After thinking about it for a couple years, spending a few months putting concepts together and a little bit of teasing on social media, I’m happy to announce the launch of Defend the R gear on Teespring!
Put together a little FAQ to capture how I got here.
What gave you this idea?
I’ve always been fascinated by and drawn to fan base-specific and ultra-local stuff that teams do. Whether it’s a chant, a saying or an inside joke, this stuff is the glue that keeps a fan base together. In the case of Ottawa football, we’ve got over 140 years of history that deserves remembering, celebrating or mocking, as the case may be. So not only is this a way to capture my own memories, but hopefully a way to encourage any and all in #RNation to share their own bit of history.
Is any of this stuff licensed by the team or league?
So, doesn’t this take away money that could otherwise be going to the Redblacks directly?
I’m glad you asked. This is a very fair question and one I thought long and hard about. Let me start by saying I’m the kind of guy who would rather go up to the ticket window and pay full price for a ticket than buy from a scalper. I’ve happily bought an almost unhealthy amount of Redblacks gear since the team returned to the CFL. I’m a season-ticket holder that (currently) lives five hours out of town. Supporting the franchise matters to me in a big way.
So this little online t-shirt shop is not about taking anything away, but filling in the gaps. It’s giving the die-hard fans something that’s a little more personal; capturing those parts of Ottawa football that aren’t necessarily mainstream, have been forgotten or frankly just aren’t suitable for licensing.
Okaaaaay…. What else you got?
Well, besides this being a fun and creative venture, I will also be donating a significant portion of the proceeds to a great Ottawa charity. Not exactly sure who that will be at this point, but lots of worthy organizations I’d be happy to support in this small way.
Men’s and women’s sizes available?
Yep. And sizes S-4XL for most t-shirts.
I see Teespring is a US-based site. Any issues shipping to Canada?
Products are fulfilled in the US, but they absolutely ship to Canada. Just select Canada from the Shipping Info drop-down on the product page.
You can expect a new design every couple weeks throughout the CFL season.
Are you open to suggestions? Can you arrange for custom orders?
Absolutely! Whether that’s improvements to existing designs or ideas for new ones, the goal is to have a collection of memories that speak to and accurately represent Ottawa football fans. And Teespring doesn’t need big numbers on this stuff, so a small run of custom tees can be done. Hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or email if you want to discuss.
Alright, so with all that out of the way, I bring you the inaugural lineup of Defend the R t-shirts on Teespring!
The oft-maligned and ridiculed “better half” of the Ottawa football fan base. It’s all in good fun. But not really. Show your North Side pride with the ‘We The North Side’ tee.
Go to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and tell us which of these four tees you like best by Retweeting/sharing our post(s). Winner will be randomly selected and will receive their choice of Defend the R t-shirt, shipped to your door. Open to Canada and US entrants only. Winner will be announced Friday, July 19, 2019 during the Redblacks-Bombers game.
Good luck and thanks for your support!
Thanks for reading! Follow us on Twitter at @DefendTheR.
As we await the launch of the Redblacks’ new Adidas-designed uniforms, we thought this would be a great opportunity to “look ahead” to what Ottawa’s first throwback uniforms might look like. With 120 years of Rough Rider football to draw from, there are definitely some great options to consider. In this short series, we’ll look at which year (or timeframe) we’d like to see remembered and why. Huge thanks to artist and CFL fan Nelson Hackewich for the concepts.
This week: Before the Legend was the Legend – 1958
A Little History
Back in the 1958, the Ottawa Rough Riders selected a smart and talented defensive halfback from McMaster University with the sixth overall pick. A Rhodes scholarship nominee and mathematics graduate, Russell Stanley Jackson made the decision to instead pursue football and went on to become one of the greatest quarterbacks in CFL history. In a 12-year career, Jackson brought three Grey Cups, three Most Outstanding Player and four Most Outstanding Canadian Awards to Ottawa. Jackson was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1973.
Amazing that this legendary career almost never happened.
As mentioned, Jackson was drafted as a DB. If not for injuries to incumbent American QBs (like today, CFL teams were disincentivized from starting Canadians at the position), Jackson may never have had a legitimate opportunity under centre.
Getting back to the uniform specifically, seems the Rough Riders wore them from roughly 1958 through 1960 (haven’t been able to confirm — any help appreciated!). They fared pretty well in them, too:
1958 – 3rd place – 6 wins 8 losses (Lost in IRFU final)
1959 – 2nd place – 8-6 (Lost in East Final)
1960 – 2nd place – 9-5 (Won Grey Cup!)
Ottawa would see greater success in the back-half of the 1960s, but let’s talk about that some other time 😉
The helmets from this era were also fantastic in their simplicity, featuring just the player number.
Nothing beats the R, but the old-school look with player numbers on the helmet is a close second.
Becoming a bit of a broken record here, but this is yet another sharp, simple uniform that would work today just as it did in the 50s & 60s. The fact it also represents the beginning of the Russ Jackson era is a huge bonus.
As we await the launch of the Redblacks’ new Adidas-designed uniforms for 2016, we thought this would be a great opportunity to “look ahead” to what Ottawa’s first throwback uniforms might look like. With 120 years of Rough Rider football to draw from, there are some great options to consider. In this short series, we’ll look at which year (or timeframe) we’d like to see remembered and why. Huge thanks to artist and CFL fan Nelson Hackewich for the concepts.
This week, we look at Ottawa’s last taste of Grey Cup glory, 1976.
The Rough Riders won the East in 1976, putting together a 9-6-1 season. The team was led by All-Stars TE Tony Gabriel (who would also be named the league’s Most Outstanding Canadian), RB Art green and LB Mark Kosmos, as well as All-Eastern QB Tom Clements.
