Provincial pride's on the line

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:09 AM ET

It's not that the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Edmonton Eskimos have to invent something to get something going between the two teams.

But they have anyway.

They invented the Centennial Gridiron Challenge.

The teams from the capital cities of the neighbouring provinces both celebrating their 100th birthdays this year have decided to have a go at a celebration showdown.

A two-game total-point series has been created out of the two games from the CFL regular-season schedule and a bowl designed to present to the winner.

The Eskimos, after they finish up with the second game of the Labour Day return match with the Calgary Stampeders tomorrow, have the Roughriders up next on their schedule a week Sunday at Taylor Field in Regina. The bowl presentation will be made after the Oct. 15 game in Commonwealth Stadium between the teams.

You should know that in the previous two years the Roughriders and Eskimos have also played each other twice and split the series down the middle.

Last year the Eskimos lost 31-7 at home to the Roughriders and then went over to Regina and thumped the 'Riders 40-16.

Two-game total point: Edmonton 47. Saskatchewan 47.

The year before, Saskatchewan won 32-14 at home and the Eskimos won 49-31 at Commonwealth Stadium.

Two-game total point: Edmonton 63. Saskatchewan 63.

From somewhere in there and the fertile mind of Eskimos COO Rick LeLacheur, who has been a committee member for Alberta's 100th anniversary, the idea was born.

"It kind of evolved," said LeLacheur, who points out both teams have carried crests promoting the birthdays of their provinces.

Originally the idea was for a $10,000 donation to be made to either Football Saskatchewan or Football Alberta, depending on the winner of the game. But some spoilsport at the league office suggested this might be a little dicey from a betting-on-games perspective so it was agreed to give each body $7,500 and battle for a bowl.

"I don't know if there's enough room in the time capsule for the bowl but somebody is going to have bragging rights for the next 100 years," said LeLacheur.

Meanwhile, some creative side bets are being put together. One involves the idea of provincial ministers of the losing province serving the meals at the other team's annual dinner. Long-time equipment men Normie Fong of Saskatchewan and Dwayne Mandrusiak of Edmonton, who have a half-century of employment with the two teams, may have something cooking.

"Both teams were looking at things to partner with the centennial committees," said LeLacheur.

"These two teams and these two provinces have enjoyed a great history and a great rivalry," said Roughriders president Jim Hopson.

"Two of the most storied CFL franchises going head-to-head is a wonderful way to celebrate the centennials," says Gary Mar of the Eskimos becoming Team Alberta for the two games.

"The rivalry between Alberta and Saskatchewan goes back to the birth of the two provinces and continues to play out on the football field year after year."

There's more involved here that turning the two games into a total-point series.

The games give both teams an opportunity to use the games for their own celebrations.

For the Edmonton game, the Eskimos are bringing in the 100 Centennial Ambassadors from around the province to the game.

And probably the most interesting aspect of it is both teams, in conjunction with the project, are picking their Teams Of The Century on their internet sites.

"We don't have coaches on the teams so if Hugh Campbell is going to make it he'll have to make it as a Saskatchewan Roughrider," says LeLacheur.

"On our site, you'll call up the page and it will give you a depth chart. You call up each position and a number of players will pop up to vote for. For example, at quarterback, it would include all the great Eskimo quarterbacks from Jackie Parker to Ricky Ray."


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