Scully lovin’ Riderville

Green pride flowing for Rider Nation at 101st Grey Cup in Regina.

Amember of the Green Riders’ Wall of Fame, Lawrie Skolrood could have his choice of seats at today’s 101st Grey Cup in Regina.

However, the former Saskatchewan tight end will be in the city, but not at Mosaic Stadium.

“I’ll be at some friends out of the cold so I can watch the game,” said Skolrood, 61, moments after leaving the CFL Alumni luncheon Friday afternoon. “There are too many distractions if you’re at the game.”

Scully, Vernon’s deputy fire chief, played 10 years with the Riders and four with Hamilton before retiring in 1987. He won’t be pulling for the Ti-Cats.

“I’ve gotta go with Regina or else my carcass will end up in the field somewhere,” laughed Skolrood, accompanied by his wife, Vicki. “This is a very historic thing for Regina and the energy here is incredible. It was minus 27 last night but you’d think it was just another day at the beach. Everybody’s smiling.”

Mike (Pinball) Clemons, Tony Gabriel and Dave Cutler were among the CFL alumni guests mentioned by Skolrood, who bumped into a late-arriving Ken McEachern (10 years with Riders, one year and a Grey Cup with Toronto) while on the phone with me.

“There were about 60 of them and it was a very impressive event with about 800 people,” said Scully. “We raise money for players who have suffered brain injuries; that’s a big deal. We also raise money for minor football across the country.”

Lawrie is unsure whether Vicki will paint her face in Rider colours as they prepared for the Grey Cup parade Saturday and a zillion other parties. “Depends on the wine,” he chuckled.

The Rider Pride celebrations are of course week-long and attendance was high Thursday night.

“There were only 5,000 at Riderville last night (Bare Naked Ladies provided the music) so I’m a little concerned,” he joked.

Saskatchewan should ambush the Ti-Cats for their fourth Grey Cup victory. The Green Riders sell $7 million a year in merchandise, more than all the other seven CFL teams combined.

The team’s future looks brighter than the Ottawa RedBlacks’ expansion roster with a new stadium being built for 2015.

For the record, Skolrood was a tight end for six years and offensive tackle his last eight seasons. He played in two all-star games and finished his career with 159 catches for 2,245 yards and seven touchdowns.

Scully, also a member of the University of North Dakota Athletics Hall of Fame, was drafted by the NFL Dallas Cowboys but landed in Regina, who had his CFL territorial rights.

Said American Gene Murphy, who scouted Skolrood for North Dakota: Lawrie didn’t know how to get in a stance and he thought the football was a volleyball and he couldn’t catch a damn cold, but like all Canadians who played at UND, he could run and he was tougher than a cow.”

His UND teammates included the like of future CFL stars Dave Fennell, Frank Landy and Steve Mazurak.

Another Rider alumnus more than ready for today’s classic is Vernon’s Bob Hewitson, a Rider offensive end in 1949-50 whose career was cut short by a back injury.

“I’m watching it right here,” said Hewitson, 83. “My daughter and her boyfriend are coming over. I’ve got my green Riders pants, shirt, jacket, shoes, ring and watch all ready. I’m taking the Riders by a touchdown and a half.”

Hewitson, the popular joke-telling, retired manager of electrical wholesaler Nedco, played three games with the Riders before breaking his back.

“I jammed three vertebrae and paralyzed my legs. They said I could take a mickey and sit in the stands or play and risk being a paraplegic. I chose the mickey and I’m still sitting in the stands.”

The late Martin Ruby, the pride of Falkland, was a tackle with the Green Riders from 1951-59 after five seasons with the NFL New York Giants.

Ruby told me in 1997: “My first year (in Regina) we played Ottawa in the Grey Cup and lost by one touchdown in Toronto. We could have easily won it. There were two trainloads of Regina fans at the game. They mortgaged their houses and cars to get there.”

For the record, Earl Grey was a British Prime Minister in the 1800s who donated the Grey Cup. Wait a minute, let me Google that fact again. It was actually Albert Grey, the Governor General of Canada from 1904 until 1911 who donated the trophy to the Canadian Rugby Union in 1909.

The Riders win 41-10.

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