Ottawa faced Hamilton (8-8) in the East Final, winning a tightly-contested game 17-15 at Lansdowne Park to earn a berth into 64th Grey Cup. Held at Toronto’s Exhibition Place, the Canadian championship pitted Ottawa against their sort-of nickname counterparts from Regina (11-5). A back-and-forth affair, Saskatchewan held a 20-16 lead late in the 4th quarter. With just 31 seconds remaining, Clements called for “Rob I, fake 34, tight end flag” in the huddle (not the call he received from the bench, by the way) and hit a streaking Gabriel in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. One of the iconic plays in CFL history, it is commonly referred to as “Clements to Gabriel” or simply “The Catch”.
And with that, here’s Hackewich’s take on the 1976 Rough Riders uniforms:
One of the things we like best about (most of) the old Rough Riders uniforms is the simplicity. Nothing flashy, but a look that is timeless. The white jersey/red pant road uniform is a bold look with a very ’70s feel to it.
1976 was the first year the Rough Riders wore this jersey/pant combo, which they stuck with through the 1979 season.
As it is the uniform worn by the last Ottawa team to win the Grey Cup, have to think it is a front-runner for the first retro uniform to be worn by the Redblacks. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too much longer to find out. The 40th anniversary would be a great time to do it, wouldn’t it?
With the announcement that adidas will be taking over as rights holder for CFL uniforms starting in 2016, the first question every fan asked was ‘will the jerseys be different?’ The move to adidas from Reebok is a bit of a unique scenario, as adidas is actually the parent company of Reebok. So, the thinking in some circles is that existing uniforms may simply be re-badged with adidas logos, rather than completely refreshed. On the other hand, a simple re-badging seems like a big missed opportunity for the new rights holder looking to make a splash.
At this point we really don’t know which way it’ll go. Likely a few teams will take the opportunity to start fresh, while others may stick pretty close to their current designs. Most believe we have seen the last of the so-called Signature Look 3rd jerseys, at least in their current forms.
That sound you hear is Bomber fans celebrating.
As for the Redblacks, have to think significant changes will be made. Not that the current uniforms are awful, but there are definite issues. First and foremost, the two-tone notched numbers are difficult for fans and broadcasters alike. From a distance it can be a real challenge to differentiate a six from and eight.
The ones look a bit like sevens, too.
Then there’s the oversized font used on the namebar. Readability isn’t an issue, but the size causes the white namebar to impede on the black shoulders of the away (white) uniforms.
That ain’t pretty.
Also, given how fans have quickly gravitated to red and black plaid at TD Place, one has to think it will be incorporated into the home & away uniforms, not only the alternate.
So those are some of my thoughts on areas for improvement. I don’t dislike the current uniforms – the 2015 Grey Cup run solidified their place in my heart – but they can be better.
Now, let’s see what the artists think.
First is this from CFL artist Nelson Hackewich (who did a great job on all 9 teams – check them out):
Stripes on the shoulders of the home (black) and away (white) uniforms are a welcome change. The suggested use of ‘ROUGEetNOIR’ on the front of the away uniform is also a great (and I think very necessary) improvement.
Nelson went with a 1940s-era Ottawa Rough Riders jersey for the 3rd/alternate. It’s a very cool look. Love the numbers on the helmet. But I have to think when the Redblacks decide to adopt a throwback jersey for the first time they go with something from the Riders glory days in the 1960s.
Here’s an earlier flat version of the home and away above:
Next up is Defend the R contributor and fellow jersey nerd Nevill Carney with this updated jersey concept:
Single-colour numbering. Check. Classic piping on the shoulders. Check. Use of ‘OTTAWA’ on the front of the jersey. Check. 60s Rough Riders throwback. Check check. Only thing missing is perhaps more plaid. Pretty much a foregone conclusion at this point.
And right on cue, some updates from Nevill:
There you have it. Small Redblacks logo on the back is a nice touch, too.
This concept was actually done in the summer of 2015 supposing the CFL moved to Nike. Regardless, some great design elements. Here are the creator’s thoughts:
The primary uniforms (first set) feature an R-less logo on the sleeves, with matching chainsaw striping on the pants, and the home set features red pants to honor the team’s name. The RedBlacks’ Pride uniforms (2nd set) expand upon the team’s lumberjack-inspired identity, with a higher emphasis on red and red and black plaid on the helmet, sleeve caps, and pants. The look is sure to be a hit among die-hard fans and hipsters alike.
Really think he/she nailed so much on these sets, including the smaller namebar font, single colour numbers (while maintaining the notched number design), strong use of plaid (though not sure it works as well on the helmet…) and an overall cleaner/simpler look. Both those black jersey/red pant sets are stunning. Great job.
Finally, riderfans.com user Joe747 with his/her take:
A user on the forum noted the similarity to the Ottawa Renegades 2005 uniforms.
Very much so. Also similarities to the Atlanta Falcons. Not that either of those are bad things. The use of plaid on the home and away sets is just right. The classic red down the middle of the helmet is very Rough Riders. A very nice, modern set.
Interesting to note that every concept features some variation of a black helmet. Perhaps it’s the Ottawa tradition. Personally, I like the white helmets. I also might have expected someone to try a red helmet (we are the REDblacks, after all), but not to be. At least not yet.
Before you go, just thought I’d toss in this (somewhat) interesting (to me) screen capture from a video the Redblacks put together highlighting Burris’ MOP season in 2015:
Probably not indicative of anything, but I suppose it could be a tease. I do like the classic piping on the arms. Very Russ Jackson-esque.
No official date has been set for the new uniform release by the way, but odds are we will see something early May.
Thanks for reading!
Have a concept? We’d love to see it! Hit us up at @DefendTheR.
And while the awarding of the 105th Grey Cup may be pretty much a done deal, the pressure is definitely on the Redblacks to make it something special, befitting of the country’s sesquicentennial.
(I had to look that up).
Some elements to consider:
Half-time show: Securing a big name half time act is key and you have to think there will be pressure to go Canadian. Lots of very talented Canadians doing great things in music, but this could be tough. Could they get someone like Drake to do it? Are groups like the Sam Roberts Band or Sheepdogs a big enough draw? Kardinal Offishall featuring Neil Young or Anne Murray?
