Sunday, June 12, 2022

Hamilton Tiger-Cats 13 at Saskatchewan Roughriders 30 - June 11, 2022

The final venue to complete my CFL quest was Mosaic Stadium, home of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. It is located in the provincial capital of Regina, which is a six-hour drive from Winnipeg, during which you lose an hour due to the time zone change. With the game set for 5 pm on Saturday, Sean, Sharpy, and I had to get an early start on the road. Fortunately, it is an easy drive along the Trans-Canada Highway and we arrived at our downtown hotel just after 2. We then headed over to Pile O' Bones Brewing Company, which seems to be the only bar between downtown and the stadium. Little known fact outside of Saskatchewan: Regina was once known as Pile O' Bones after an anglicization of its original Cree name.

We enjoyed a couple of beers and then continued the walk to the stadium, which is surrounded by very little. In fact, it was a little disconcerting walking up Saskatchewan Drive, with relatively few fans making the trek along with us. It was only when we got to the stadium grounds that the number of green-clad Roughrider supporters grew large enough to be called a crowd. The reason for this is that most fans drive and park on the north side of the venue, or take shuttle buses from various locations around town.

The stadium officially opened on Canada Day in 2017 and has a capacity of 33,350, which can expand to 40,000 for the Grey Cup, which will be held here this year. There are three fan walls and a large sculpture near the ticket office on the north side: above is one of the walls that depicts a buffalo hunt (hence Pile O' Bones), while below is a white bronze sculpture that "celebrates football and athletic achievement".

Tickets here were somewhat cheaper than in Winnipeg, though they tack on $5 if you want them printed. Frankly, I would always pay an extra $5 for a hard stub (which used to be free if you remember), but many teams only offer mobile tickets, which discriminate against those without a smart phone. I expect a class-action lawsuit soon. One good thing about the ticket office is that they had flags from the 2020 season that were free, so Sharpy and I each picked on up so we would have something green to wear. Sean, the only sensible one of the group, eschewed the need to fit in for the second night in a row.

We entered and were immediately struck by all the green. Obviously, the team's main colour is green, so the seats are also green, and of course, the field is as well. It works and the stadium is all the better for it. There is a local soccer club that uses the venue, and the yellow lines that mark the soccer field stood out.

The stadium design is similar to other CFL venues with a full lower bowl and upper decks along the sidelines, but there is one major difference in that one end zone also has an upper level of seats that you can see below. This additional level helps protect fans from winds that usually come from the north and west. 

Behind the other end zone is a standing social area known as Pil Country, where tickets start at $27 and are only available to those old enough to drink (a sensible 19 here, as in most of Canada except Quebec, where it is 18). 

Concourses are wider here than in Winnipeg and allow for free flow of fans, though there are spots where concession lineups might get in your way.

Mosaic Stadium is another cash-free facility, which means they get to gouge you even more. Before, when customers paid cash, the sales tax was included in the displayed price so that cashiers wouldn't have to dig for nickels and dimes to make change (there are no more pennies in Canada). Now, sales tax is added to the displayed price, but most won't notice when they tap their card. As well, you are asked to add a tip for every purchase, even a hot dog. Let me see, you turned around, grabbed a package that has been sitting there for two hours, and handed it to me. Yeah, no tip sounds about right. 

The team has only won four Grey Cups in their history, a surprisingly low figure for a team that has been around since 1910 and has made the final 19 times. Their most recent win came at home at Taylor Field, Mosaic Stadium's predecessor that was torn down in 2017.

Along the concourse, these same four titles are also commemorated, and there is a Plaza of Honour that lists all inductees. Chris Getzlaf, brother of recently retired Ryan, is a member.

I was particularly appreciative of the Rider Price Worldwide display, which shows members of Rider Nation in various locales around the world. 

Our seats were in the upper deck near the goal line, though we could have moved around as attendance was announced at 28,216, rather disappointing for the team's home opener. In fact, they did not publish the attendance after the game, which is not a good sign. The CFL doesn't have the resources of the Big 4 sports leagues and based on what I saw here and in Winnipeg, will take time to recover after the past two years.

Overall, Mosaic Stadium is another excellent CFL venue. Saskatchewan doesn't make many sports traveler's lists, but I always enjoy my visits here and this was no different. The CFL season is just getting underway and now that Canada has mostly eliminated the COVID travel rules, a trip to Rider Nation is something to think about.

The Game

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were the visitors and let's just say that the CFL might need more than two preseason games to get teams ready. Midway through the fourth quarter, the score was 15-6 Riders with nary a touchdown to cheer.

Fortunately, the final few minutes made up for it. First, Hamilton got back in the game when Dane Evans hit Steven Dunbar with a 26-yard pass over the middle and Dunbar ran 45 yards down the sideline to get within 2. On their next possession, Saskatchewan got that back on a 20-yard pass from Cody Fajardo to Kian Schaffer-Baker. Hamilton took over and Evans was immediately intercepted by Derrick Moncrief, who returned it to the Ti-Cat 1. Fajardo ran a QB sneak for the touchdown and the Riders added a two-point conversion to make it 30-13, and that is the way it ended up.

Another punt-filled affair, with 16 of them here. Obviously with only 3 downs, punts are going to be far more common than in the NFL, particularly early in the season as teams are still trying to get their offenses in sync. For me, this was quite possibly the last CFL game I will attend, as there are no firm plans to build new stadiums and I don't think there will be a team in Halifax anytime soon. 

Notes

Once again, fans were allowed on the field after the game and once again I went to midfield to snap a picture. Unlike Winnipeg's 55, the midfield stripe is denoted by a C. 

Here are the three of us; you will note that Sharpy and myself look like idiots wearing the Roughrider flags as capes, while Sean sports a RedBlacks hat. 

Best,

Sean


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