Celebrations abound leading into 'Riders Centennial game

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

The secret-location, legendary Saskatchewan Roughriders' Lobotomy Room has been rumoured to exist for a few years now.

But with the Roughriders centennial being celebrated this year, and Edmonton being nominated to compete in the 'Where Is Riderville' contest, photographic and video evidence verifying its existence surfaced.

And this week, to celebrate the special Roughriders centennial "home game" in Edmonton with more than 50,000 fans expected in Commonwealth Stadium -- an inordinate number of them cheering for the visitors -- Chris Coult agreed to open the doors to the Saskatchewan shrine in our midst.

Coult is one of those Rider Priders who walks among us. And the great room is located right here in the home of what until recently was known throughout the land of the jolly green giant to the east as the Evil Empire.

It was a bit iffy there for a couple of days if Coult was going to allow a guy who has covered the Eskimos since the '60s to visit this week. But that was because Coult is waiting for surgery due to complications from appendicitis, which requires about a foot of his lower intestine to be taken out, and was worried he was going to be forced to have to go under the knife this week and miss Saturday's game.

"The first thing the doctor asked me was if I had tickets to the game," he said of a visit to the physician earlier in the week to determine when he goes under the knife.

"I told him I had five people coming over from Saskatchewan and about 15 in total and that the plan was to tailgate at Lobotomy Room and take the park-and-ride to the game."

The surgeon scheduled him for next week.

So under the condition I was not to reveal the location of Lobotomy Room regardless of how bad the Riders beat the Eskimos Saturday, the invitation was extended. Coult lives in a green house. Of course he does.

When the 47-year-old who works in the security industry opens the door, it doesn't take long to believe he may have the ultimate treasure trove of Rider memorabilia in existence, inside or outside the province of Saskatchewan.

The genesis of Lobotomy Room, named after a 1980s Saturday Night Live skit, involved a common condition for the horde of fans of gang green who add 10,000 to 15,000 fans to Eskimo games here during non-centennial seasons.

"For years I tried to explain Rider Pride to my Alberta friends but it was difficult and frustrating," said the fan who was born in Saskatchewan but moved to Slave Lake in Alberta when he was five, which is apparently long enough for the irreversible condition to infect you and leave you as a Rider fan for life.

"I needed a tangible to bring that love and commitment to life so I could transfer some of the passion to them," he said.

"It was unfair that I have all these wonderful feelings, but I could not share them to my closest friends.

"That inability to properly transfer my enthusiasm was the inspiration in 2004. I thought if I displayed some of the items I had accumulated over the years in a place for friends and family to gather and watch games together, maybe it would be understood."

One of many

There are, the Roughrider centennial project has revealed, many such rooms throughout Rider nation.

But this one, in Edmonton, somehow became the ultimate of them all.

"I hung up a couple of jerseys, painted a logo on the wall and created a precise scale carpet painted like the Riders home field, put up a big screen, added a bar and fridge and thought it all looked pretty good.

"Then I discovered eBay.

"After seeing all the memorabilia on that website I decided to add a few player cards and mementos."

He has player cards from 1956 to 2009, a 1966 Grey Cup ticket stub, program and media guide, a 1989 Grey Cup ticket stub, program and media guide, plus a helmet signed by most of the players.

"It snowballed after that," he said.

"For three years I was addicted with items arriving three and four times a week.

"Then it went in a different direction and my search was on for mostly rare items.

"Now it's reached another purpose -- preserving Roughriders history."

Chris Coult of Edmonton, Alta., accidentally became a curator to the ultimate Saskatchewan Roughriders museum.

Coult found a 1910 team picture, a rule book and constitution from 1923 -- the first year the Riders were in the Grey Cup -- and another from 1930, the year of the first forward pass.

"The scarce items are usually not available in Canada as they are so valued they are passed on to family.

"The objects I still want usually come out of Florida, Arizona and California, from estate sales of Canadian ex-pats who have nobody to give the Rider gear to.

"Many channels of acquisition are required as vintage Saskatchewan Roughrider souvenirs are highly prized for the simple reason that not many were ever made.

"In the early and mid 20th century the sports collectible business was nothing like it is today, especially on the Canadian prairies. This rarity, combined with the team popularity, makes Saskatchewan football items a premium keepsake."

Like his 1939 Future Coach Frank Filchock matchbook.

Or his 1946 red-and-black-uniform Riders season program, or his 1948 Glenn Dobbs card.

He has a 1951 silver tray from defensive lineman Chuck Radley presented to the players for winning the West.

Or the first ever colourized CFL collectable, a 1953 team postcard.

"At a local Edmonton flea market, a seller who specializes in sports says nine out of 10 CFL items he sells are Roughriders."

You getting the idea that Lobotomy Room is more than just another fan rumpus room?

"I like to collect the old and one-of-a-kind items. I am not interested in purchasing the latest framed jersey, getting it signed and putting it on the wall," he said, although he does admit he drove to Lloydminster just to buy a box of Fantuz Flakes which sold out at the Sask. Co-op in one day.

"I like the set of iron beer coasters from 1958, or the huge butane coffee table lighter given to team members from the early '60s or an old homemade item.

"When I am done with this collection it will go to the team.

"All these reminders of the past will return to their rightful heir "¦ Rider Nation.

More than mementos

"This is a memento hobby like most, except I believe it has one additional dimension the others do not."

Rider Pride is a basic emotion, like happiness or ambition, sorrow or empathy. Rider Pride is relentless, permanent and does not wane. It is a feeling almost impossible to explain even to the truest CFL fan.

"The best way to attempt to understand Rider Pride is to go to a game in Regina. You will never forget it. It's a combination of Mardi Gras and Halloween with a football game thrown in. I attempt to have my own little piece of all that in my own home.

"In the end it is about being able to have family and friends understand this part of me, which is one of the important things in my life and Lobotomy Room is a place where I get to go do that."

But it's more than that. It's personal.

"I became a Rider fan because of my mom, who passed away last year. She lived with me the last five years and we were very close. I miss her every day. She is the real reason for the room. She loved spending time in it.

"I have a picture from after we won the Grey Cup in 2007. I could have gone to the game in Toronto but I promised her I would watch the game in Lobotomy Room."


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