March 18, 2023

Rob Vanstone: Fieger Facts And Figures — Honouring A Multi-Sport Marvel 

Robservations …  

  • Greg Fieger’s versatility was not limited to the football field. A receiver turned running back in the CFL, Fieger’s skills on the ice were such that he played hockey for the Regina Pats and University of Regina Cougars. Hence the “multi-sport” designation that was applied when Fieger was enshrined in the Regina Sports Hall of Fame in 2016. Most remarkably of all, Fieger hardly looks the part of a retired athlete, even though he last played for the Pats in 1976, the Cougars in 1980, and the Calgary Stampeders in 1986. At 65, going on 35, Fieger is to suit up for Saturday’s inaugural Roughrider Foundation Winter Classic charity hockey game (7 p.m., Merlis Belsher Place, Saskatoon). The game, which benefits KidSport, will provide another opportunity for fans to appreciate a home-grown sporting success story. 
  • Fieger factoid No. 1: In 1979, he played in two national-championship games in different sports — football (with the junior Regina Rams) and hockey (with the Cougars). 
  • Fieger factoid No 2: He scored a touchdown for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in each of his first two Labour Day Classics, while playing a different position — and against a different opponent. Making his first CFL start, Fieger lined up at slotback and caught a 26-yard touchdown pass from John Hufnagel in a 32-29 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Sept. 1, 1980. On Sept. 6 of the following year, Hufnagel found Fieger for a 15-yard score in a 35-26 victory over the Montreal Alouettes. By then, Fieger was part of the Roughriders’ offensive backfield, alongside tailback Lester Brown. Not since then has a team other than Winnipeg visited Regina for the Labour Day Classic. 


  • In that 1981 game, the Roughriders rallied from a 26-8 deficit by scoring 27 unanswered points. After replacing struggling starter Joe Barnes, Hufnagel threw for 240 yards and three touchdowns — in one half! 
  • Hufnagel had produced four 405 aerial yards and four touchdown passes — three of which were caught by Joey Walters — during the Roughriders’ previous game, even though Barnes was behind centre until the second quarter. With the Roughriders trailing 16-0, Hufnagel stepped in and summarily scorched the Edmonton secondary for an average of 23.8 yards per completion. The home side ended up winning 44-34 at Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton’s Warren Moon threw for 418 yards during an afternoon in which the teams combined for 966 yards of total offence. 
  • Never before, or perhaps since, has a Roughriders loss produced such a positive vibe. Edmonton capped the 1981 season by winning its fourth consecutive Grey Cup championship — the streak would eventually swell to five — while the resurgent Roughriders finished 9-7 after going 2-14 in 1979 and 1980. 
  • Think about it for a second. Over the first five games of last season, the Roughriders won as many games (four) as they did during the 1979 and 1980 seasons combined. Yes, the conclusion to the 2022 campaign was excruciating for players, coaches and fans alike, but try sitting through back-to-back 2-14 seasons at a time when the Roughriders were incurring jaw-dropping deficits on and off the field. 
  •  The 1981 Roughriders included three hockey players of note. Fieger and centre Bob Poley once played for the Pats. Marshall Hamilton, who in 1981 was a first-year defensive back with the Roughriders, played for the Yale University Bulldogs’ men’s hockey team from 1975 to 1979. Hamilton then turned his attention to football and quarterbacked the hometown Rams to a national title in 1980. The word of the day: Versatility. 


  •  Behold the jaw-dropping numbers that Rob Bagg registered for the Queen’s Gaels in a 54-24 Ontario University Athletics victory over the Toronto Varsity Blues on Oct. 20, 2007. He caught nine passes for — get this — 341 yards and three touchdowns. But here’s the real stunner: His TD receptions covered 90, 89 and 70 yards. Can you think of another instance in which a receiver has scored 249 yards worth of touchdowns in a game at any level of football? All nominations are welcomed. 
  •  Bagg and Andy Fantuz, who were members of the Roughriders’ Canadian Air Force, both had banner days during the third weekend of October in 2007. One day after Bagg’s 341-yard, three-touchdown gem, Fantuz caught eight passes for 240 yards and three scores in Saskatchewan’s 40-23 victory over the host Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Kerry Joseph found Fantuz for TDs of 73, 36 and 27 yards. The 36-yarder was set up by a 53-yard bomb from Joseph to, of course, Fantuz. 


  • The Mount Rushmore of legendary CFL linebackers includes Solomon Elimimian and Willie Pless, both of whom concluded their playing careers by spending one season in Saskatchewan. Pless, a five-time winner of the league’s most outstanding defensive player award, was a West Division all-star with the Roughriders in 1999. Twenty years later, Elimimian also made the divisional dream team while suiting up for Saskatchewan. On Thursday, Elimimian joined Pless in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. It was an automatic and fitting honour for someone who was twice named the league’s top defensive player. In 2014, as a member of the B.C. Lions, Elimimian was also honoured as the league’s most outstanding player, period. 
  • If the league had a most outstanding person award, Elimimian would also be a perennial contender. Consider this quote from one of the three-down game’s all-time class acts, who now lends his expertise and exemplary character to the CFL Players’ Association: “I had a great life with a lot of opportunities in Canada. What I’m doing now as president of the CFLPA, I feel like I have a responsibility to the guys who are playing now and the guys who come after me to help them have the same opportunity I did to play this beautiful game. “
  •  The fast track to the Hall is such that Elimimian is younger than two current members of the Roughriders — offensive lineman Philip Blake (who turns 38 on Nov. 27) and quarterback Trevor Harris (whose 37th birthday is on May 31). Elimimian turns 37 on Oct. 21. 
  • Quick note: The shrine is known as the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, not the CFL Hall of Fame. Why do so many people get this one wrong? 


  •  My NCAA men’s basketball championship bracket fell apart shortly after “NAME: ______________.” 
  • How ill-advised was my participation in the Roughriders’ March Madness bracket party? Well, for starters, I had a computer auto-pick my team — a true testament to my lack of acumen and ambition. Once I was informed that “S.D. State” was my choice to win it all, I immediately became a fan of South Dakota State — where newly signed Roughriders receiver Jake Wieneke and former Campbell Tartans basketball player Kai Williams starred in university. It turns out, however, that the “S.D.” stood for San Diego, not South Dakota. My entire bracket is going south.  
  • Our province’s version of March Madness runs from Thursday to Saturday, when Hoopla is to be held in Prince Albert. While with the Regina Leader-Post, I always loved covering the Saskatchewan High Schools Athletic Association basketball championships. The best games often involved the smaller schools, thanks in part to the enthusiastic fan support. It is quite something to see (and hear) a considerable percentage of a community’s populace gather in one gymnasium and cheer on their team — their town. 


  •  Nice people who deserve a plug: Dr. Stephen Bagg, Rob Bagg, Rachel Ling, Frankie Hickson, Solomon Elimimian, Greg Fieger, Paraskevi Filippakopoulos, Peter MacDougall, Kim MacDougall, Tim Switzer, Doyle Fox, Sam Berg, Danae Le Drew, Anne Wawara, Kyle Carson, Regan Exner, Kenric Exner, Leo MacDonald, Jeff DeDekker, Ashley Shumate, Tyler Wawryk, Russell Wangersky and Stefan Judek.