Organized football in Saskatchewan began on Tuesday, September 6, 1910 with the formation of the Regina Rugby Club. The original idea was for the team to be a rowing club, but three-down football soon found its way to Saskatchewan. The original colours of the Regina Rugby Club were gold and purple. The team lost its first game 7-6 to Moose Jaw.
The next season, the team changed its colours to blue and white to match the Regina Amateur Athletic Association. A third colour change occurred in 1912 when they changed to red and black, which they would keep for the next 36 years.
In 1924, the team changed its name from the Regina Rugby Club to the Regina Roughriders.
Ottawa’s Rugby Club had been called the Rough Riders since the 1890’s, but dropped it in favor of the “Senators” in 1924. Regina jumped at the chance to adopt the name “Roughriders”.
There are two theories on where the name “Roughriders” came from. One states that it came from the North West Mounted Police who were called Roughriders because they broke the wild horse broncos used by the force. The other states there was a Canadian contingent who fought with Teddy Roosevelt in the Spanish-American War. Roosevelt’s troops became known as the Roughriders. Following the war, the troops returned to Canada, part settling in Ottawa, and the rest moving out West. The colours of the Roosevelt infantry were red and black.
In 1921, East-West interlocking games began being played for the Canadian Championship symbolized by the Grey Cup.
Lacking suitable opposition in this province, in 1936, Regina banded with Winnipeg to form the Western Conference.
The year 1948 was a milestone one for the Roughriders. With the folding of both clubs in Moose Jaw and Saskatoon, the Regina Roughriders became a provincially-owned and -operated club, surviving only on the undying support from the entire province. They became the SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS”.
The team also changed its colours in 1948 to the familiar Green and White. The team was in bad need of new uniforms, and when executive member Jack Fyffe found a set of green and white jerseys at a surplus store in Chicago, for pure economic reasons, the 50 year legacy of the “Green and White” was born and has existed to this day.
In 1956, the Roughriders suffered a terrible tragedy when players Gordon Sturtridge (#73), Mel Beckett (#40), Ray Syrnyk (#56) and Mario Demarco (#55) were killed in a plane crash while returning from an all-star game in Vancouver. Flight #810 crashed into Mt. Slesse in the Coastal Mountains just south of Chilliwack, B.C. The four players’ uniforms are among the eight Roughrider numbers retired by the club. Dave Ridgway (#36), Ron Lancaster (#23), George Reed (#34) and Roger Aldag (#44) are the others.
Ten years removed from the tragic accident, the Roughriders, with coach Eagle Keys at the helm, saw their first great achievement. By defeating the Ottawa Rough Riders 29-14 in Vancouver’s Empire Stadium on November 26th, 1966, Saskatchewan captured its first Grey Cup championship. Lancaster and Reed played key roles in leading the Riders to their first national title.
The Riders remained one of the best teams in the CFL for nearly 15 years, making the post-season every year from 1962 to 1976. Included in that span was five Grey Cup appearances, 1966 (which they won), 1967, ’69, ’72 and ’76
The Roughriders would update their look one more time in 1985, adding black and silver to the Green and White, and featuring a new stylized ‘S’ logo.
The team had several lean years during the late-‘70s and early 1980s, where poor on-field performances led to even worse gates. However, fans remained positive that a turn-around would soon come and it did, by way of one of the best Grey Cup games ever played.
On November 26, 1989, kicker Dave Ridgway nailed a 35-yard last minute field goal to seal the Roughriders’ second ever Grey Cup championship with a 43-40 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Toronto’s SkyDome.
Canada’s Team has now made the playoffs six straight years, including five appearances in the Western Division Finals since 2003. The Roughriders have won the league’s Grey Cup championship four times, 1966, 1989, 2007 and 2013. Their most recent championship came about when they defeated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats with a score of 45–23. They play their home games at Mosaic Stadium. The team draws fans from across the province and country who are affectionately known as the “Rider Nation”. The fans are known for their loyalty and “Rider Pride”, and it is not odd to find a group of Rider fans following the team on their road games across the country. The Roughriders play in the CFL’s West Division.
As the Green and White hit the field this season, there is no question this team is primed to continue adding to its storied history.
More information is available by contacting:
The Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame and Museum:
2205 Victoria Ave.