If this doesn't prove it, nothing will..

Roughriders soaking up high times< Return to Article

November 19, 2009

Sean Fitz-Gerald
National Post

REGINA -- Jim Hopson, president and chief executive officer of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, had two meetings and a series of media requests to attend to before lunch. It was another busy day in an incredibly busy week, and it was still four days shy of the climax, when all of Regina will grind to a halt for the grandest football game it has hosted in three decades.

There were plans to be laid, numbers to be crunched. And Hopson, who has helped guide the franchise's return to prominence, was in the middle of a Prairie storm.

"It's a lot of fun, but holy Christ," he said, chuckling yesterday. "It's a good thing I'm the size I am, because everybody wants a piece of me."

Saskatchewan clinched first place in the Canadian Football League's West Division with a season-ending win over the Calgary Stampeders, and will host the Stampeders again on Sunday for the right to advance to the Grey Cup. It will be the first division final held in Regina since 1976, and with the anticipation already bordering on hysteria, there is hope the team could generate revenue into the range of seven figures this weekend.

These were already heady times in Saskatchewan, which is considering a proposal for a $350-million domed stadium, and where fans have made the team profitable. Two years removed from the third Grey Cup win in franchise history, hosting the division final has only added to the high times in the flatlands.

"It took us a while to come off the ceiling, to be honest with you," Hopson said. "I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a real sense of euphoria and accomplishment when we won that game with Calgary. I was much more emotional than I thought I'd be. I think I was more emotional than I was when we won the Grey Cup."

Three decades is a long time to go without hosting a division final, especially for Regina, where football is not consumed so much as it is absorbed. Hopson said the extra pride is derived from the fact that, while it is not unheard of for a mediocre team to catch fire and win the Grey Cup, a first-place finish is the mark of a consistently high-level team.

"You don't want to get cocky, because to stay at that level takes an unbelievable amount of good work and good luck," Hopson said. "But it means a lot to us here. It means a lot to our fans, and to every one of us who bleeds green."

It is also another marker to highlight just how far the Roughriders have progressed from the dark days of franchise-saving telethons and perennial last-place finishes. It has been reported that, out of every dollar spent on CFL merchandise, 54 cents is from somebody buying something green.

It has also been reported the community-owned team generated $28.2-million in revenue last year, an increase on the previous year, and miles ahead of where they were in 2004, when the Roughriders had $11-million in revenue.

The store the team opened in Saskatoon last month is already exceeding expectations, and there are plans to transport a significant cache of merchandise to Calgary next week, even if the Roughriders do not advance. The team reportedly moved more than $6.5-million in merchandise last year, more than any other CFL franchise.

That profitability is envied, and could come up for discussion at the league's next board of governors meeting, when Argos owners David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski are expected to revive the topic of revenue sharing. The notion was received poorly the last time it was raised, and a repeat could finally sway the duo into officially off-loading their struggling team.

Saskatchewan, as counter-intuitive as it may sound, has become a big market. There are big plans in the works for the team's 100th anniversary season, next year, just as there are big hopes for this weekend.

The Roughriders have never won a Grey Cup within 15 years of a prior championship -- with their three title in 1966, 1989 and 2007 -- and the hope has created at least a little giddiness. And it has made Hopson, already a busy man, a popular man as well.

"Now, of course, all my long-lost friends are calling me going, 'Hoppy, you wouldn't have some extra tickets for the Grey Cup?'" he said. "And we're going, 'No we don't, actually.' But people are getting real excited about the possibility of us being there."

Not to take anything away from this, but personally, I think the 2007 season (even before the playoffs) was a better year than this one. We finished 12-6, compared to 10-7-1 and although we didn't finish first in the West, we were, like this year, second best in the league. Unlike this year, the first place BC was not overly superior to us and we had actually gone 1-2 versus them and were very close to actually going 2-1 (damn you Geroy....). This year, although we were close against Montreal one game, there has never been a point in the season where we could be said to be better than them (in 2007, from about week 4 till after labour day, we were the class of the league).

...prove what? what was in dispute?....was someone saying that the riders don't sell the most fan gear? because if they did they'd be wrong....good thing you found an article that proves the riders sell the most fan gear to prove that person wrong...

read into it all you want.

bottom line, Riders are the biggest team in the League. they sell the most gear, have the most fans, etc..

