Fifteen members of the Grey Cup champion Saskatchewan Roughriders travelled to Estevan recently.
They were wearing pads and helmets, but not the equipment that they're accustomed to on the football field. The venue wasn't a field, either. They were on ice, playing a game of hockey.
The Riders were in town January 26 for the Sask. Canola Rider Pride Hockey Challenge – a charity hockey game at Affinity Place that benefitted Penta Completions Estevan Minor Football. Most of those 15 Riders played in the game, and the rest acted as coaches.
In the end, the team of Riders – and a few local ringers – defeated the Estevan Screaming Eagles 10-8 in a game that offered plenty of goals and entertainment. The Screaming Eagles boasted representatives from the Estevan Police Service, the Estevan RCMP, the Estevan Fire and Rescue Service and local football teams.
“The game as a whole, I thought, was pretty entertaining,” said event organizer Wanda Harron. “We weren't going to be expecting a barn-burner of a hockey game by any means, but I think they did a pretty good job of entertaining us.”
Penta Completions representative James Bakken led the Rider Priders offensive attack, with three goals and an assist, while Rider kicker Chris Milo also had three tallies.
Estevan was leading 4-2 late in the first half, but Rider fullback Neal Hughes scored a pretty goal in the final minute of the half to gave the Riders momentum.
Teague Plamondon – who plays for the Estevan Sherritt Coal Atom Minors – scored on a penalty shot in the second half. Plamondon was selected to be the Sask. Canola Player for the Rider Priders.
“I think that's something he'll never forget,” said Harron.
Rider offensive lineman Brendon LaBatte told Lifestyles before the game that the Riders were without their top two hockey players – receivers Chris Getzlaf and Rob Bagg. Many of the Rider Priders only play during the hockey challenge games, LaBatte said, while other Riders were playing hockey for the first time.
Rider defensive back Victor "Macho" Harris appeared to be in one of his first hockey games. But he also seemed to revel in the entertainment that he provided for the fans with his skating.
“A highlight for me was watching Macho Harris try to skate,” Harron said.
Towering offensive lineman Dan Clark, meanwhile, delivered another humourous moment with a fight early in the second half.
The Riders brought an added attraction with them to Estevan: the Grey Cup. Fans had their photos taken with the cherished CFL championship trophy. The line-up for photos before the game extended into the Souris Valley Aquatic and Leisure Centre's hallway.
“It's almost like you get to relive winning it every time you bring the Grey Cup to a new town,” said LaBatte. “The excitement that the people in the community have for it is a really rewarding and fulfilling experience.”
LaBatte, who hails from Weyburn, said it's always great to be able to come to the communities that support the team.
“We get to come in the off-season and have a little fun, and it's for a good cause,” said LaBatte.
The only downside was the weather. A blizzard rolled through southeast Saskatchewan the day of the game. Rider players and the Grey Cup arrived in Estevan on the 25th. Harron said that if they had tried to come to Estevan the day of the game, the hockey challenge likely would have been cancelled.
Attendance was lower than expected, Harron said, thanks to the weather on the 26th. About 800 people were at the game.
“We were happy with the crowd we did have, but … we know that if the weather was nicer, the crowd would have been bigger,” said Harron.
The Roughriders have been travelling around the province in January, bringing the Grey Cup with them to many communities. They will visit other Saskatchewan communities in February as part of their Grey Cup tour.