Canada's Finest: Riders voted CP's team of the year | | Official Site of the Canadian Football League
101st Grey Cup Recap: Hamilton 23, Saskatchewan 45


REGINA -- Corey Chamblin could win another 10 football championships and never duplicate the one he earned this year with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

The Roughriders successfully shouldered the weight of heavy expectations and overcame adversity in 2013, capping the year with a 45-23 Grey Cup win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Nov. 24. The title was Saskatchewan's fourth but first on home soil before a rabid Mosaic Stadium gathering of 44,710.

"There will never be a more perfect night in football than that one," the Riders head coach said. "When we walked out and saw all that green, I'll tell you, it wasn't just a home game, it was more a homecoming.

"You'll never replicate that. Many people are talking about repeating and all that, and I say we'll never be able to do what we did this year again. It was too special."

The Riders were rewarded for that accomplishment by sports editors and broadcasters across the country, who voted them The Canadian Press Team of the Year for 2013.

"That's amazing," said Riders GM Brendan Taman, "That's quite an honour."

The Grey Cup champions earned 28 per cent the vote to edge out Canada's Davis Cup tennis team (23 per cent). The Vanier Cup-champion Laval Rouge et Or were third with 14 per cent while the Memorial Cup-winning Halifax Mooseheads earned 13 per cent.

"They are Canada's team and their Grey Cup win in front of their home fans capped a Cinderella season for the Riders," said Bob Irving, the sports director at CJOB radio in Winnipeg.

"Canada's Team wins the Grey Cup in its home province," added Montreal Gazette sports editor Stu Cowan. "Might never happen again. Enough said."

It's the second time the Riders have been named team of the year. They also captured the honour in '07 after beating Winnipeg 23-19 in the Grey Cup.

Saskatchewan is the second CFL champion in three years to be named the country's top team following the B.C. Lions in 2011.

Running back Kory Sheets was a one-man show in the Grey Cup with a record 197 yards rushing and two TDs for MVP honours. Slotback Chris Getzlaf, a Regina native, was named top Canadian with three catches for 78 yards.

But it was Taman who built a team capable of winning a championship at home.

In January, he acquired veteran slotback Geroy Simon from B.C., then in free agency signed defensive ends John Chick and Canadian Ricky Foley as well as outspoken defensive back Dwight Anderson. All four were previous Grey Cup champions and proven veterans who were expected to provide leadership to an already solid existing core.

In October, Taman gambled by acquiring rush end Alex Hall from Winnipeg. Hall had a CFL-leading 15 sacks at the time but was slated to become a free agent in February with plans to pursue NFL opportunities.

Although he never showed it, Taman admits the expectations weighed on him.

"It was one of the toughest years that way since I've been in the business and I've been in it 26 years," he said. "That was the most pressure I've felt but I kept a lot of that within, which probably wasn't healthy, however externally I never really admitted to it too much."

For years, Simon was the No. 1 receiver in B.C., but assumed more of a supporting role in Saskatchewan. Although Simon became the CFL's all-time leading receiver this season, he was fourth on the Riders with 40 catches for 565 yards and three TDs.

But against Hamilton, Simon had three receptions for 67 yards and his first two Grey Cup TDs.

Foley, Chick, Anderson and Hall all helped Saskatchewan's defence establish itself as the CFL's stingiest, allowing a league-low 22.1 points per game and finishing tied for the interceptions lead (24). And in the opening half of the Grey Cup, the unit held Hamilton to just three yards rushing and five first downs as the Riders surged to a commanding 31-6 advantage.

Saskatchewan opened the season emphatically, posting an impressive 8-1 record. Anchoring the Riders' start was Sheets, who ran for 100 or more yards in the club's first six games and seven of eight, amassing over 1,000 yards at the halfway point of the season.

But after opening September with a 48-25 win over Winnipeg, the Riders dropped four straight.

"I think it's healthy to go through a little adversity during the season because it makes you stronger down the road," Foley said. "No panic button was pressed but after we lost four in a row going on that road trip, a lot of veterans just said, 'Ok, enough is enough, this has got to be it.'"

The turning point of Saskatchewan's season came Oct. 4 at B.C. Place. Sheets returned to run for 80 yards and two TDs, Anderson registered one of three interceptions while Foley had two of five sacks in the Riders' 31-17 road victory.

