Blue abuzz for Classic

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

Wes Lysack will experience his first Labour Day Classic in Regina on Sunday -- as a player.

But the Winnipeg safety has first-hand knowledge of the traditional Blue Bombers-Saskatchewan Roughriders rivalry.

"Both my parents are from Regina so I grew up going to the Labour Day games in Regina all the time," Lysack said on the eve of this year's Classic. "I'd go with my grampa to those games so I've been on the outside looking in. So this game will be pretty cool to be on the inside of it."

Attending those Classics whetted his appetite for football.

UNBELIEVABLE ATMOSPHERE

"Just the atmosphere is unbelievable, and everything that goes along with the game and how everybody is in the stadium," he said. "The feel of it is more like a college game, really. That's definitely what got me going into the career I'm in now."

Like Lysack, Bombers punter Jon Ryan grew up in Regina where attending the Classic was a rite of passage. And he experienced it as an enemy player for the first time last year.

"I had been going to Labour Day games since I was five or six years old," Ryan said. "I had never missed one so it was pretty exciting to play in one and I'm pretty excited to go back and play again for this week's game.

"I remember going to the games with my dad and my brother. We always had season tickets. We always went to the Labour Day games because it was always a big event just because it was always sold out or close to being sold out. There was always a kind of a buzz in the air around the town all week, leading up to that game. So it was kind of a big deal around there."

Still is. In fact, Ryan's mother could not get extra tickets for Ryan a few weeks ago because the game was already sold out.

"I'd be lying a bit if I said it's just like any other game," said Ryan, who has been soliciting ducats from teammates. "It's pretty special to play in front of the hometown. I think I was a little more nervous than in some of the other games. But it's definitely exciting to play in front of so many friends and family."

But how do you warn your new teammates what to expect?

"You can't," Lysack said. "You can try to tell a guy what the Labour Day Classic's all about but you've got to experience it. You can tell them how hyped it is, you can compare it to the U.S. college rivalry game but, until you go through it and experience it, you won't get the true feeling of it. So they've just got to go through and learn as they go -- and learn quick."

ADDED TO THE LEGEND

Bombers placekicker Troy Westwood has even added to the legend with his "banjo-picking inbred" jokes.

"It's such a great, spirited game and there are so many memories of it," said Westwood, a local lad. "Even when I was a kid growing up, my family used to always go to the Labour Day games. It's just a tremendous game, one of the greatest weekends in the nation in football, for sure."

But don't blame Ryan if he pretends Westwood is a stranger in Regina.

"No, nothin' like that," he responded with a laugh. "He does have a few enemies there but mostly it was just in good fun with those few extra comments that he made that kind of added to the rivalry a little bit."

However, you will not find Ryan standing close to Westwood on the sidelines during the match.

"No, I'll stay away from him," he said.


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