Stadium upgrades: It’s always nice to show off a little when hosting friends from out of town, so why not throw a few extra bucks into TD Place? An east-end scoreboard would be amazing. Some work on the North Side concessions would be welcome, too.
Alumni: Bring in as many as you can find to as many events as possible. Renegades included. And we need lots of quality Russ Jackson time. Would be an opportune time to have a statue of the legend made.
Parliament Hill: Do something really cool there. Maybe a good start or end for the Grey Cup parade.
Another Trudeau Kick-Off? I’m not a huge fan of mixing sports & politics, but those Pierre Trudeau kick-offs are a great slice of Canadiana. Great opportunity to re-kindle the memories and give Justin some air time. So camera-shy, that one.
There will be plenty of time to discuss these and other ideas for making Grey Cup 105 the best event it can be. But before we look too far forward, let’s take a quick peek back at Ottawa’s history as Grey Cup hosts.
1925 Grey Cup
In the 12th Grey Cup game, played on Dec. 5th, your Ottawa Senators Football Club defeated the Winnipeg Tammany Tigers 24-1 in front of 6,900 rowdy Ottawans at Lansdowne Park. This would also be Ottawa’s first Grey Cup championship. Huzzah!
1939 Grey Cup
Played on Dec. 9th, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers edged the home town Ottawa Rough Riders 8-7 in the 27th edition. The home team was robbed, no doubt.
1940 Grey Cup
Bit of an asterisk here, as the 28th Grey Cup was a two-game total points series between the Toronto Balmy Beach Beachers (terrible name) and the Ottawa Rough Riders. Games were played Nov. 30th (Toronto’s Varsity Stadium) and Dec. 7th (Lansdowne Park). The Riders took both ends of the series – by scores of 8-2 and 12-5 – to win Ottawa’s third Grey Cup.
1967 Grey Cup
It would be 27 long years before Ottawa would again host the Grey Cup. Played on Dec. 2nd, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats beat the heck out of Saskatchewan 24-1. 31,358 showed up to watch.
1988 Grey Cup
Ottawa waited another 21 years for their next opportunity to play host. The 76th edition of the Grey Cup was played on Nov. 27th, with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers edging the BC Lions 22-21. Our friends at Wikipedia capture the storylines nicely:
This was the first Grey Cup game between two teams from west of Ontario, and the first to be won by a team which had only a .500 season.
2004 Grey Cup
This event was essentially the swan song for the Ottawa Renegades franchise. During Grey Cup week, the Ottawa Sun broke the story that Brad Watters’ ownership group was working on selling the three-year-old franchise to the father-son-ownership-group-that-shall-not-be-named.
The game took place on Nov. 21st, with the Damon Allen-led Toronto Argonauts defeating the Lions 27-19.
I was fortunate enough to attend this game. My first Grey Cup, in fact. Couple of blurry memories:
While I had my ticket on me, no one ever asked to see it nor was it ever scanned. Honour system, I guess.
Shortly after Allen took the field for the first time, I made sure to yell out “Ho-bart!” Yep, I’m that awesome.
Metal benches on the South Side upper deck weren’t ideal on a chilly night. Not that I really had a chance to get cold with so many people rammed into each row. More like seat suggestions, really. Very sardine can-like.
Getting to the bathroom at halftime was probably the worst experience of my life. Missed all of the Tragically Hip and about the first eight minutes of the 3rd quarter.
What will Grey Cup 105 (Presented by Shaw) have in store for Ottawa? No doubt a home game would be music to #RNation’s ears.
Today we catch up with Stephen Jones, one of the best WRs to ever suit up for an Ottawa CFL team. During the course of his stellar 10 year career, Jones played for Saskatchewan, Edmonton and Ottawa, was a two-time CFL All-Star, three time CFL East All-Star and won a Grey Cup with Edmonton Eskimos in 1987. Jones made 51 career TD grabs and sits 2nd on Ottawa’s career reception list with 278 catches to his credit, trailing only Tony Gabriel.
Originally you played QB in college. When did you make the transition to receiver and just how difficult was it?
The first time I played receiver was my senior year in university. It was tough at first but at the university level I did well because of my athletic ability.
What was your initial impression of Ottawa when you first came to the city in 1990?
I loved Ottawa long before I signed with the team in 1990. The first time I came to this city was in 1985 or 1986 and it was definitely the most beautiful city I’d seen in all my travels. I knew then, that Ottawa was a place where I would like to live out my life.
In 1992, you racked up 254 receiving yards in a single game vs the Argos, what do you remember about that day?
It was the season opener and “The Rocket” (Raghib Ismail) was coming to town but my teammates and I showed off and stole his spotlight. There were a lot of great plays but two in particular come to mind. The first was a catch that Jock Climie made while lying on his back. The other was a seven yard pass that I dropped that would have given me the record for most yards in one game.
During your time in Ottawa, the team went through a number of uniform and logo changes. Is there any jersey that you really liked or disliked and what logo did you prefer?
Without any question, the all black uniform with the “R” was my all time favorite. I loved playing in that uniform.
What was your favourite (or least favourite) stadium to play in?
I really loved playing in BC Place because the track was fast and the weather was always great. Ottawa and Hamilton were tied for next best stadiums due to the close proximity of the stands to the players.
Statistically speaking, the three best years of your career happened in Ottawa. How did you manage to take your game to another level during your time with the Rough Riders?
The ability to stay healthy was a key component. The fact that Ottawa’s turf was hard and fast was a great help.
In 1995 you went from playing for the Rough Riders to marketing and coaching with them. Tell us how that came about and what you most enjoyed about that experience.
That was a tough time for me as well as all the Ottawa fans. There was nothing pleasant about my playing career being cut short and I was trying to find a positive side to my career ending before it should have. It gave me valuable experience in dealing with the business community.
Throughout the course of your career you had the opportunity to catch passes from a number of QBs. Who were some of your favourites?
