April 6, 2024

Robservations: A treasured Grey Cup memory, compliments of Jim Hopson … signature moments from 1974 … championing players in schools … and the weekly shout-outs

This story is not mine to tell, so I will largely, appreciatively defer to the words of Paul McGregor.

Paul, in turn, will tell you so much about Jim Hopson, who passed away on Tuesday after a three-year battle with colon cancer.

Like Jim, Paul’s wife Crystal faced the dreaded disease in highly public fashion. She hoped her story could inspire and empower others. Her philosophy, as she put it, was to “dance in the rain.”

But then there was the prospect of snow. So I will let Paul take it from here …

“As avid Saskatchewan Roughriders fans, when Crystal and I became a couple one of our first decisions as a couple was to get Rider season tickets together,” he begins. “We loved going to the games and saw them as a date night where we got to do something we loved.

“As Crystal’s cancer journey progressed, the games became more challenging for her to attend, especially as the weather got colder in the fall.

“We were so excited in 2013, when the Riders were poised to host the Grey Cup. We had decided that attending the game wasn’t an option for us, but Crystal wanted me to go to the game without her.

“This just wasn’t an option for me and when the Riders won the West final, our excitement was dampened slightly because we knew we weren’t able to go to the Grey Cup.

“Half-joking, Crystal put a message on Facebook asking if anyone with box seats wasn’t planning to go to the game. We had no thought that anyone would pass up on that game.”

And nobody did, at least in response to Crystal’s message, but her words and story resonated with one Facebook friend who also knew Jim.

On Sat., Nov. 23 — one day before the Roughriders defeated the visiting Hamilton Tiger-Cats 45-23 in the 101st Grey Cup Game — the Facebook friend reached out to the Roughriders’ President-CEO and told him the story of Crystal and Paul McGregor.

“Jim was right on it,” Paul continues, “and within the hour we had tickets and a call from the Rider ticket office with a time and plan to pick our box-seat tickets to the Grey Cup.

“I can’t imagine what Jim had on his plate in the days leading up to the Grey Cup, so for him to make the calls he did and get us the tickets he did is something I will never forget.

“We watched the Riders win a Grey Cup at home from the 50-yard line in the (enclosed) east box — truly a dream come true.”

Crystal passed away on May 15, 2014. She was only 35 years old.

“The 2013 Grey Cup was the last football game Crystal got to see and likely the best game she ever saw,” Paul concludes. “This all happened because of the generosity and selflessness of Jim Hopson.

“Maybe Crystal has had the opportunity to thank Jim personally.”


Rob Carnie’s Jim Hopson flashbacks date back as far as Oct. 14, 1974 — Ron Lancaster’s 36th birthday.

That afternoon at Taylor Field, the Roughriders edged the B.C. Lions 17-15.

As delighted as Rob was with the victory, the highlight of the day took place after the game.

“Our family had just moved to Moose Jaw, where we still had the CBC-TV studios,” recalls Rob, a broadcasting legend who is synonymous with radio station CHAB. “My friend’s father, the late Grant Pasiuk, was directing CBC’s coverage of the game.

“Pazzy asked the Roughriders for permission to bring his son, Dean, and I into the locker room post-game. We took our programs and pens into the room in the old grandstand on the exhibition grounds.

“We got autographs from every player we could — including Jim, Ronnie, George Reed, George Wells, Pete Wysocki, Lorne Richardson, Rhett Dawson, Ken McEachern, Don Bahnuik, Lawrie Skolrood, Ralph Galloway, James Elder and Terry Bulych.

“It was thrilling for me. The locker room was like a bar room — with all the boys guzzling beer and many smoking lung darts!

“Unfortunately, I cut up the program and glued the autographs into my scrapbook. I should have left the program intact! But I still have the signatures.”

Nearly 42 years later, Rob was able to spend more time with Jim. That visit was recounted in Carnie’s Comments, which was posted on discovermoosejaw.com on Thursday.

“When he retired (as President-CEO) in 2015, Hopson put pen to paper, literally, and wrote his book: Running the Riders — My Decade as CEO of Canada’s Team,” Rob recalled in his column.

“In the summer of 2016, Jim called me at the radio station and asked for a favour. He wanted me to find a local venue in Moose Jaw that would host him for a book-signing event.

“When one of our best people asks for assistance, you get it done. I had him booked at The Ultimate Fan Zone in downtown Moose Jaw within minutes. Jim was so grateful.

“The day of the book signing was so much fun. We had some laughs, met some great football fans, and we sold some books.

“It was one day in my life that I’ll always remember.

“Jim Hopson was a man I’ll never forget.”


Cindy Fuchs, Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Roughrider Foundation, first met with Jim early in his tenure as President-CEO.

At the time, Cindy was the Vice-President, Saskatchewan, for the Canadian Red Cross.

“One of the guys who worked with me, Norm Jakubowski, had worked with Jim in the Prairie Valley School Division,” Cindy says. “Norm was with their school program at the time with the Red Cross.

“We wanted to get into schools and talk to kids about bullying and healthy relationships. We were already doing some of it, but we knew if we used the Rider brand, it would be much more impactful.

“So Norm and I met with Jim and said, ‘Hey, we have this great idea. We’d like to put the players back in the schools, but the players would have to be trained, et cetera.’

“Jim gave us unbelievable advice. He was all over it. He said, ‘The Riders, education, and helping youth who are struggling, that’s my world.’

“He gave us a lot of advice on how to work with the Ministry of Education, how to promote it with the school divisions, how to align with curriculum, and we went through that process.

“Fast forward a few years now with the Rider Foundation and some of the reasons we’re in schools with our players are because of Jim’s insight years ago with the Red Cross. Now the Foundation does this.”

The Foundation, which has a mandate to benefit young people, now co-ordinates the player ambassadors’ school visits for Win With Wellness (mental health) and Rider Reading (literacy). Those programs were right in the wheelhouse for Jim, who was an educator for 30 years before taking charge of the Roughriders’ organization in 2005.

“I saw Jim not that long ago and said to him, ‘If it wasn’t for your advice and your leadership, I don’t know if we’d even be in schools the way we are today,’ ” Cindy says.

“He said, ‘It’s the greatest thing in the world that you can actually have players who are role models in our province talk to the kids about tough issues.’

“I said, ‘That’s a thank-you to you.’ It was him.”


  • Nice people who deserve a plug: Brenda Edwards, Mabel Hopson, Paul McGregor, Kate Pettersen, Toby Boulet, Bernadine Boulet, Russ Herold, Raelene Herold, Erin Herold, Ken Miller, Maureen Miller, Brendan Taman, Craig Dickenson, Craig Reynolds, Libby Gray, Steve Mazurak, Nick Mazurak, Larry Kielo, Hannah Kielo, Zac Kielo, Harry Giesbrecht, Dave Morgan, Doug Russell, Dick White, Keith Willoughby, Karen Thomas, Ashley Prest, Phil Kershaw, Mike Kershaw, Kris Kershaw, Kim Gallagher, Moosa Imran, Derek Putz, Jenn Senger, Kelly Marce, Glenda Okrainetz, Randy McCurdy, Nancy McCurdy, Rob Carnie, Chuck Toth, Cindy Fuchs, Norm Jakubowski, Bill Wright, Don Hewitt and, with congratulations on their wedding day, John Phillips and Jenna Trider.