EDMONTON — Even though Regina is about 800 kilometres away from Commonwealth Stadium, the field sure felt like home for the thousands of diehard Saskatchewan fans who made the long trek west to watch their beloved Roughriders battle Montreal at the Grey Cup.
The week’s pigskin love-in here in the Alberta capital was capped Sunday with the 98th edition of the CFL’s championship game. There was a sea of Roughrider green inside and outside the stadium as the team’s rabid supporters did their best to give the West Division champions the edge.
Despite their efforts, Saskatchewan came up just short for the second straight year.
The 63,317 fans in attendance were treated to a defensive battle with Montreal holding on for a 21-18 victory. Avon Cobourne scored his second rushing touchdown of the game midway through the fourth quarter to put the Alouettes up to stay.
Hundreds of fans arrived early to enjoy pre-game tailgate parties and get a taste of the Canadian football experience. CFL fans are a passionate bunch – especially Saskatchewan supporters – and they were out in force before the game.
Troy Poppowich made the road trip from Regina in a green hippie-style van loaded with Rider paraphernalia. He even had a personalized licence plate – 13VAN – a play on the infamous 13th man call that cost Saskatchewan a victory in last year’s game in Calgary.
“We pulled into the city and it was just Rider Nation,” Poppowich said. “All we could see was green and white.’
He was joined by thousands of Rider fans who easily outnumbered the paltry number of Alouette supporters in the sold-out stadium. Many Saskatchewan fans wore green jerseys and hats while some hardcore followers sported wrestling masks and watermelon helmets.
The weather conditions were good for a late November evening in central Alberta. Fans were bundled up in winter coats, hats and gloves as the temperature hovered near -7 degrees C under partly cloudy skies.
Saskatchewan was the home team as the West Division representative while the Eastern Division champion Alouettes were the road team at the neutral site game. It was expected to be a ratings hit for broadcaster TSN and sister French station RDS. Over 14 million Canadians watched at least part of last year’s game.
Montreal beat Saskatchewan 28-27 at the 2009 Grey Cup. Las Vegas bookmakers gave Montreal the edge this year, listing the Alouettes a 3 1/2-point favourite in the days leading up to the game.
The Trews sang the national anthem and fellow Canadian rockers Bachman & Turner performed a medley of classic hits at halftime.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor General David Johnston were also in attendance.