Without a doubt it was Matt Dunnigan, followed by Damon Allen and Tom Burgess. Matt threw the best deep pass in all of football, no one was better. Tom Burgess was such a fighter and a winner and Damon turned out to be the greatest QB of all time in the CFL.
You were on the receiving end of a number of big hits, who hit the hardest?
A guy nicknamed “Pipes” (Bobby Dawson), he would lay you out.
Were you a superstitious player?
Not at all but I was a bit crazy.
What was the most disappointing loss of your career?
Nothing was as crushing as the ’92 Ottawa playoff game in Hamilton. The Rough Riders were winning by two touchdowns with three minutes left in the game and we somehow managed to lose.
This is a two part question. I’ve heard that you are a great singer. What is your go-to karaoke song and would you ever consider singing the national anthem at TD Place?
It’s been a while as far as singing goes, and over the years I have lost my voice. If I had to pick a song to sing it would be “Baby Stay With Me” by Jeffery Osborn. And I would decline the offer to sing the national anthem, if I was asked.
Every player has a nickname or two – what was yours?
Looking back on your 10 years in the CFL, what are you most proud of?
Being on a team that won the Grey Cup.
Why did you choose to settle down in Ottawa after your playing career finished?
I love the city, the people are wonderful and the fishing is great. It’s the perfect place to raise a family.
Since you retired, what have you been doing for work?
I’ve been in the security business and I’ve met a lot of terrific people.
Which current CFL wide receiver is your favourite to watch?
The Ottawa Redblacks got their 2014-15 offseason started in earnest with the acquisition of 29-year-old International WR Maurice Price from the Calgary Stampeders, wasting no time in addressing the team’s #1 need going into 2015. Ottawa sent International LB Jasper Simmons and rookie International WR Dan Buckner to Calgary in exchange for Price. Not a small price to pay, but certainly an indication of the talent the Redblacks believe they have added to their roster.
In his three CFL seasons, Price has been nearly equal parts game-breaker and injured reserve resident. When on the field, he has been impressive – 109 receptions for 1,737 yards (15.9 yards per catch) and 12 TDs, not to mention his 5 receptions for 64 yards in a 2014 Grey Cup victory this past November. And at 6’1″, 200 lbs, Price is one of the fastest receivers in the CFL. But the 29-year-old has averaged fewer than 10 regular season games a year (29 total) over that period, with a variety of ailments including a broken foot, a concussion and most recently a broken hand.
So, Price comes to Ottawa with a certain degree of risk. He signed a three-year contract with Calgary prior to last season, reportedly paying him in the neighbourhood of $150,000 annually — a salary reserved for top-end talent in the CFL. Expectations will be high for Price to be a real difference-maker for 2014’s league-worst Redblacks offense.
With all of that said, LB is one of the few positions of strength for the Redblacks, with the likes of Travis Brown, James Green (Canadian), David Hinds, Antoine Pruneau (Canadian) and late season addition Damaso Munoz already in the fold, and the expected return of Anton “The McKenzie Report” McKenzie, after missing 2014 due to injury.
All things considered, this was a deal the Redblacks had to make. There are only so many opportunities a team gets to acquire elite talent. And while there is some risk in the trade, the potential payoff is too good to pass up.
A great start to the build of OC Jason Maas’ new offense. Let’s see if Desjardins has anything else up his sleeve prior to the opening of free agency on February 10th!
(Photo courtesy Ottawa Redblacks)
NEWS & NOTES
• Interesting note from this Jan 7 LeDroit piece concerning Ottawa’s pending free agents. It appears offers were made to & rejected by Alex Krausnick & Wallace Miles. Krausnick is apparently looking to move back to the west (drafted by SSK, played for EDM in 2013), while Miles may still have NFL aspirations. Neither is considered a huge loss for Ottawa, although Krausnick gave us one of our more memorable moments last season.
• The Jan 8 LeDroit piece (and Tim Baines’ Jan 17 article) also notes that RB Jonathan Williams hasn’t been offered a contract and isn’t likely to be brought back. J Woo suffered a serious knee injury late in the year that could keep him out for a significant portion of the 2015 season. Disappointing news, although perhaps not totally surprising. Pro football is a cutthroat business. Hopefully Williams comes back healthy and Ottawa looks at bringing him back into the fold at that time.
• On Jan 8, the Redblacks announced the signing of their four remaining 2014 Canadian draft picks. They include OT Aaron Wheaton (Toronto), DE Stephon Miller (Windsor), LS Kevin Malcolm (McMaster) and DE Vincent Desloges (Laval). All but Malcolm attended training camp last year, and all four will be looking to earn a roster spot.
• Also on Jan 8th, the Redblacks announced they’d released International RBs D.J. Harper and Michael Hayes. Neither got to show much in 2014 due to injury, but with a fair amount of uncertainty in the backfield, keeping either or both backs around for training camp may have made some sense. With Jonathan Williams not being offered a contract, the Redblacks RB depth chart includes Chevon Walker, Jeremiah Johnson and Roy Finch. Perhaps it was no surprise to hear Desjardins add running back to his list of target positions in free agency in this TSN 1200 interview.
• The two free agents whose names have been consistently linked to the Redblacks this offseason are International SB S.J. Green (Montreal) and Canadian OL Tyler Holmes (Toronto). Green makes sense, given Ottawa’s focus on improving the receiving corps and Desjardins’ history with the Alouettes. Holmes is not only an Ottawa boy, but the son of former Rough Rider RB Richard Holmes. Works for me!
• The Redblacks Twitter account has eclipsed 30,000 followers. Pretty good for their first season. For those wondering, here are the followers for each team’s Twitter account:
Saskatchewan – 105,500
BC – 68,300
Winnipeg – 67,300
Montreal – 64,300
Toronto – 60,400
Calgary – 57,100
Hamilton – 51,400
Edmonton – 51,200 Ottawa – 30,600
Comin’ for ya, Edmonton!
• OSEG is pushing hard to host the 2017 Grey Cup at TD Place. Makes perfect sense, as it would be in conjunction with Canada’s 150th celebrations that will be going on all year long in the capital. How amazing would it be to have both the Grey Cup and an outdoor hockey game in Ottawa that fall/winter?
