Members of the first Roughrider championship team will gather at their old stadium for a final time this weekend.
This season, the final season to be played at Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field, also happens to be the 50th anniversary of the 1966 Grey Cup. Seventeen members of that championship Rider team have been confirmed for a reunion this Saturday, July 16.
George Reed, who was named the Most Valuable Player following the game, said that championship will always be special for him because it was the first.
“It’s something you can never take away. When you do something and you get the first time, it’s something that is always remembered,” he said. “No matter how many times that you repeat it, and Saskatchewan has had two or three or four other times that they should have won, or the game was taken away from them, it’s just one of those things that happens in pro sports.”
He said the game meant so much to the fans of Saskatchewan because it meant bragging rights for a relatively small community.
“It gave them something to really cheer and talk about, and of course we had a good football team after that, so it kind of carried us through,” he said.
For Reed, memories that come to mind include Jack Abendschan falling into the mud during the player introductions, which Reed said helped loosen up the team. And at the end, he remembers the reporters and TV crews having to cross the field to interview the Riders, who were underdogs going into the game.
“I can remember the guys just saying, ‘We don’t need any champagne. Just give us a bottle of beer. We’ve accomplished something,’” he recalled.
Players from the 1966 squad will sign autographs from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in downtown Regina. Some will also take part in an autograph session at the pregame fan fest outside the stadium prior to the game against the B.C. Lions. The team will be honoured in a ceremony at halftime.
Reed, who was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1979, said it would be nice to get together again with old teammates, some of whom he hasn’t seen since the last reunion in 2006.
Among them will be Alan Ford, who has Grey Cup rings both as a player from 1966, and in his first year as the team’s general manager in 1989.
“(It’s) really a chance to relive what happened in 1966,” Ford said, thinking back to a previous get-together. “I can just remember sitting around the room and it was just like the old locker room in the old days. It was like the game was a week earlier and we were just talking about the game. I’m sure it’ll be the same way here for the 50th.”
While the Roughriders made eight appearances in the national championship game between 1923 and 1951 a Grey Cup victory proved to be elusive until 1966. That year, Saskatchewan defeated the Ottawa Rough Riders 29-14 at Vancouver’s Empire Stadium. The team was quarterbacked by the late Ron Lancaster who completed touchdown passes to Ford as well as Jim Worden and Hugh Campbell. Reed added a rushing touchdown.
Saskatchewan would not win its second Grey Cup until 1989. The Roughriders also won it in 2007 and on their home field in 2013. As part of the farewell season, special events are planned for the Aug. 13, Sept. 24 and Oct. 22 home games to honour those championship teams.
Both Ford and Reed said the new Mosaic Stadium now under construction will be welcomed by fans and players alike. The two recall their own playing days when Taylor Field didn’t even have dressing rooms on site, and having to change at the exhibition grounds.
“I think it’s just going to help the whole Canadian Football League,” Ford said, who added there would be some mixed emotions about saying goodbye to the old facility.
“I’m sure a lot of people have memories of trips with their family to Taylor Field, and those things will continue at the new stadium. It’ll be a lot better place to watch a football game,” he said.
Geoff Smith is battlefordsNOW's News Director, business and agriculture reporter. He can be reached at [email protected] or tweet him @smithco. Concerns regarding this story can be addressed to Geoff at 306-446-6397.
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