Is anyone watching the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats contend for the CFL Championship in the 101st playing of the Grey Cup?
Anyone? No? I’ll see myself out.
But if you’re flipping channels on a Sunday afternoon and happened to come across something on your screen that resembled the NFL, but the uniforms weren’t instantly recognizable and it was being played on a channel you generally associate with hockey, indulge me for a moment before you switch over to Broncos-Patriots.
One of the teams in today’s Grey Cup is the Saskatchewan Roughriders, a team that draws a heavy following from all corners of the central Canadian province. Jarret Stoll, one of four native Saskatchewanians on the team along with Robyn Regehr, Linden Vey and Dwight King, spoke of the impact the team has had on the people who make up the boundaries colloquially known as “Rider Nation.”
“They have a lot of pride in their team, and the watermelon heads get out,” Jarret Stoll says of the team’s rabid fanbase. “It doesn’ t matter what the temperature is. It really doesn’t. They care about their team so much. It’s a good following. I know back on the far or growing up, every radio station, you always had it on in the vehicle. You always listened to it. All the news channels and stuff carry the Riders very well. It’s a great thing to follow, exciting football, and hopefully they can win.”
Assistant Equipment Manager Denver Wilson, a Prince Albert native, will have friends taking in the title game in person.
“Watermelon heads today, for sure,” he said, also noting the choice of headgear for some of the team’s more diehard supporters.
“Saskatchewan Roughrider fans are crazy. They drive from northern Saskatchewan, they go down to Regina. I’ve got family that drives five or six hours just to go watch a game, and then come back.”
And even though the expected high in Regina today is hardly expected to crack the freezing mark, they were likely to have partaken in prime tailgating opportunities.
“They’re from Saskatchewan. The Pilsner will be flowing,” Wilson said of the province’s renowned pale lager.
There are some hockey tie-ins, too. One of Saskatchewan’s offensive weapons is receiver Chris Getzlaf. Yes, he’s Ryan’s brother.
And that didn’t matter for Stoll, who plays for a rival up the road.
“That’s fine when it comes to that stuff,” Stoll said. “It’s all good.”
Jarret Stoll, on the Grey Cup:
It’s an exciting day for everybody in Saskatchewan with hosting it, and obviously having a good team and making it to the Grey Cup. Yeah, a lot of friends and family are going. My mom and dad are actually here in L.A., so they won’t be going. My nephew – he’s a big Rider fan. SO yeah, hopefully they can pull it out
Stoll, on Roughrider home games:
They’re a lot of fun. There are certain sections where it’s a younger crowd, and it’s getting rowdy in some of the sections. But, obviously the fans are from years back. They follow the team. They know what’s going on. They know the players and coaches. They do a lot in the community. They do a lot not only in Regina, but a lot in Saskatchewan. I’m from Yorkton, which is an hour and a half from Regina. When I was growing up, they would come up even to my hometown, which is pretty cool. A lot of that hard work just pays off with how people follow them, and how much great fan support they have.