I recently had an opportunity to catch up with Lonie Glieberman, one of the most notorious sports figures in Ottawa’s history. In 1991 Bernie Glieberman (Lonie’s father), bought the Rough Riders for $1 (assuming their $1,000,000 debt) and quickly installed Lonie as team president. Two years and several questionable moves later, the Gliebermans left town to start a CFL franchise in Shreveport after selling the Rough Riders to Bruce Firestone. In 2005 with the Renegades facing financial difficulties, the Gliebermans re-entered the picture, once more buying Ottawa’s team when no one else would. Lonie’s second go at being team president was again mired in controversy and only one year after buying the team Bernie walked away from it, forcing the Renegades to be suspended by the league.
RR: It’s 1991, why did you and your father decide to get into the CFL? Was it purely a sports move or was there another motive? (For example, real estate?)
LG: We thought buying the Rough Riders was a great opportunity as we were under the impression the CFL would expand. The team was obviously undervalued due to it’s debt and the league was buzzing at the time; Gretzky was involved with the Argos, Rocket Ismail was the highest paid player in pro football and all signs seemed to be pointing up.
What experience did you have that made you feel confident that you’d succeed as the president of football operations?
I didn’t have experience, but my Dad did. We looked at it as a global property, not just an Ottawa based one and I think that by treating it that way I did have some transferable skills from our other businesses. I was confident as the future looked bright, a big TV deal for the CFL seemed about to happen and that would’ve made all the difference. The reason the CFL is so strong and stable today is a direct result of the good TV deal they have.
Looking back, would you still have changed the R logo to the double flaming RRs knowing how much the single R meant to Ottawa’s football history?
Well, I still do like the double Rs, but from a traditionalist standpoint the white R is better. I guess you can compare it to Alabama’s A, that encapsulates football there and won’t ever change. At the time we wanted to try and breath some life into the franchise but maybe changing the logo wasn’t the best idea.
Which logo was your favourite?
The double Rs with flames. To be honest I really love the Renegades logo too, granted when you look at it you don’t feel the tradition, but it’s a modern, cool logo. The plain white R carries emotion, but I still think the double flaming Rs looks better if you look at it unemotionally.
Why did you fire Dan Rambo on the eve of the 1993 season?
The main thing to keep in mind here is that this was the early cell phone era. I was at a wedding and received information from an employee in the organization who went to my dad and our CEO John Ritchie, claiming that there was a rebellion happening; scouts were threatening to quit over dissension about the way Dan was running football operations. Our main scout, Mike Mcagnon, was out of cell reach so instead of waiting to talk to him I rushed and made a bad decision without verifying the facts. It was a rash decision based on not enough information. I thought it was a move I had to make but I’ll be the first to admit it was not the right call. I hold myself accountable and it’s my fault for not slowing down and getting all the information, including talking to Dan Rambo.
Glenn Kulka and Andrew Stewart infamously fought at practice and during the course of their brawl crashed into your office. How’d you react to/handle that situation?
Football is a very emotional game and you have to deal with the fact that tempers sometimes flare. Instead of happening outside as a kind of practice scuffle, this one happened inside and ended up crashing through a glass wall. That’s the only reason it ever got out and became a big news.
How many Rough Rider cheerleaders did you actually end up dating?
I came to Ottawa as a single, 23 year old guy and I have no problem admitting that I did what I think any other guy in my shoes would’ve done. I did what normal guys who are around a lot of single girls do. Unfortunately the story caught fire and went on but so be it. I certainly don’t think I did anything wrong.
Was the introduction of an NHL franchise to the Ottawa market in ’92 at all part of the rationale for bailing on Ottawa, and going to Shreveport?
No, that had nothing to do with it. There were two main reasons that we left. First, the stadium was a hinderance. I don’t blame the City of Ottawa as they were losing money running the facility, and it’s hard to maintain a stadium and make money, but they didn’t even have the funds to paint the seats in the stadium. The crew up-keeping the stadium was top notch, but there wasn’t enough dates or events to make it profitable or even break-even. The City did their best but ultimately it wasn’t enough. The second reason we left was because the CFL’s future at the time was in the US, expansion was the key to growing the league and keeping it afloat in a very difficult time.
The Rough Riders and Renegades have 124 years of history between them, do you still have any interesting mementos from either franchise?
I’ve got a couple of jerseys from the flaming R days and some old programs but that’s pretty much it. I’ve got more memories than mementos, to be honest. I have tons of old games on tape and like looking back at those, we played a number of really exciting games.
How were you treated by fellow owners in 1991-93 vs 2005?
There wasn’t a real difference other than the fact that in the early years we came into a league that was in the middle of a crisis. The CFL faced tremendous challenges in the ’90s and I think there was a bit more solidarity as people weren’t sure if the league would survive. Every decision we made could’ve caused the league to fold. In 2005, things were firmer and the league was on stabler ground.
What did you learn from running the Rough Riders that made you feel like things would be different with the Renegades in 2005?
More years of experience naturally makes you better at something. Fan support in early ’90s was just under 24,000 a game, which is similar to today’s 24,500 mark. Attendance wasn’t a challenge, but getting TV revenue was, so for us coming back, the TV deal was key.
After all the flak you took the first time around, why did you decide to come back to Ottawa in 2005, only to leave a year later?
The Renegades were well run but they ultimately didn’t succeed. We went from 4,000 season ticket holders to 10,000 in less than 24 hours by making things more affordable. On the field it was a fun year but we were decimated by losing so many free agents in the winter, that killed us. I give Joe Paopao a ton of credit for even winning 7 games. Off the field we felt that attendance was strong and if anything we were controversially run, definitely not poorly run. The Renegades didn’t end up being profitable but I didn’t run the team incompetently, just a little differently, and that’s not always a bad thing. There was a buzz around us and what would you rather have, a team that nobody cares about and that no one mentions, or one that is in the news, making the rounds at the water cooler?
