May 25, 2023

A gopher tale: Reflections on 30 years as Gainer

The gentleman in the giant gopher suit decided it was time for an extended paws. 

With that in mind, Terry Ennis will no longer don the Gainer the Gopher costume on a full-time basis — although he is amenable to, say, filling in a hole if the successor cannot make it to a future Saskatchewan Roughriders home game. 

“In an emergency, such as if the new Gainer has the flu, I’d be happy to help them out,” Ennis noted. 

But as far as being the Gainer, as he has been without exception throughout the 2000s, those days have reached an end. 

Ennis, 62, reached that conclusion following the 2022 season after having a long chat with his wife. 

“Now it’s Toni’s time to have some fun,” her proud husband said. “It’s time for us to have a summer to ourselves.  

“And it’s time to let someone else have this opportunity and, because it is fun, to let them experience it.” 

Ennis’s experiences as Gainer date back well over 30 years, into the 1980s. 

At the time, the gopher get-up was owned by CKCK Radio. In addition to appearing at Roughriders games, Gainer made sundry appearances on behalf of the station. 

One fine day, the CKCK staff was destined for Whitewood for a softball game. 

“The receptionist, Wendy, said, ‘Hey, let’s take Gainer!’ Then I was asked if I wanted to be Gainer for the trip,” said Ennis, whose long career in sales included some time spent at CKCK. 

“The first 20 minutes I had the suit on, it was so hot. I thought I was going to die, but it turned out fine. We got back to town that night. That was the first time.” 

In those days, the Gainer suit was routinely shared by two people during Roughriders games.  

Two of the originals were Dave Ash and Don Hewitt, both of whom worked at CKCK Television when Gainer was born in 1977. 

Two years later, the Gainer garb was shared by Don Trevena and Darrell Hubelit.  

Trevena remained in that role for 20 years, through the 1999 season. 

Hubelit had stepped aside after the 1993 campaign, creating a void that Ennis was more than pleased to fill. 

An assist goes to Tony Playter, who had just been hired as the Roughriders’ media and public-relations co-ordinator.  

Playter knew that Ennis had worn the Gainer suit, off and on, at various community events. Hence, the inquiry was made as to whether he would like to carry his Gainerdom into games. 


Trevena and Ennis were co-Gainers for six seasons. The tag-team approach allowed Ennis to maintain a 30-year streak of uninterrupted service. 

One fine Saturday afternoon, you see, Ennis was an usher at a wedding. The Roughriders were to play later in the day. 

“I thought I wasn’t going to be able to make it,” Ennis recalled. “Don was going to do the whole game. 

“We went to the Italian Club after the wedding. I looked at my watch and said, ‘I can still go to the game and be back here in no time. I love you, honey.’ ” 

Off he went, to dear old Taylor Field. While Trevena was enjoying a respite at halftime, in walked Ennis — just in time to take over for the third and fourth quarters. 

Never again was there the slightest concern about Ennis missing a play, let alone a quarter or a game. 

Factor in the non-game-related, out-of-season appearances and the question arises: How many times has Ennis put on the Gainer costume? 

“It has to be in the thousands,” he replied. “My wife can attest to that. I was never home.” 

Consider, for example, his debut as a non-CKCK-affiliated Gainer. 

“We went to Wynyard in the spring of 1994,” Ennis recounted. “It was like an audition. I guess they liked what they saw and the games started after that.” 

The same could be said of many friendships, such as one that was established with Ennis’s favourite player. 

“Wes Cates,” he said of the second-leading rusher in Roughriders history. “He’s a salt-of-the-earth guy. Wes lived in Regina year-round, so we’d end up at a lot of events together and I’d get to see him a lot away from the field. 

“As time went on, we ended up living in the same neighbourhood. He’s just a regular guy. I just enjoy him. He’s a great dude.” 

Cates played a key role in the Roughriders run to the 2007 CFL championships. When the team presented Grey Cup rings, one of them went to Gainer/Ennis. 

Six years later, the Roughriders won another title — at home, yet — by defeating the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 45-23. 

“Wow …,” Ennis said when asked about the events of Nov. 24, 2013. “Just … wow. That’s all I can tell you. There are no words for it.  

“It was a pretty lopsided game, whereas 2007 was right down to the wire, but you never really feel it until the game is over. 

“Then, when it is over, it hits you. You won. You’re the champion. It is sheer euphoria. My shoulders felt like 30 pounds had been taken off of them. 

“The confetti is flying. Everyone is celebrating. I still get emotional just thinking about it.” 

Especially in light of the fact that, one day, the Grey Cup rings will be passed on to Terry and Toni Ennis’s two sons — Mark and Adam. 

Once upon a time, Adam was Gainer’s handler, beginning at age 11. Several years later, a long-time fan called Adam over to the sideline and created a magical memory. 

“We’ve been in these seats for a long time,” Adam was told, “and we’ve watched you grow up.” 

Many of the memories are preserved in a cedar chest that is wedged into a crawl space in the Ennis residence. 

The chest contains a variety of keepsakes, collected over 30 years. 

“I have a letter that a Grade 1 or 2 class sent me in the late ’80s,” Ennis noted. “I went to a skating party that the kids were at. They sent Gainer a letter to thank him. 

“There are so many things like that — things that I will keep forever.” 

Such as the warm feelings that Ennis will always associate with his alter ego. 

“Gainer is near and dear to my heart and always will be,” he concluded. “I’ve had the time of my life.”