March 4, 2024

Jim Hopson Auditorium honours a key builder in Roughriders history

The Saskatchewan Roughriders recently held a small gathering to honour one of their all-time giants.

Jim Hopson, the CFL team’s first full-time President-CEO, had been told in advance that he was to receive “a presentation,” but the specifics were respectfully and strategically withheld.

When Hopson arrived, he was in the company of the people closest to him — his wife Brenda, family members and closest friends, and cherished colleagues from his time with the Roughriders as a player and/or administrator.

He entered Mosaic Stadium’s football operations auditorium as a man who has been honoured many times, many ways.

Part of the challenge was to recognize him in manner that was novel, yet meaningful.

So it came to be on Feb. 15, when President-CEO Craig Reynolds, General Manager/Vice-President of Football Operations Jeremy O’Day and Board of Directors Chair Dave Pettigrew spoke to a few dozen people and, by extension, to the lengthy list of Hopson’s accomplishments.

“This room is awesome, but there’s no name on it,” Pettigrew observed. “What better name to put on this than that of our first CEO?”

Prior to being hired by the Roughriders late in 2004, Hopson had enjoyed a long and successful career in the field of education, both as a teacher and administrator.

With that in mind, the venue for the “presentation” was ideal, because it doubles as the Roughriders’ classroom during football season. Every day, en masse, players and coaches meet in the auditorium.

Taking that into consideration, Pettigrew’s point was reinforced: “What better name?”

Hence the announcement that followed: “It’s truly my honour to announce that we’re now standing in what is going to be called the Jim Hopson Auditorium.”

Two weeks have elapsed since the naming ceremony, but the honour still resonates with its recipient.

“It was a surprise and it’s very overwhelming,” Hopson, who has been battling Stage 4 colon cancer for nearly three years, said Wednesday from his home near Last Mountain Lake.

“I was very honoured by it. I’m very proud of the stadium and of the role I had in making it a reality. To have my name up in there is a nice tie-in with my career in education and my time with the Roughriders.

“I really appreciated the reminiscing and heartfelt speeches. It was so well done and so kind.”

Reynolds, for example, underlined how much Hopson has meant to the team.

It’s debatable if we’d be standing in this facility and in this particular space if it wasn’t for Jim Hopson,” said Reynolds, who took over as President-CEO in 2015.

O’Day added: “On behalf of the players, both present and past, and the staff, we just wanted to thank Jim for everything that he has done for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.”

That was a lead-up to the unveiling of a plaque on which the following testimonial is displayed:


We proudly dedicate this space to a dear friend, colleague and champion who saw the dream of our province’s new stadium become a reality.

Jim Hopson, the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ President and CEO from 2005 to 2015, served the Club with distinction and devotion as a player, an administrator and a passionate fan.

The Green and White played host to a playoff game in each of Jim’s four seasons (1973 to 1976) as our No. 52.

During Jim’s tenure as the Club’s first full-time President and CEO, the Roughriders appeared in four Grey Cup Games — winning championships in 2007 and 2013 — and established benchmarks for excellence on and off the field. As well, he was a key driver in the process that culminated in the official opening of this world-class facility in 2017.

Fittingly, Jim was inducted into the SaskTel Plaza of Honour (2018) and Canadian Football Hall of Fame (2019).


Space being at a premium, it was impractical — perhaps impossible — to list all the accolades and awards.

In 2014, for example, he received the CFL’s Hugh Campbell Distinguished Leadership Award.

Eight years later, he was inducted into the Regina Sports Hall of Fame and Mike Ditka’s Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund Hall of Fame.

He has also been widely celebrated outside football circles. Consider the presentations of the Saskatchewan Centennial Medal (in 2005) and Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012).

Additionally, he was inducted into the Junior Achievement Saskatchewan Business Hall of Fame (2009) before receiving the

Toastmasters International Communication and Leadership Award (2011) and the University of Regina Alumni Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2015).

“Jim, no matter how many accolades we bestow on you, it’s never going to be enough to thank you for everything you’ve done for the Club,” Reynolds said at the gathering.

“There was a period of time where, every week, it was like, ‘Oh, Jim’s winning another award.’ ”

His good name is also celebrated at Hopson Park, part of the Hawkstone neighbourhood in north Regina.

“Brenda and I used to buy two-for-one Teen Burgers, drive down to the park, find a nice place to sit, and eat hamburgers,” he said.

Everyone also enjoyed a nice meal after the Jim Hopson Auditorium ceremony. With Legacy Catering Services providing the culinary fare, the special guest enjoyed a pleasant visit and an assortment of laughs.

“I’m glad there weren’t 150 people invited,” Hopson reflected. “It felt more special being an intimate gathering like that.”

To him, the term “special” applied to everyone else. He accentuated that point during a 10-minute speech that followed the announcement of the Jim Hopson Auditorium.

Flashing back to the early years and objectives of his decade-long tenure as President-CEO, he cited the oft-referenced goal of the Roughriders becoming the CFL’s flagship franchise.

“We became that not because of me,” he told us. “Right from the beginning, in every leadership role I’ve had, I’ve believed, ‘If you want to get somewhere fast, you go by yourself. If you want to get somewhere and do something, you take a lot of people with you.’ Well, we took a lot of people with us, and they made the difference for us.

“I really appreciate everyone who’s here. We didn’t get here because of one person. We got here because of a whole bunch of people.”

True to his humble nature, he accepted the latest tribute in a most genuine fashion.

“Thank you for this,” he said to conclude the acceptance speech. “It’s a great honour. I appreciate it.

“I keep telling everybody that my goal is that I want to be at the first game this year. We’re going to keep trying until we get that far.”