In 2006, why not stick with the team for at least another year and attempt to sell, instead of just returning the keys and walking away?
I resigned before the decision was made to leave. My father and his partners felt like it would take at least another 14 million before the team would financially turn around and start making money, meaning we were still around 3-5 years away from breaking even. Even after the team broke even it would’ve taken an incredibly long time to recoup that 14 million in profits. That reality combined with other factors was why the decision was made. We were losing too much money, there was still no good TV deal for the league, the stadium itself was a huge issue, so much so the City later declared the South Side stands unsafe for occupancy, and my Dad felt nothing was going to change, so that made leaving the only course of action. I was surprised to be honest, but it was Dad’s call, he didn’t want to keep throwing good money after bad.
To this day the Renegade’s Mardi Gras promotion continues to be criticized. Can you explain the thought process that went into it?
Sure, it’s incredibly simple. 16-28 year olds are the CFL’s lost generation and we felt we needed to get their attention. In 2005, how many high school kids do you think owned Renegade jerseys? Not too many right? A big part of that is because players change teams so much that it’s hard for fans to develop loyalty. In the NFL guys like Marino, Manning, Brady, etc. mainly played for a single team throughout their entire career, so it’s easy for generations of fans to identify with the team. In the CFL look at a guy like Burris, how many teams has he played on? Can you name a single QB in the CFL who played their entire career on one team? It doesn’t make sense why teams don’t do more to keep their franchise players. In the CFL a guy has a bad year and he gets turfed because it’s a small league and teams sacrifice player development to win now, which leads to a high rate of player turnover. That’s not how you build a young fan base.
Getting back to the promotion, the 16-28 age bracket was always more focused on the NFL and we felt we had to turn the them from the NFL to the CFL. Forget the hullabaloo about the girls for the moment, the Mardi Gras promotion created social interaction, and millennials like social gatherings. More than anything the promotion was an attempt to create a social scene that would get the “lost generation’s” attention. The hope was that young males would go to the game for the promotion but then think to themselves, “Wow the football is actually exciting” and then come back for the next game because of the on field product. If they aren’t coming to the stadium in the first place how can we make more CFL fans?
People criticized the hell out of it but you can’t argue with result, attendance in the South Side upper deck, which wasn’t a place families went anyways, was sold out. The league hated it and unfortunately it had to be cancelled due to complaints. Ottawa radio shows were full of complaints but you can’t use those as science. Our actual customers might be happy, but they weren’t the ones calling in to complain.
There’s a quote that I believe strongly in that states: “It is better to be hated by some then loved by no one”. What the quote means is it very difficult for a brand to be loved by its customers if it plays it safe and is bland. Sometimes by being different you are going to piss people off but others will become passionate customers who love the brand. For example, Mount Bohemia (ski resort I run) doesn’t have any beginners runs nor do we ever groom the terrain. That pisses off beginner skiers and also the skiers who prefer groomed runs. However we’ve managed to create a very loyal fan base for those who like this brand position. That’s why Bohemia beat Mont Tremblant, Jay Peak and Sugarbush, all much bigger resorts than Bohemia, in a Powder (ski magazine) contest.
To sum up, the CFL’s biggest problem is that teenagers and young adults are indifferent to it. The Mardi Gras promotion at least got people talking about the team and into the stadium. It’s when people don’t care about your product that you’re in deep shit. Apathy is worse than hatred, no doubt. If a girl hates you it means she likes you but is pissed off. Mardi Gras was one of the ways we tried to fight that apathy.
Have you been back to Ottawa since the Renegades folded?
Yeah I came back briefly twice, on my way over to ski in Vermont. Whenever I’m in Ottawa I always go to Mamma Teresa’s Ristorante for the best Italian food in town and afterwards I hit up Stacy Kramer’s cookie shop for dessert.
What do you feel were your biggest accomplishments as a CFL owner?
Helping the CFL expand into the USA. People remember it darkly now, but at the time the league needed hope and US expansion represented that chance. People don’t mind losing money if there’s hope things will get better, but when there isn’t any hope people cut and run. The CFL creating teams in the US was a bold move and ensured the league survived and I’m proud to have been a part of it.
Which team did you enjoy owning the most? The Rough Riders, Shreveport Pirates, or Renegades? Why?
Every franchise had their positives and I really enjoyed living in Ottawa. It’s a super healthy city with tons of bike trails and I loved going around on my bike. Also, it was an honour to be a part of the Rough Rider’s rich history but as an American, I was proud to actually be writing history from scratch with the Pirates. As someone who grew up watching the CFL, it was fun to go into schools and communities in Shreveport and talk with people to build a fan base from the ground up, creating 11,000 season ticket holders. That first game in the stadium is a night I’ll never forget.
During your time in the CFL the league went through three commissioners, Donald Crump, Larry Smith and Tom Wright. Was there any one of them that you particularly liked or disliked?
Crump was a super nice guy as was Tom Wright, though we often saw things differently. Larry Smith was great, he took charge in a very tough time and without him and John Tory, the league would’ve folded. Smith saved BC with new owners, kept teams together and helped get the ball rolling with US expansion. Those two guys don’t get a lot of credit but without their behind the scenes commitment, the CFL wouldn’t have made it. Smith takes a lot of flak for US expansion but it only failed because we didn’t have enough patience. US expansion produced a ton of really good players and some great games. It also showed that Canadian players were a lot better than people gave them credit for. Smith was a good leader and did a good job during his time as commissioner.
Do you think US expansion possible in the future?
I think it could work and greatly help the CFL but I don’t think they’re interested with their current success in Canada. If they were to do it, the best way to expand and to protect the league and it rules would be for the CFL to own the American division and maybe do an IPO to raise the capital. I know for certain that people in Shreveport really enjoyed the Canadian game and I think other cities in the US would too. Americans find the CFL way more wide open than the NFL and very interesting and exciting.
