickets, I’m going regardless, they have my money and I know they aren’t marketing this to me. But my issue with the theme nights is that there is no imagination with them and they are the exact same ones every single year. I DO like some of them, but it’s just becoming too stale to me. Here’s what they are doing for games this year.


Saturday, May 27 at 5:00 p.m. – Community Culture Night (Preseason)

I like this one. Celebrating diversity is important and is much needed. Add in that fans can go on the field after the game (assuming fans sit through the entire preseason game), this is a good one. It remains to be seen what they actually do in-game for this theme, but I like it.


Friday, June 16 at 7:00 p.m – Home Opener – “Dad’s Night Out” 

At least they have a REAL theme for the home opener this year. Every year it’s the same “Bring Em Out” theme, so to tie this in with Father’s Day is smart. Giving away 5,000 hats to ‘Dads’ is great and I love that they are having a halftime concert. I DO like Kim Mitchell and he’ll do his Rock n’ Roll Duty (he IS a Wild Party, after all) and it fits with the middle aged guy who listened to Kim Mitchell back in the day, but if you want to grow your fan base (which should be the primary goal of everything the team does), you HAVE to bring in someone younger.


Thursday, July 6 at 7:00 p.m. – Throwback Thursday

If there’s anything Rider fans love, it’s remembering the past, the glory years of all those Grey Cup Championships this team has won… 5,000 sunglasses will be given away and the team is wearing their retro jerseys (which should be their full time jersey). Nothing new or imaginative here, it’s a regular retro night that has been done before that they just changed the name to. My guess is that either Trooper or Harlequin will be the halftime concert… yawn. It’ll be a fine enough night at the stadium, but this isn’t really a theme when all the music they’ll play is the same stuff they play every game and they just wear a jersey they do a few times every year anyways. I just really hope they come out with a retro line of clothing for this.


Saturday, July 15 at 5:00 p.m. – kisiskâciwan Game

Much like the preseason game, this is an important theme to have and it’s one that I quite enjoy every year. I hope they make these shirts available again, because they are great! This game always gets an A+ from me.


Sunday, August 6 at 5:00 p.m. – Country Roots Night

I get it, people in Saskatchewan like their Country music. Can we think of something new here, though? Do a Boy Band Night or a Next Gen Music night or something, ANYTHING instead. It looks like they won’t have a concert for this one this year, instead going with an on-field halftime show performance (what, was Jess Moskaluke busy that night?). The best part about this theme night is the Rider Dance Flo Crew is back for this one.


Sunday, August 20 at 5:00 p.m. – Family Day

A theme night that doesn’t do much for me personally as someone without kids, but one they have to do. Just get the next generation of fans in the door and get them to become fans. Giving away 5,000 Gainer dolls is a nice touch this year and the Junior Cheer teams will be performing, which is always a highlight. Hopefully they come up with some sort of Family Day concession pricing to make things more affordable.


Sunday, September 3 at 5:00 p.m – Labour Day Classic

Okay, this isn’t a theme. I get it, the stadium will be sold out thanks to the Bomber fans that travel for this one, so you don’t NEED to come up with a marketing gimmick to sell tickets, but outside of a watermelon eating contest pre-game, there is literally nothing here to promote any kind of theme game. Want to make it a theme? Bring in Rocky Butler, Kerry Joseph or any Labour Day heroes of the past. Promote how you have pretty much dominated this game over the years. Have little videos of highlights with little shots at the Bombers from these games. Do SOMETHING to spice this up.


Friday, September 15 at 7:30 p.m. – Lights Out Game

Fans are starting to love this one and it looks great at halftime when the lights go out (still a bit odd pre-game when the sun is still out, but c’est la vie). But just a pre-game and halftime flip of a light switch still leaves something to be desired. Keep this theme night, but just get creative with it… AND WEAR THESE BAD BOYS FOR IT!


Saturday, October 7 at 5:00 p.m. – Legends Night 

This one is fine, it happens every year. Honouring this year’s Plaza of Honour inductees and celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the 2013 Grey Cup team… alright. These guys will get the salute and applause they deserve and I’m sure it will get a bit emotional in the stands as they re-live the 2013 Grey Cup. I just hope that the team can make amends with Darian Durant and bring him here for this one. I really feel they can tie this in with Retro Night and come up with another theme for that game day.


Saturday, October 21 at 2:00 p.m. – 13th Fan Appreciation Night

This one is… whatever. You see this in the NHL for every team at the end of the season. It’s not really a theme… it’s more of a corporate ass-kiss night with Capital Automotive as they give away a vehicle to one fan. If you aren’t one of the 10 fans selected in this halftime give-away, it really means nothing. I get it, contractual obligations for sponsors and all, but come on, that’s not a theme. Try harder, Riders.


Overall, there is really nothing new or innovative here. I have no doubt that the actual game experiences themselves will be good, but when you are trying to sell tickets with these, none of them really scream “MUST ATTEND” and will get the needle moving on ticket sales. I imagine that the meetings with that American-based Marketing group they brought in look something like this:

And we end up having the EXACT same “themes” AGAIN this year.


I’d love the Riders to do a Pride Night, but Saskatchewan is the Canadian home of the “gO wOKe gO BrOKe” crowd and I’m willing to bet that the team doesn’t want to upset Murray from Rosthern with that…


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