Retirement comes at right time for Hopson

Jim Hopson promised there won’t be overtime as he heads into the fourth quarter of a life that has been dominated by football.

Today is Hopson’s final day as the president and CEO of the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders. He officially retired from the positions on March 1, which was his 64th birthday. He remained to put the final touches on a 10-year career of overseeing the Roughriders.

Today also marks the third time that Hopson has retired. Hopson’s playing career ended in 1976 when he retired after the Riders were beaten 23-20 by the Ottawa Rough Riders in the Grey Cup game. Hopson retired after four seasons as an offensive lineman with the Riders to concentrate on his teaching career. In 2004, Hopson ended his 30-year career as a teacher, principal and administrator to become the Riders’ first president and CEO.

“This is the last full-time job,’ Hopson said during Thursday’s farewell media conference at Mosaic Stadium. “There may be some other things, but they won’t be full time. There are some in the organization who said I never worked full time anyways … No, it feels right.’

Each of Hopson’s retirements took place at different stages of his life. He remembers retiring as a player being difficult because players always feel they can play another year.
“It’s such a change of lifestyle,’ Hopson said. “You talk about leaving the game, but what you’re leaving is the locker-room and camaraderie.

That’s a big shift.’ Hopson planned for his life after football by teaching full time while he was playing. He retired from education when he was hired as the Riders’ president and CEO.

“I was thinking about leaving education because I felt it was time to move on, but I didn’t know where,’ Hopson said. “I was young enough that I knew that I wasn’t going to retire. Quite frankly this opportunity came out of the blue and it wasn’t something I had thought about for a long time. Once it was presented, it was something that I would like to try. I wasn’t under any illusions that I would get the job, but it changed my life in a positive way.’

The Riders were in a different place in 2005 compared to 2015. It was the first season that the Riders had a board of governors with a president and CEO overseeing all of the team’s operations. In the past, the Riders’ board of governors managed the franchise. “It was tough for the board of the day to move from a management style to a governance board,’ Hopson said. “I know that (past presidents) Tom Robinson and Gary Huntington really had to work at that. There was some resistance from past presidents and even the general public.

“They were worried about moving away from a community-owned team and having a lot of input.’ The Riders reached four Grey Cup games on Hopson’s watch. They won it all in 2007 and again at Mosaic Stadium in 2013. They lost the 2009 and 2010 Grey Cup games to the Montreal Alouettes.

Saskatchewan also became a force with regular sellouts at Mosaic Stadium and leading the league in merchandise sales.

The team is scheduled to move into a new stadium in 2017. It was that move that contributed to Hopson deciding to turn over the reins of the team to Craig Reynolds. Reynolds was Saskatchewan’s chief financial officer before becoming the president and CEO.

“I did think about staying until the stadium opened and I was encouraged by some to do that,’ Hopson said. “I didn’t think it would be fair to announce I would be leaving at the end of the 2017 season. I was in the winding down stage and here they are moving into a new world. I didn’t think that would be right thing and it would be selfish to stay. I thought it was the right thing to do for the organization.’

Hopson plans on spending more time with his wife, Brenda, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and his home overlooking Last Mountain Lake. Hopson laughed when a reporter suggested he could become the Canadian ambassador for Mexico. “That’s one job I would consider if the prime minister is listening,’ Hopson said.


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