As the Saskatchewan Roughriders turn their attention to the revitalized Hamilton Tiger-Cats, everyone should be happy about the completion of the ugly, home-and-home set with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Saskatchewan won the Labour Day Classic 38-24 and Winnipeg won the ensuing Banjo Bowl rematch 48-28. Besides the lopsided victories, the rancor between each team’s fans was embarrassing, spiraling well beyond a spirited rivalry to the petty point of name-calling hatred.
Duron Carter — Saskatchewan’s talented man-child of a receiver — handled it best when, one game after being spit at by a Bombers fan inside Regina’s Mosaic Stadium, he climbed into the stands at Winnipeg’s Investors Group Field and posed for a pregame picture with another Bombers fan. In that spirit, let’s move forward because there’s a slight chance the 8-3 Bombers and 5-5 Riders will meet in the CFL playoffs.
Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field and moreso its predecessor, Ivor Wynne Stadium, haven’t been known as friendly environments for visiting teams, so there will be no good-natured jokes about steelworkers. And suddenly Steeltown has a football team to be wary of, with the Ticats having won their last two games after losing their first eight. This is where Saskatchewan fans can feel sorry for ex-Rider John Chick, the defensive end traded from winless Hamilton on Aug. 20 to the Edmonton Eskimos, who haven’t won in three games since he arrived.
The Roughriders were on a three-game winning streak until getting walloped in Winnipeg. What happened? Stability. A team that set a CFL record for roster moves last season stopped incessantly fiddling with its roster, unless forced to because of injuries. Saskatchewan’s defence, led by halfback Ed Gainey’s four- and two-interception games and the non-stop pass rush of end Willie Jefferson, forced 16 turnovers in three games before meeting the revenge-oriented Bombers.