All that being said, I think the league’s happy where it’s at. With Buffalo’s ownership settled the NFL isn’t coming to Canada for awhile now so there’s no real external threats. At the moment the CFL is way too financially successful to take a risk like that.
Who was your favourite Rough Rider or Renegade?
There was lots of great players and people who came through both organizations but I always really liked Stephen Jones, because we had the Michigan connection. He was a great guy and a hell of a receiver. Another guy who was a great story is Johnny Scott. He showed up at a walk on try out in Shreveport for the Pirates, despite never having played college ball. He was raw but impressed the coaches enough to make the team as a back up and was starting by his 2nd year. He went on to have a great career and played for the Renegades in 2005. He’s a perfect example of a guy that without US expansion, never would’ve gotten a shot, and to me that kind of underdog story encompasses what the CFL is all about.
You were someone who always thought outside the box when running a franchise, especially in the Renegade era. What would you say was your least and most successful promotions?
The most successful would have to be the $99 season ticket promotion, where we gained over 6000 season ticket holders in a single day. It was a huge accomplishment for us as it raised out season ticket holder base to over 10,000 and more importantly, 30% of those who took advantage of the promotion had never been to a Renegades game. It was very successful at attracting new fans. As I mentioned before, Mardi Gras was controversial but not unsuccessful so I’m not sure what I’d say my least successful promotion was.
Do you understand why you are despised by some of Ottawa’s CFL fan base?
If we’re talking about us leaving in 2006, then that’s a fair criticism, but not so much for ’94, I mean, we’d turned things over to Bruce Firestone and been out of there for three years, so in my mind it isn’t fair to put that on us. But look, at the end of the day we didn’t succeed and whenever you fail people will be frustrated and disappointed. I’d rather have people dislike me and hate my guts, wrongly or rightly, because at least it shows they care about their team and are passionate. I always respect passion.
Would you ever feel comfortable attending a Redblacks game at TD Place?
Yeah, I really want to catch a game and nearly came up this year but was just too busy. The stadium looks beautiful and I think it’ll be even better in person. Probably best if I keep a low profile though, I wouldn’t want to cause a scene or upset anyone.
Do you still watch any CFL and if so who do you support?
I definitely still follow and watch the games that air on ESPN and ESPN 3. If I had to pick a team I’d say Ottawa for sentimental reasons, but otherwise I really like Saskatchewan. I love the green Rider Pride thing they got going on, and the story of a successful small market team with a passionate fan base is a narrative I like. But more than anything I’m happy to look at the big picture and see the league doing well.
What has Jeff Hunt done to make the Ottawa Redblacks so successful and stable compared to previous Ottawa franchises?
They’ve got a lot going for them. First off it’s a great group of local owners with a great new stadium and they’re building slow and steady, which is the right way to do it. Also seems like they’ve found the right balance between attracting families and young people. Hunt’s got a ton of experience running sports teams so that helps as well. Ownership’s got the right stadium deal and doesn’t have to rely only on ticket sales revenue, instead they’ve got money coming in from the condos, stores, restaurants, cinema and other things around the stadium. With so many revenue streams they’re built for long term success. Lansdowne was a challenge when I owned the team but now it’s re-done and incredible. The brilliant development of the site makes all the difference in creating a positive attitude in the community.
If you could say one thing to Ottawa’s football fans, what would your message be?
I’m really proud to be part of the CFL and to have owned the two Ottawa franchises. It was a great experience and I’m glad we helped the league thrive during it’s most difficult time. For better or worse I’m proud of my actions and had fun at the games. People need to remember that it’s okay to be different once in awhile.
Quinn Magnuson is a former CFL offensive lineman and current co-host of Saskatchewan’s ‘Game Day With Wray’ pregame radio show. In addition to being a great follow on Twitter (and the brilliant mind behind the #CFLTwitterAwards), Quinn suited up for the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1995. That was a bad team. We asked Quinn to share some of his memories with Defend the R.
Tell us a bit about your broadcasting background.
I went to Washington State University on a Football scholarship in 1989 and entered the Edward R Murrow School of Communications for Broadcast Journalism. Education started there as I ran the radio station (KUGR FM). When I left WSU there wasn’t much for radio jobs so I didn’t really get back into broadcasting until 2009 doing some ‘Rider coverage but then was asked to do the ‘Rider Pregame this year full-time for CKOM CJME in Saskatchewan.
I see it has been a passion since at least your university days. What do you love about it?
I love the fans and how passonate they get. Its funny, weird, encouraging, hopeful, sad all at once. These fans, especially Roughrider fans, are the best but they can also be the worst. They are over-zealous and react too quickly sometimes, but hey that’s part of the game. I love being on the air each week and giving the “player’s persepective” too. People need to know what goes through a players head each day / week / game.
How was your first season as co-host on “Game Day With Wray”? Highlights/memorable moments?
Great first season. Started out slow and had to get my chops back, but by the end of the year I was feeling very comfortable. Wray and Chris Cuthbert and Dale iSaac made my job easier as they are professionals that help you along the way. I think the highlight was working with Chris Cuthbert and picking his brain when we had a chance to talk. Absolute gentlemen and such a font of sports knowledge. Also, just having access to so much more info that the average person can’t get.
What else have you been up to since your playing days ended?
Reitred in 1997, went BACK to university and got a degree this time LOL. Taught high school and coached HS ball from 2000-2006. Then left teaching and entered the private sector by owning my own company. Sold that company in 2010 as I was offered a job working at BDC (Business Development Bank of Canada) & been here ever since. Also, have two kids – 14 and 12 – and I have coached them in everything from hockey to soccer to football to basketball. Curently my son is a pretty solid football player at the 12-year old level. He will be better than I was (if he wants to).
How would you characterize yourself as a player? And who were the people/athletes you looked up to or modelled yourself after?
