Blue memories

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:45 AM ET

REGINA -- As a Winnipeg-raised football player, Markus Howell has witnessed the best Saskatchewan Roughriders fans offer in terms of hyping a rivalry.

In five years with the Blue Bombers, the Labour Day game at Taylor Field was easily the highlight of the season for Howell because of the hostility the contest provided.

Now that the wide receiver is a member of the Calgary Stampeders, he appreciates how easy his new team has it in Regina, especially tonight (8 p.m., TSN).

"In 2003 and 2004, coach (Dave) Ritchie moved us to Moose Jaw because the 'Riders fans would find out where we were staying," Howell said.

"They had blowhorns and were running up and down the halls.

"They were chanting, 'Here we go 'Riders, here we go.' They were doing that at three in the morning. We couldn't get any sleep. We moved to Moose Jaw (30 minutes away) just to get a good night's rest."

Before he broke into the league with his hometown Bombers in 2000, Howell was a fan himself, loading a bunch of friends into a van with a cooler of beer and dressing up in Bombers gear.

The five-hour drive felt like a trip across town because of the fun and Howell still remembers the feeling going into the stadium wearing blue in a sea of green.

Peanuts, beer and various other things would get thrown their way.

"We would yell at the guys on the field and fight fans in the stands," Howell said.

"The Saskatchewan-Winnipeg rivalry is nasty.

"Obviously playing in Winnipeg, it just grew. There was nothing better than those games."

Once he became a member of the Blue Bombers, it wasn't hard for Howell to appreciate the support the fans from Winnipeg would spread.

"One year we were riding to Regina on the bus and all the Bombers fans went ahead of us and painted the road signs with blue and gold," Howell said.

"The whole trip, we saw blue and gold signs heading to the Regina. We couldn't read them. The Bombers logo would be on them."

Howell heads into Taylor Field tonight after catching the biggest pass of his career.

In the fourth quarter last week against B.C., Howell zipped down the sidelines for an 81-yard touchdown from backup quarterback Danny McManus.

He now feels better than ever about himself and will see plenty of action in place of the injured Ken-Yon Rambo.

If he gets another chance at a touchdown, he will appreciate the boos instead of the cheers he had last week at McMahon Stadium.

"It happened so quick," Howell said. "Pow and I'm off to the races.

"Hopefully we can do it again. We give all our receivers a chance by putting the ball up.

"Maybe Saskatchewan messed up on their film and didn't see it."


Videos

Photos