April 3, 2024

Roughriders, CFL mourn the passing of Jim Hopson

Kevin Sousa/CFL.ca

REGINA — It is with great sadness that the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Canadian Football League mourn the loss of former player and team president Jim Hopson. Hopson passed away on April 2 at the age of 73, after a brave three-year battle with colon cancer.

Hopson was a titan for the Saskatchewan Roughrider Football Club both on and off the field. The Regina, Sask. native, who grew up attending Roughrider games, suited up for his hometown team from 1973 to 1976, lining up alongside his heroes: George Reed and Ron Lancaster. In each of his four seasons in Green and White, the team made the Western Final.

Winning ways would follow Hopson when he came back to the Roughriders in 2005 as the team’s first full-time president and CEO, a role he held until 2015. Over his tenure, he ushered in a decade of exponential growth for the Club’s business operations, football operations and Rider Pride.

» From 2018: Jim Hopson inducted into Riders Plaza of Honour
» From 2019: Hopson selected to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame

After growing the Riders into a thriving brand, Hopson was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2019 (Kevin Sousa/CFL.ca)

In his first year as president, the SaskTel Maxtron was installed at Taylor Field. In his second, Taylor Field was renamed Mosaic Stadium, with the blessing of Neil J. (Piffles) Taylor’s family. In his third, the team went to the first of four Grey Cups over his tenure. As demand for tickets swelled, he oversaw the expansion of Historic Mosaic Stadium and eventually laid the foundation for new Mosaic Stadium to be built.

Financially, the club went from posting just a $455 profit in his first year as President and CEO to securing the long-term future of the franchise with sizeable savings and investments. The Roughriders became the CFL’s merchandising leaders and outsold all eight other CFL teams combined. Fan engagement was at an all-time high – made possible by strong performance off the field, but also and especially on the gridiron as well.

With the former offensive lineman at the helm, the Roughriders made it to four Grey Cup Championship games (2007, 2009, 2010 and 2013), winning in 2007 in Toronto and of course, at home in 2013 – a 45-23 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

For his immense contributions to the community, the Roughriders and to Canadian football, Hopson received many honours including the Saskatchewan Centennial Medal (2005), induction into the Junior Achievement Saskatchewan Business Hall of Fame (2009), the Toastmasters International Communication and Leadership Award (2011), the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012), the CFL’s Hugh Campbell Distinguished Leadership Award (2014) and the and the University of Regina Alumni Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2015). He was inducted into the SaskTel Plaza of Honour in 2018, the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2019 as well as into the Regina Sports Hall of Fame and the Mike Ditka’s Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund Hall of Fame in 2022. Prior to his time as president and CEO, Hopson also served four years as the alumni representative on the Roughriders’ Management Committee (now Board of Directors).

In February, the club renamed its football operations auditorium the Jim Hopson Auditorium during a small ceremony with Hopson and his loved ones. Going forward, all Roughriders players, coaches and personnel will walk by the plaque honouring Hopson as they enter their team meetings.

Born and raised in the Queen City, Hopson played high school football at Thom Collegiate and junior football with the Regina Rams, with both programs remaining near and dear to his heart. He went on to have a long and fulfilling career as a teacher, educator and administrator before returning to run his hometown team.

He leaves behind his loving wife, Brenda and his two children, Carrie and Tyler, many friends, and loved ones and a lasting imprint on the hearts of all who knew him.

Statement from Roughriders President and CEO Craig Reynolds

“As president, Jim ushered in a new era for our organization that included two Grey Cup Championships, incredible financial success, and perhaps most importantly, a belief in Roughrider football that will never fade away. But more than that, Jim was an optimist, someone who made you feel better by just being around him and a friend to all who knew him. On behalf of Rider Nation, I want to send our condolences to Brenda, Tyler and Carrie, as well as our thanks for everything Jim brought to our team, and our community.”

Statement from Roughriders Board Chair Dave Pettigrew

“As my predecessors on the Board of Directors began the search for the first full-time president of the Saskatchewan Roughriders Football Club, they were looking for someone who could dream big and harness all the potential that our organization had to offer. Jim Hopson took that challenge and exceeded all expectations, setting the standard for Rider pride. Jim’s contributions to the club, to Canadian football and to the community will never be forgotten, nor will the warmth and joy he brought to every conversation. He will be immensely missed.”

Statement from CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie

“Jim liked to tell people he was just a big, old offensive lineman. That sounded like self deprecation to some. But fellow members of the most unique fraternity in sport understood that he was really signalling his pride, in having blocked for the likes of Lancaster and Reed, and the responsibility he felt, to protect his beloved Saskatchewan Roughriders and grow the game.

​”The truth is Jim could have left out the part about being big – that was obvious to all of us who were fortunate enough to know him. And it wasn’t just his physical stature. His beaming smile, his loud voice, his crushing handshake – and most of all, his dreams for football in Saskatchewan – were only available in size XXXL.

​”As the Riders’ first full-time President and CEO, he played an equally big role in the transformation of the Saskatchewan Roughriders from the little engine that could to a powerhouse of a modern franchise, working with the team’s talented Board of Directors and passionate fan base.

“​His many CFL friends are grateful for his contributions, which have earned him a place in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, as we mourn his passing, and send our sympathies to his beloved Brenda, family and friends.”

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