Rough time over Riders

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:48 PM ET

Jim Hopson is excited about the prospect of having Ottawa back in the CFL -- just not so thrilled the would-be franchise owners want to call the team the Rough Riders.

As one might guess, the president/CEO of the Saskatchewan Roughriders is among those who believes each club in a league should have its own nickname.

Yet the Jeff Hunt-fronted consortium that this week moved closer to its goal of reincarnating pro football in the nation's capital already has an agreement with former Ottawa Rough Riders owner Horn Chen to purchase the old team logo and name for a price that's believed to be in the $100,000 range.

To have stuff to stick both on, all the group needs now is a home.

City council helped pave the way to that end with Wednesday's vote that will begin talks with Hunt and partners Roger Greenberg, John Ruddy and Bill Shenkman on a deal that would revitalize Lansdowne Park.

While the team likely would not begin play until 2011, the name game will assuredly start when the stadium deal is signed and the "conditional" tag is lifted off the franchise.

"I played in the '70s and the Riders broke our hearts more than once," Hopson, a former Saskatchewan offensive lineman, said yesterday from Regina. "It was always the East Riders versus the West Riders, or Green Riders ... there was some ridicule made of that.

"It's no secret that (the Ottawa group) has thrown (its desire for the Rough Riders handle) out there, but to be honest, it hasn't been a huge issue yet because more of the focus is on the stadium. But we are pretty proud of the name Roughriders and the success and history we've had with it.

"The consensus here is that we would like to see only one Roughrider team in the league."

Meanwhile, the Hunt group has a firm belief in the strength, success and history of the Riders name in the capital. Founded in 1876, the Ottawa Rough Riders were one of the oldest pro sports teams in North America when they folded in 1996. They won the Grey Cup nine times, starting in 1925 and including a particularly bountiful era with four championships between 1968-76.

A forgettable rebirth in 2002 under the Renegades lasted four years, and Ottawa has been without pro football since.

PRAIRIE RESURGENCE

"Right now, the name is not a priority issue for us," said Hunt. "Getting a stadium to play in is much more important.

"I look forward to the day we're dealing with that detail."

Winners of three Grey Cups (1966, 1989, 2007), the Saskatchewan Roughriders have never been so popular. Hopson says the team already has 19,400 season ticket holders for the upcoming season, still months away.

"Ottawa can do the same thing," said Hopson. "It was not that long ago we were holding a telethon in this market to save the team. I'm very confident Ottawa can be just as successful."

DON.BRENNAN@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos