No 'Riders' for Ottawa

Jeff Hunt, part of the Ottawa CFL team ownership group, stands by an old Ottawa Rough Riders...

Jeff Hunt, part of the Ottawa CFL team ownership group, stands by an old Ottawa Rough Riders helmet, July 3, 2010. (DARREN BROWN/QMI Agency)

TIM BAINES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:35 PM ET

OTTAWA - While Ottawa is third down and inches in its bid to bring back a CFL team in 2014, some of this city’s long-loyal fans are going to feel like they just got run over by a John Deere tractor driven by a green-faced, watermelon-wearing hayseed.

Brace yourself. Ottawa’s CFL team will ABSOLUTELY NOT be called the Rough Riders. Period.

Or the Roughriders. Or the Riders. Or the Ruff Riders. Or the Rough Ryders.

Or anything like that.

And this isn’t an end-around by the mysterious Horn Chen, who actually holds the rights to the name.

You can place the big, fat blame on the group of farmboys who run the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the team that stole Ottawa’s name.

Oh, they’re all for football in Ottawa, but they want to be the only Roughriders (Rough Riders).

Damn farmers.

“The only way Saskatchewan would vote for us was they had the right to veto our name,” Jeff Hunt, part of the Ottawa CFL team’s ownership group, told an Ottawa Sun Editorial Board meeting. “I thought in fullness of time, we would prevail on Saskatchewan to allow a community to have its own history. The Rough Riders name even pre-dates history. I thought they could be convinced. But I thought wrong. As time passed, their adamance from us using the name only grew.

“With that being said, it wasn’t automatic we were going to use the name. But three of my (owners) are Ottawa guys and they wanted to use Rough Riders.”

Hunt has mixed feelings. In some ways, it made a lot of sense to return to the Rough Riders name ... as much as it might draw ridicule.

“One thing about the name Rough Riders is it draws a very clear demographic,” said Hunt. “The older fans are adamant about Rough Riders. To call the team anything else, to those fans there’s something not right about it. The older fans have memories of the glory years. And my partners are in that demographic. They were around for Tony Gabriel’s winning catch.

“If you talk to our younger fans, there’s no connection with the Rough Riders, other than maybe bad memories of failed franchises. More than anything, it’s the feeling of why would the league have two teams called the Rough Riders. It’s rinky-dink.”

The Green Riders apparently have a short memory.

We were here first. The Ottawa Rough Riders hit the field in 1898. The Regina Rugby Club didn’t become the Roughriders until 1924.

The teams basically played in separate leagues until 1958. But, with tenure obviously meaning nothing, the western Roughriders kept their name.

“I feel it’s slightly arrogant,” said Hunt. “I even said to them: ‘You can’t stop me from calling us the Riders.’ They actually feel of their team as Rider Pride and Riderville. And they were actually more distraught at the idea we might call it Riders. I still haven’t ruled out Red Riders or Black Riders. I don’t know how far they can take it, can we not pick any name that starts with R?”

So with Saskatchewan laying claim to the Riders, the naming of the Ottawa teams will be thrown to the fans.

“I’m virtually certain we’ll retain our colours, the red, white and black,” said Hunt. “They can’t take our colours away. And we’ll have the same colours for our soccer team. We’ll still be giving that look to the past.”

Once the Ottawa CFL ownership group swats away that Friends of Lansdowne gnat, it’ll be full steam ahead.

And you can bet those tobacco-chewing farmers won’t be included in our Christmas card list.

“I think this will create more of a rivalry with Saskatchewan when we’re in the league,” said Hunt with a grin. “Because I’ll be promoting the hatred.”

Here’s the thing, farmboys: We don’t need to be told we can’t be the Riders.

Common sense might have led us to the conclusion one Riders is enough — a collision with reality you should have embraced some 50 years ago.

It’s OK. We’re resilient. We’ll be OK.

And we’ll come up with another name, something original.

Like maybe the Argo Nots. Or the Alou Ettes. There are all kinds of names we can steal.


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