WINNIPEG - He is the last man standing, the only one who has gotten out of Saskatchewan knowing the sweet taste of victory.
He is Chris Cvetkovic, the long snapper, and he’s the only person on the Bombers roster who has won a game on Labour Day weekend in Regina.
And Cvetkovic doesn’t have Stephen Fisher or Lamar McGriggs or Kamau Peterson — three key Bombers in their last LDC victory — to help him anymore. They’re gone, along with the other 38 players who were there that day but are no longer in Blue and Gold.
Fisher and McGriggs intercepted Saskatchewan quarterback Henry Burris, and quarterback Kevin Glenn turned one of those picks into a touchdown pass to Kamau Peterson as the Bombers beat the Riders 17-4 on Sept. 5, 2004.
“It is a long time ago,” Cvetkovic said Thursday. “Jon Ryan was my punter, and (Troy) Westwood was my kicker. Jim Daley was my head coach.”
Since then it’s been seven straight losses for the Blue and Gold on the biggest weekend of the year for both franchises. So dig deep into the recesses of your brain, Mr. Cvetkovic. What was the key for the Bombers that day, eight long years ago?
“I’m the long snapper,” he said, “so there’s not much wisdom I can really bring to the table on that.”
So much for that.
Wait, he has something.
“Honestly, it came to just shutting that crowd up really quick,” he said. “If you can take the crowd out of it quick, it helps because the crowd there, they’re hostile.”
You bet they are. There’s nothing like Labour Day in Regina. Not even the Grey Cup. The fans take it up several notches, and it’s a sight to behold. Once the Bombers get down, they usually stay down. This year’s young Bombers squad will be particularly prone to folding the tent if it can’t get an early lead.
Even though there are a boatload of new players on both teams, everyone still knows what the LDC is all about. Cvetkovic knows this because he played for the Riders before joining the Bombers in October 2003.
“When I played for Saskatchewan, they’re very quick there to tell you about that rivalry and tell you what that game means to them,” he said. “And it was no different here. When I got here it was like, ‘Yeah, this is the one. We need this one.’
“There’s some games on your schedule you circle, and this is one of them. And I don’t just say that because I played for both. That was embedded in me. It was almost part of a ritual when I went to Saskatchewan, and it was part of a ritual when I came here.”
Safety Ian Logan has been with the Bombers since 2006, and he has no idea why they keep losing in Saskatchewan. It doesn’t matter what the records or the situations have been.
“That’s a good question,” he said. “Having never won there before, it’s tough for me to say what it takes. We match their intensity every year. They’re obviously fired up. We just can’t be the team to make that mistake in the end. It always comes down to the last quarter.”
Usually by the last quarter, the Riders fans are sloshed and celebrating what is about to be a sure victory for the Green and White. That’s why it’s critical for the Bombers to get out to a quick start and make sure the fans are only sloshed — and not celebrating — come the fourth quarter.
A look at the last seven Labour Day Classics, all losses for the Bombers:
Sept. 4, 2011
Riders 27, Bombers 7
The Bombers were 7-1 and the Riders were 1-7 going in, but it didn’t matter. Darian Durant threw three touchdown passes, and Doug Brown had one word for the performances in all three phases of Winnipeg’s game: inexcusable.
Sept. 6, 2010
Riders 27, Bombers 23
Winnipeg dropped its fifth in a row and also lost quarterback Buck Pierce for the remainder of the season with a dislocated right elbow. Saskatchewan scored 14 points off Winnipeg turnovers.
Sept. 6, 2009
Riders 29, Bombers 14
The Bombers committed six turnovers, including three Michael Bishop interceptions, and fell to 3-6 under head coach Mike Kelly. Bishop did complete 20 of 33 passes for 329 yards.
Aug. 31, 2008
Riders 19, Bombers 6
Luca Congi booted four field goals as the Riders improve to 7-2 and dropped the Bombers’ record to 2-7. Saskatchewan quarterback Michael Bishop scored on a nine-yard draw for the game’s only major.
Sept. 2, 2007
Riders 31, Bombers 26
In what ended up being a Grey Cup preview, quarterback Kerry Joseph scored on a 27-yard draw play with six seconds left to propel the Riders to victory. Derick Armstrong had 13 catches for 205 yards and two TDs for the Bombers.
Sept. 3, 2006
Riders 39, Bombers 12
Kevin Glenn completed only 12 of 29 passes for 168 yards as the Bombers lost their fourth straight game and fell to 5-6. Kerry Joseph and Kenton Keith ran all over the Winnipeg defence, racking up 109 rushing yards in the first half alone.
Sept. 4, 2005
Riders 45, Bombers 26
Kenton Keith ran for 170 yards and two touchdowns as the Riders improved to 4-6. On the bright side, Milt Stegall became the CFL’s receiving touchdowns leaders with two TD grabs for the Bombers, who fell to 3-8.