The Saskatchewan Roughriders improved to 5-2 on the season with a 37-13 romp over the B.C. Lions Thursday night at Mosaic Stadium in the 2010 CFL Hall of Fame Game. The win snapped them out of a funk, which saw them lose two of their prior three games.
A fourth consecutive sellout crowd of 30,048 turned out for Thursday's clash and they learned early it would be the Riders' night. In fact, this one was over by halftime when the Riders led 24-6. Rider stars Darian Durant and Wes Cates each scored rushing touchdowns in the win while Chris Getzlaf scored his first TD of the year, catching a long pass from Durant in the fourth quarter.
But the game was only a small portion of the week's festivities. For just the third time since 1972, the Canadian Football Hall of Fame induction gala was taken out of its Hamilton home and, for the first time ever it was held in Saskatchewan. There was a luncheon in Regina Thursday, the Hall of Fame Game that night, a golf tournament and barbecue in Saskatoon Friday and the induction ceremony in Saskatoon Saturday night.
Canadian Football Hall of Fame executives are trying to build up the hype around each year's induction class and perhaps get it similar to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio which has its induction ceremony televised nationally every year. Certainly if TSN had cameras at TCU Place in Saskatoon Saturday night, it would have made for exceptional TV viewing.
Inducted into the CFHOF this year were builder Joe Pistilli (Quebec) along with players Don Narcisse (Saskatchewan), Tracy Ham (Montreal), Bob Cameron (Winnipeg) and Elfrid Payton (Baltimore). Among the dignitaries on hand for the evening were Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon, Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison and Roughrider President Jim Hopson.
"Rider fans never cease to amaze me," Hopson marveled during his speech. "At the Hall of Fame Game the other night, 30,000 fans stayed in their seats at halftime while you guys (the hall of famers) were honoured on the field. That was to show you the respect you deserve. I was very impressed they did that."
All of the Hall of Famers' speeches in Saskatoon were phenomenal, but the night, and maybe the week itself, belonged to Rider legend Don Narcisse. The record-setting receiver from Houston, Texas spent 13 seasons with the Riders (1987-1999) and he told many great stories during his induction speech.
"The Riders held a tryout camp in Louisiana and my Mama gave me $40 to get there," Narcisse recalled. "We almost ran out of gas but we made it. There were 400 players there and they only signed four. I asked coach John Gregory if they needed a receiver and he said 'no, but we need you'. The way I see it, that $40 from my Mama turned into 13 seasons of greatness."
And even the coldest of hearts had to tear up when Narcisse mentioned his mother who passed away at age 73 just six days before the induction of her son.
"I wish I could just hear her say 'I love you baby' one more time," Narcisse whispered. "But I know she's watching this from up above, and saying it now."
What a night.
As for the 2010 Roughriders, the team is on a bye week and doesn't play again until Aug. 28 when they visit the rival Edmonton Eskimos.
- Rod Pedersen is the Voice of the Riders on 620 CKRM Radio