"To me, that's when I knew this team had a chance to go all the way," Taman said. "When we went into a tough place to play and knocked them off and we got our running back back, that's when I knew this team had the chance to do something special.

"Deep down I thought if we won this game this team is back, we're back to that 8-1 team and we were."

A fact not lost on Foley, named the top Canadian in Toronto's 2012 Grey Cup win over Calgary.

"I remember in that locker-room before the game how focused and intense we were," he said. "Darian (Riders quarterback Darian Durant) is our pre-game speech guy and he says what we need to hear and for some reason that day he pointed to me and said, 'Get 'em,' and I went off.

"I took a page out of (former Argos teammate) Adriano Belli's book and flipped the tables over during the pre-game speech and knocked everything over. I apologized to the guys I got Gatorade on afterwards but I think that was the turning point of our year when everybody came together in all three phases."

Saskatchewan finished its season losing two straight, including a 29-25 road decision to Calgary for top spot in the West Division. But another big win over B.C., 29-25 in the Western semifinal, set up a conference final rematch with the Stampeders at McMahon Stadium.

Saskatchewan emerged with a 35-13 victory as Sheets ran for 177 yards and a TD while Durant threw for 280 yards and three touchdowns.

And then there was the Grey Cup, and the boost the Saskatchewan players received playing before the sea of green that was Rider Nation at venerable Mosaic Stadium.

"What topped it all off was that it was here," Taman said. "If we'd won this in Toronto or Vancouver, flying back would've been cool but we just literally won the game right here with all our fans sitting in that crowd.

"It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing."

For Chamblin, the full scope of the Grey Cup victory hasn't fully sunk in.

"Not until I get that ring," he said. "Every once in a while I lean over to my wife and tell her, 'We won the Grey Cup.'

"We treated it as the next game and that's why we didn't let it get too big for us. Once I see the ring, I'll really feel like, you know what? We won the championship."

Foley's third career Grey Cup win — his first was with B.C in '06 — was decidedly different than the 2012 championship he earned with Toronto.

"In Toronto with coach (Scott) Milanovich, we never spoke about the Grey Cup at all," Foley said. "But coach Chamblin always addressed us 'Good morning champs,' and at first I didn't know how to take it because we hadn't won anything.

"But I think because we addressed the issue of pressure and the objective early on, once we beat Calgary at McMahon there really wasn't a celebration because it felt like this was what we were supposed to do. We expected to be there and then with the Grey Cup at home, instead of having pressure it was more like an advantage."

And for Getzlaf, the opportunity to realize a childhood dream.

"As a Saskatchewan kid, to play professional football for the team you grew up cheering for is special in itself," he said. "Then to have an opportunity to get to the Grey Cup and win it on home soil, I don't think that will sink in for a while.

"When you go out on top in front of your own fans who've waited a long time for a situation like that, it's such an amazing feeling."

However, Getzlaf isn't resting on his laurels.

"Oh no, it's back to the grind," he said. "I'm already back to the gym trying to make my body right to hopefully do it all over again."

For Chamblin, that means aiming for another championship but not a repeat.

"Repeating means doing the same thing and we can't do that," he said. "What we did will forever be etched in our minds . . . it really tested our mettle and allowed us to grow."