I was a player that maybe didn’t take the game as seriously as I should have. I was talented and had God-given skill and ability. But I didn’t work as hard as I should have and probably could’ve played NFL or been more of a contributor in the CFL. I was a phenomenal long snapper though and that’s probably why I lasted as long as I did in the CFL. I regret not working harder and doing some of the things that other players did (watch more film, spend more time with coaches, etc.). Growing up I modelled myself after the bad boys of football. Brian Bosworth and Tony Mandarich were two players I loved coming out of high school. I wanted to be Tony Mandarich. I went on a recruiting trip to MSU and met Tony. I was hooked and absolutely had to make PRO.
As well, on a personal level, my Uncle Keith Magnuson, former Blackhawks Defenseman (1969-80) was an absolute role model for me both in life and even after his death in 2003. I believe it was his guidance that helped me through high school and college. Even got me an interview with the Bears in 1993 (didn’t make it though).
You spent the 1995 season with the Ottawa Rough Riders. It was the last season of the CFL’s US experiment, on a 3-15 football team and with a franchise that was just about ready to shut its doors forever. Must have been a hoot!
Ottawa was NOT fun. It was a struggle to go to practice every day knowing how bad we were and how much a lot of players didn’t care to be there. We had talent but no “TEAM”. There were a lot of transactions every week LOL
As a player, did the off-field stuff affect you much?
Absolutely!! We were supposed to receive game cheques within 24 hours of the final whistle and we were often lined up outside the offices waiting for extra hours only to have the doors locked and told to come back tomorrow. It was terrible.
Ownership was notoriously cheap towards the end. Hope you didn’t miss a paycheque?
Never missed a cheque but getting them was tough.
There were some good players on that team – Danny Barrett, Mike Richardson… Just not enough of them?
Danny was a great leader and treated the OL well, Mike (whom I player with in WPG too) was great but once again no team chemistry and he struggled as did everyone else. John Kropke was a good player. Irv Daymond too. But players who were in their twilight and too many young players. Bad chemistry.
Any impressions/memories of Rohan Marley?
Rohan was funny but lacked professionalism. He was riding the popularity of his family name. He was, if anything, more of a distraction to the team that became a circus. In fact, in 1995 the CFL was a three-ring circus. Everywhere we went media wanted to talk to Ro. And he wasn’t even a star.
How about Andre Ware?
And were those Rough Rider jerseys horrible, or what?
Yup still got mine. Ugly color combo and the gold helmets with the voyaguer on the side. C’mon Man!
Do you still keep in touch with any of the players or coaches from that team?
Im still friends with Dave Black and I Facebook Mike Richardson occasionally. But all in all there wasn’t much cmamaraderie. Tough when it was dog-eat-dog.
What are your memories of the city, specifically?
People didn’t care about the Riders. Any other city if you go to a bar, you get past the lineup , ppl buy you drinks, you get free meals here and there. Ottawa had no clue who we were and didn’t care. Bouncers would laugh when we said we played for the Riders. Sad really. Loved the city itself, beautiful but lacked sports sophistication at the time. Of course the entire league struggled at that point.
What do you remember about playing in some of those American cities, like Memphis or Shreveport?
Ugly, cheap stadiums. Poor crowds. HATED IT. Long travel schedules. The Amercian experiment was a pure MONEY grab by the league and its owners. It was a one million dollar expansion fee that was used to just keep the league afloat. It was the worst thing to ever happen to the CFL. BUT at the same time, the best thing as it made Canadian football fans realize how much they loved their game, and how they wanted to keep it CANADIAN!!! When Baltimore won the Grey Cup, that was the end.
Did you ever see American expansion working then?
I think had they kept it to one or two teams (east and west) it could’ve grown but they added too many too soon and in small-town markets. Also they should’ve kept the teams in the northern states.
What about now?
NOPE. League is strong. Leave it alone.
In addition to Ottawa, you played in Winnipeg, Saskatchewan & Montreal. Can you briefly share a thought on each stop?
Winnipeg – awesome town to play in. They love the Bombers. But the team has been mired in mediocrity for too long. I like Wade Miller there and things will turn around.
Montreal – got there when the team moved from Balitimre (1996) and there was bad blood between the US players and the Canadians because they had to cut league all-stars to fill the Canadian quota. Once we got through the first few games we were good. Great city. Good organization. Still love Jim Popp.
Regina – when I was there (which was short) the team was terrible. Mostly because of management and coaching. Players were good but the team lacked cohesiveness. And at that time the fans weren’t as enamoured with the team like they are now. LOL
Winnipeg was the best to play and live though. Montreal was expensive and fans took three more years to really come around (i.e. Calvillo’s entrance).
Your late uncle Keith was an all-star with the Blackhawks in the 60s & 70s. Besides the fact that it’s really cool, what kind of impact did that have on you as a budding athlete with pro aspirations?
As mentioned earlier, it was Keith that made me want to play professional sports. He was a great leader and uncle, and always supported me in whatever I did. He was and still is a great influence in my life. Even moreso posthumously, as I want to represent the Magnuson name the way he did.
Before we go, what was your impression of the Ottawa Redblacks after their first season? Roster, coaching, etc.
I think they have something there. But you need to give it a couple of years and also bring in role players, locker room guys who will help the team gel quickly. Football is about trusting the guy next to you. Ottawa has a good coaching staff and players to build off of. But after game 8 they stopped believing they could win and it was “next year country” after that. Tons of potential.
Are you as confident as we are that the team is here for the long-haul this time?
I think the ownership has done a great job and judging by the sell-outs and fan support it should. I think the message form the start has been, “bear with us, well get there” and that’s a good thing. Don’t set expectations too high in Year One. Next year its 9-9. I would love to see the team there forever. It’s a good market with solid university teams in the area, and they need to start drafting players from the University of Ottawa and Carleton, just like the ‘Riders do with U of S and Regina U.
Anything else you’d like to share that I may not have thought to ask?
Our “home locker room” at Frank Clair was the worst I’d seen in pro football or college for that matter. It reminded me of the scenes from Major League when they are using an outboard motor for their cold tubs. LOL. Good guys worked there though. 🙂
Thanks for your time, Quinn. Some great memories and insight.
Be sure to give Quinn a follow on Twitter – @QMags65