Every team is the same size, if anything the Riders are one of the smallest teams :lol: :rockin:

...good advice, I read this into it:

The Roughriders have never won a Grey Cup within 15 years of a prior championship

...of course I didn't really have to 'read anything into it', it seemed pretty self-explanatory....

yet we still have amazing fans...

if every team in the CFL had the kind of fans we have, when you win 1 Cup every 15 years or so, we'd have an amazing league.

Calgary also had their issues not too long ago, didn't they?

…yes, terrible issues, issues that would have brought a lesser team to it’s knees…but our amazing fans saw it through and we percevered…we are truly amazing, the best fans in the league, without a doubt…

I wonder how much gear the team was moving when they finished 3-15…

Every group of fans in this league are the BEST!!! This league has some of the greatest fans, sure there are some fair weather fans, but most teams have the same solid fan base!!! EVERYONE is great!!! :rockin:

Calgary if they went 3-15 for 3 straight years, you'd soon see a lot of empty seats...

speak for yourself...

the Eskimos, are a bandwagon fan team..

if they were to suddenly suck bad? like the 09 Argos the 08 Ti-Cats?

and do it consistently? i'm pretty sure that you'd see less than 25,000 fans in Commonwealth regularly..

Rider fans have always been very faithful.. even through our worst years..

If my memory is correct
Sk,Ed,Cal,Win,Ham,Mont have always had die hard fans
Roughies stand out more because we are all over Canada.
This is why
There was no work in Sk but you always bleed green
times are changing now but i have been in GP 8 years
just my 2 cents, only 2 because no PST

...and we did, and there were a lot of empty seats, but then the bestest fans in the entire west were rewarded when responsible owners came forward....

...I also think the fans in Edmonton have been the best in the league for sticking with their team when for many countless years they all of a sudden didn't make the playoffs for a few....AWESOME JOB ESKIMO FANS, you guys are definitely the best.....

...and whoa, who can count out those BC Lion fans, possibly the best in the entire sport, when it looked like their team would s.uck badly this year they kept on supporting the team, and are now rewarded with another playoff game....I just checked Websters, under 'best', it was a picture of a BC Lion fan, impressive....


oh wow, Esks miss 2 years.. ooh that's soo darn awful!!

they really suffered!..

try 11 in a row..

then come back and see how great they support their team.

...that's your theory? if the esks missed playoffs 3 years in a row they would fold?....

To all Fans of the CFL I would like to issue this statement
Cflisthebest does not speak for rider fans he only speaks for himself

Most of us couldn't care less whether people think we are the best fans around or whether they think we stink.

nice post billy lol, im sure NEARLY everyone has gathered that all ready. im a die hard stamps fan...i dont publicly humiliate myself at games like a good number of riders fans do at games (deff not all during the OT tie i sat beside a rider fan who was quite humble but funny and made the experiance awsome) but that can be said for all teams. what about hammy fans wearing corn on their heads? what about the lions fan who was dressed like some football playing viking or some sort, actually during the semi's there was a big fat stamps fan dresses up like that too. EVERY team has its fan bases. if the stamps decided to sell watermelons, combine hats, etc etc AND there was NO other team in the entire province to compete with, they would prolly split that 54 cents with you. stats are sometimes misleading when you dont take all the variables into account. again so i dont get attacked im not taking a shot at the riders nor am i disputing it has die hard fans. i do agree wtih buddy about the work deal. thats my response to most who argue there are more riders fans in calgary than calgary fans. first its not a 50/50 split. second there were so many people comming to alberta for work that its inevitable. if i left province id bring my jersey shirts flags hat etc with me and go to as many games in the new area as i could. the only part that frustrates me is when they think they are superior to anyone other fans for this reason. WE ARE ALL FANS, friendly rivalry is one thing but to take it to the extent that it goes is just dumb, and once again its not ALL riders fans but a select few that are confrontational.

Nice disclaimer :thup: and I don't blame you one bit for distancing yourself, it seems all he does is boast about one thing or another. Gets old fast.

It looks like the telethons in Saskatchewan that were once needed to get season ticket holders and keep the team in the 80s has been forgotten about.

So easy to remember to good times and forget about the bad. Every team has had to struggle at times, even your precious Riders who need to raise $10mil to stay where they are.

Get off your high horse.