All the PETA members in Lotusland can forget about picketing BC Place on Sunday.
Tuesday, November 7, 2006 - 06:00PM
By Mike Beamish,
Gainer the Gopher may be no more than a rat with better P.R., but the B.C. Lions won't ban the beloved Saskatchewan Roughriders' mascot whom Alberta premier Ralph Klein describes as "vermin."
Jen Graham, the Lions' manager of game day operations, says the CFL club has decided against turning B.C. Place into a No Gopher Zone for Sunday's West Division final playoff game against the Roughriders.
"Bob Ackles has no problem with it. Wally Buono has no problem with it," says Graham, of the Lions' president and coach. "Gainer was allowed to perform at the 2004 playoff game [at B.C. Place], and he'll help create tons of atmosphere, as long as he stays behind the Saskatchewan bench. He's another friend for Leo the Lion to play with. Of course, Leo could decide to go gopher-hunting."
Gainer, denied access by the Calgary Stampeders to the field level at McMahon Stadium for Sunday's CFL West Division semifinal, stayed home in Regina in protest.
The Stampeders defended their decision, contending that Gainer might steal the thunder from Calgary's overly sensitive mascot, Ralph the Dog, who didn't feel he should have to compete for the crowd's affection in his home ballpark. The controversy spilled over the provincial borders and into the legislative assemblies of Saskatchewan and Alberta.
The gopher's banishment, however, had the unintenional effect of creating bad karma for the Stampeders, who blew a 16-point lead and lost 30-21 to the Roughriders.
Knowing their 13th man, or rodent, will be behind them Sunday should create a positive vibe for the Roughriders, although some players don't care whether he shows up or not.
"Gainer ain't tacklin' nobody. He ain't throwin' no passes," says Saskatchewan defensive tackle Nate Davis. "It don't make no difference to us. We've got our work cut out for us. As long as we keep playin' hard, we're going to give ourselves a chance."
Indeed, the 'Riders will need to pull off a full gainer and go-pher broke against the favoured Lions.
LEO THE LION
Height: Seven feet, from whiskers to tail.
Weight: Training camp or off-season? About two offensive linemen or two linebackers, depending.
Favourite song: Roar You Lions Roar (of course!)
Birthdate (eg: his first game): Undetermined. On his sixth or seventh of his nine lives.
Most embarrassing moment: Losing his shoe in front of 55,000 fans while running onto the field during the West Final in 2004.
Most memorable moment: Leading the Lions out of the tunnel at every home game -- and hanging out with the Felions.
Favourite Food: Especially likes gophers. Will settle for Eskimo Pies during the summer months.
What you might not know about Leo: He has a paw tattoo that is only seen in the locker room.