Riderville heads back in time to honour Ridgway and ‘The Kick’
Ridgway, along with dozens of other Saskatchewan Roughriders from the great decade of the 1980’s, will be honoured and recognized at this Saturday’s home game against the Calgary Stampeders as the franchise continues its Farewell Season celebration at the old Mosaic Stadium.
But “Ridge” is extra special to me.
By my count, the Stockport, England product holds 15 Roughrider records including most career points, field goals, converts, field goals in a game, singles, kickoffs, etc.
He spent 14 seasons with the Roughriders from 1982-1995 and played 238 games. His career field goal percentage of 78.0% is 10th all-time in the CFL, but there are guys like Chris Milo and Justin Palardy ahead of him in the top 10 but they’ve only played five seasons.
Let’s see where they stand after 14 seasons, like Ridgway, who was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2003.
But of course all of those records are just background noise behind what Ridgway will always be remembered for.
It was the 1989 Grey Cup – regarded as the greatest Grey Cup game ever played – when Ridgway booted a 35-yard field goal with nine seconds left for a 43-40 Saskatchewan victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at the SkyDome in Toronto.
I was watching that game as a school boy in the basement of a farmhouse near Milestone, Saskatchewan, just 57 km south of Regina. It was bedlam for us just like it was for Rider Priders all across the land. The term “Rider Nation” hadn’t even been thought of yet.
And this Saturday, we’ll get to relive it all again.
“It’s been 13 years since I was back in Regina,” Ridgway told 620 CKRM’s SportsCage on Tuesday. “A month ago I was in Meadow Lake speaking at a banquet, but it had been a long time since I was in the province at all.
“It was really nice to be back and I know how well I’ve been treated in that province in the past. It was my home for over 20 years so I was treated awful well over the course of all those years.”
The Riders are meticulously tracking their way through franchise history as the Farewell Season unfolds and the 1966 Grey Cup team celebration back on July 16 was a roaring success.
I asked those players last month if they ever get tired of talking about their championship, and I posed the same question to Ridgway.
“No,” Ridgway offered quickly. “I will tell you this: it’s extremely flattering just to be remembered. A lot of people go through athletic careers and don’t get the opportunity to be remembered.
“I would like to say it’s for more than just that one particular game but certainly the 1989 Grey Cup game was the pinnacle of my career, and for many of those guys. It’s really flattering that, all these years later, that game is still talked about.”
It sure is. Perhaps daily here in the 306. So let’s walk down memory lane once again because Ridgway remembers it like it was yesterday.
“Those kind of memories never leave you,” Ridgway smiled. “They really are burned in your memory. I knew that Kent would move us down the field. We’d done it for a number of years with Kent and Tommy Burgess so I knew he’d get us in range.
“Sure enough he did, and then you walk on the field and you have to do your job. The majority of stories centre around what was said during Hamilton’s timeout and the fact is I looked at Glen Suitor and said, ‘talk to me about something other than football’.
“That’s a well-worn story that’s got a lot of legs. And he did. He pointed out a female patron in the crowd that was supposedly blonde and very well-endowed. I laughed because he did exactly what he was supposed to do; he took me out of the situation.”
And then, like he’d done 573 other times in his Hall of Fame career, Ridgway split the uprights and victory was ours.
“The Riders asked me if I’d be able to kick a field goal and I asked them if they realize I’m bordering on being 58-years old, I weigh 300 lbs and I haven’t kicked the ball in 20 years?”
Of course they don’t make players like those of Ridgway’s era anymore. His entire 14-year CFL career was spent in Saskatchewan while players these days hop from team-to-team seemingly every year or two.
That was of no interest to Ridgway, who was raised in Burlington, Ontario and played his college football at Toledo.
“To me, I’m extremely fortunate that I played that many years in Saskatchewan,” Ridgway recalled. “I had my chances to go elsewhere, in fact at one point I discussed it with Al Ford because I had a nice offer to go elsewhere.
“It was an itch that got scratched, and I just didn’t want to move on. Even at the end of my career, I had the opportunity to go to Montreal but honestly I wanted to be remembered as a Roughrider. That helped me in my decision to hang ’em up.”
My television co-host Marshall Hamilton opined on Tuesday evening that it would be nice to have Bob Poley, Glen Suitor and Ridgway – the three who who executed “The Kick” – to re-enact it Saturday before the crowd at Mosaic Stadium. As it turns out, it’s already been talked about.
“The Riders asked me if I’d be able to kick a field goal and I asked them if they realize I’m bordering on being 58-years old, I weigh 300 lbs and I haven’t kicked the ball in 20 years?” Ridgway laughed. “We’ll see what happens but I was absolutely laughing at the suggestion.
“I don’t think Bob (Poley) could bend over and snap the ball! And I’m not so sure I could lift the ball up either. It’s not like going out to the playground. I’m getting to be an old guy!”
I can’t wait for Saturday. And of course it’s not all about Ridgway, nor is it about the 1989 Grey Cup team. It’s about the players and staff who served the Green and White during the 1980’s and the list of returnees includes Dan Rashovich, Roger Aldag, Lou Claire, John Walker, Bob Poley, Bobby Jurasin, Norm Fong, Brian O’Hara, Ron Cherkas, Glen Suitor and Don Narcisse.
Ridgway can’t wait to get here either, and is eager to see the spectacle.
“I’m hoping, because I know it hasn’t been a great year so far and the new coach is just getting his feet under him, I expect a great crowd,” Ridgway predicted. “Certainly when you’re playing a divisional rival, I would hope they’ll come out and put on a great show not for the team from the 80’s, but for those guys that are sweating for the time right now.”
For all these Rider greats, it’ll be spine-tingling to hear the roar once more.