A Classic unto itself

JIM BENDER, STAFF REPORTER

, Last Updated: 1:40 PM ET

A sly smirk crept across Troy Westwood's face as he pondered his response to what the best thing is about the annual Labour Day Classic in Regina.

"The brown water," he replied, chuckling.

The Winnipeg placekicker, of course, did not invent the intense prairie rivalry between the Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders, but he has done more to stoke the fire between the two.

And that's because Westwood simply relishes the unique atmosphere the Bombers can again expect when they play in the Classic at the recently-renamed Mosaic Stadium tomorrow night.

"Just how passionate the fans are and how kind and gentle their words are behind our bench," joked Westwood, a favourite target of Saskatchewan hecklers.

"It's always such a pleasant experience. I always learn a new word or two when we're there. From Day 1, it's always been a lot of fun. I really, truly enjoy this game a great deal. We get them riled up writing stuff on the whiteboard sometimes and just have pretty good fun.

"I've had security guards come up and apologize to me for things that people have screamed at me from the sidelines. It's just a lot of fun and it's way more fun when you win."

Westwood, of course, drew the ire of Saskatchewan fans when he referred to them as 'banjo pickin' inbreds,' then offered an apology of sorts, suggesting that they didn't know how to play the banjo.

"I'm not trying to incite them," said Westwood, who has relatives in Saskatchewan. "I'm just a guy on the sideline trying to do my job and, for some reason, they have taken an affinity to me.

"To me, nothing crazy's happened there but I know some people who drove out to the game, stayed at a hotel overnight, then woke up to find that their car had been spray-painted green because it had Manitoba plates on it. So, I would warn all the people of Manitoba to protect themselves at all times when out there and let's remember that this rivalry is in good fun. Let's not do anything stupid out there."

POLICE ESCORT

Bombers quarterback Kevin Glenn recalled needing an escort off the field after leading Winnipeg to victory in the Classic two years ago.

"They rushed the field after we won the game and they just went crazy," said Glenn, who got his CFL start with the Roughies. "The police escorted me back to the locker room after I did an interview on the field because all the fans had rushed the field. So, it was one of those crazy-atmosphere-type things ... It wasn't scary, it was just unusual because I had never had it happen before."

Glenn, of course, has seen this rivalry from both sides.

"Just playing in the (Labour Day) games is a memory because they're all exciting games," he said. "I threw a couple of touchdown passes in the Labour Day games and one, Milt (Stegall) set the (CFL) record (for most TD receptions). Just being part of the game is real exciting. When you've got fans that take the game as serious as the players do, you know it's going to be crazy."

Bomber cornerback Omar Evans, another former Roughie, has also seen it from both sides now.

"It's a crazy week just building up to the game and all the history the Classic has," he said. "It's a real big deal. All everyone's talked about this week is, 'Make sure you win this game.' Like the Washington Redskins-Dallas Cowboys game at home. They want you to win all of 'em but the most important one is the one against the 'Riders."


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