Fan Comments
Orange & Black
Canada's finest team??? Come about the Regina Pats?
January 03, 2014 - 4:16am
The CFL is growing and the future looks bright for the Canadian league. This is not only good for fans of the CFL but also for the Canadian players in Universities and junior teams. I hope soon we will have a new team in the Atlantic and maybe one more team in Quebec city. Good luck to Ottawa and I hope this time they grow and prosper for many years to come.
January 01, 2014 - 11:43am
als rule
S100: A #1 correct comment!! need the league to have 12 teams by the year 2030!! time to stop talking about building stadiums in certain cities that express interest in the CFL expanding to their area and START BUILDING THE STADIUMS!! at least a 25,000 seat facility to start with and blueprint plans to expand the site by 5,000 to 10,000 seats!! possible areas could include BUT not limited 2: halifax/moncton, quebec city, windsor/saria/london, or any other combination!!
January 01, 2014 - 3:50pm
als rule
the article on the 2014 upcoming season with a picture of the new lansdowne park is A #1 and makes me wish the season started tomorrow!! a HUGE congrats to the 4 RBs owners who know how to do it right!!
December 31, 2013 - 6:54pm
GC BOUND is 100% correct. I am an American living in the south who absolutely loves the CFL. I have been watching the CFL since 2007. I chose to follow the Riders because of the Hillbilly comments and I am a genuine Hillbilly. I have witnessed two Grey Cups, the Al's victories and the departure of several beloved players. This is the most excited game out there, bar none. My big dream is see the Riders win another Grey Cup while being in the stadium cheering for my team. I have ordered several T-shirts and other gear from the shop and have talked or E-mailed various members up the chain of command for the Riders and they are some of the classiest people I know. I'm a Rider fan for life not only because I love the Riders but I love the people associated with them as well. I'm already itching for the 2014 season to start. Go Riders!
December 29, 2013 - 4:50pm
als rule
@HRF: welcome to our CFL.CA site!! canadian living in upstate NY and see the CFL as your old AFL(america football league)before it merged with the NFL!! AFL was unscripted and wide open with anything can and did happen unlike the greedy hollywood NFL scripted production!!
December 30, 2013 - 7:43pm
als rule
@HRF: please explain what you exactly mean by hillbilly comments directed at the riders?!! since it's news to me!!
December 31, 2013 - 5:28pm
For me it was a moment we forgot all of the other grey cup games we have been in and lost for one reason or another. All the talk was before was on the grey cup record we had and we had endless comments especially about the 13th man and how Saskatchewan had only 3 grey cup wins in franchise history. Now the past is the past and all we can do is take care of the future of the Riders and support them even more then we have. Saskatchewan has come a long ways from the joke it use to be to the big green machine it is today. Many thanks to the management and staff of the Riders who made this team a winner. Of course we also should thank the players for all they done to get us the Grey cup and I hope a lot of players come back and win us another one. Best of New Years to all and good luck next year.
December 29, 2013 - 3:13pm
als rule
I don't know how old you're BUT to refer to your riders as a "joke" when it came to their past isn't accurate in the least!! during the mid 60's to mid 70's there was no team feared as much as the team from regina!! if all you do is judge your team by the amount of GCs they have won then maybe your comment is right BUT over-all the roughriders have been a very successful team both on and off the field!!
December 29, 2013 - 5:00pm
Byron Moore
i was at that turning point win at bc place (worst place to see a CFL game) and realized then that A) BC was not the team they might have seemed to be) and B) that the Riders ARE a potential champion. It was fun watching them silence the lame bc fans (by the last few minutes of the game only green fans were left in there). congrats riderville, enjoy.
cuz next year the Alouettes will be back! ;-)
December 29, 2013 - 3:13pm
als rule
@BM: per the alouettes I'll take your word for it!! GO ALS GO!!
December 29, 2013 - 5:07pm
GC Bound
Well many,many US fans watching the CFL apparently look at our RIDERS as Canada's team similar to NFL fans viewing the Cowboys as America's team.
Who knows, what ever.
The sure thing is, Saskatchewan has shown how a province's support fuels the only PUBLICALLY OWNED Franchise in the CFL
Not Bad, and Greycup Champs to boot!!
Yah baby!
Go Riders Go!
December 29, 2013 - 1:35pm
als rule
@GCB: US fans view regina as canada's team, DON'T THINK SO!! dallas US's team, DON'T THINK SO!! at one time long long ago when tom landry was their HC BUT not now!! green bay WI is the only pubically owned team in the NFL and their fans fuel there success!! not bad either and super bowl champs many times over to boot!!
December 29, 2013 - 5:34pm
als rule
congrats green kingdom!! SHOCKING!! WHY?!! WHAT ?!! yes TFmcb it isn't your hamilton tiger-cats!! LOL LOL LOL
December 28, 2013 - 5:10pm
And why would it have been the Tiger Cats?? Although I would hardly call the Riders "Canada's team"!
December 28, 2013 - 9:34pm
als rule
@TFmcb: closer to canada's team than ever hamilton will be!! LOL LOL LOL
December 28, 2013 - 11:54pm
Really?? With a fan presence at every away game and team merchandise sales greater than all other CFL teams COMBINED, what would you call them?? Little jealous perhaps??
December 28, 2013 - 11:57pm