November 1989 was a good year for Saskatchewan football fans.
It started in the middle of the month with the U of S Huskies advancing to their first Vanier Cup in mid-November at Toronto’s SkyDome. That would be the first of nine appearances at the national finals for the Dogs and set the stage for national titles in 1990, 1996 and 1998.
It culminated less than two weeks later, again at SkyDome, as the Saskatchewan Roughriders made history at the 77th annual Grey Cup. You know, that was the one where kicker Dave Ridgway became a Rider legend with a last-second field goal to beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 43-40.
Fast forward to 2019, when a panel of speakers from the 1989 Riders will be celebrated on May 2 at the Dogs’ Breakfast fundraiser at Prairieland Park. This annual event is organized by the Huskies Football Foundation to support the Huskie football team.
John Hyshka, chair of the Dogs’ Breakfast for 2019, credits long-time committee member Ryan Lejbak with the idea for the Rider tribute.
“He pointed out this was the 30th anniversary for the ’89 Riders, and everybody just loved the idea of celebrating that. We phoned (Rider CEO) Craig (Reynolds) and he loved it too and said they would do whatever they could to help.”
Help the Riders did — with an all-star lineup including not just one, but four fan favourites from that championship team: Ridgway, slotback Ray Elgaard, defensive end Bobby Jurasin, and current TSN analyst and former Rider defensive back Glen Suitor.
“Glen has been our MC for about 10 years now. He’ll ask a few questions, take some questions from the audience. They’ll tell a few stories. It’s going to be fun,” said Hyshka.
And while the guest speakers are a draw, Hyshka points out that the stars of the Dogs’ Breakfast remain the Huskie players.
“That’s my favourite part — the introduction of the new recruits,” he said. “It’s a big show. The players love it. The crowd loves it and it’s a great kickoff to the new year.”
The Huskies Football Foundation has been organizing the Dogs’ Breakfast since 2001, and Hyshka says the purpose of the event has always been very clear.
“I think when the (Huskies Football Foundation) started this event, they saw that the Huskies were competitive but were losing the edge a bit because other schools were offering scholarships and it was difficult for BT (former head coach Brian Towriss) to retain the talent. The founding committee said let’s do something about that. Let’s give the team a fighting chance and that’s what they did.”
Over the past 18 years, Hyshka notes the Huskies Football Foundation has raised over $1.8 million and distributed 640 scholarships to the student athletes.
Hyshka says that success is only possible with the support of Saskatchewan’s university, business and sports communities, as well fans and families of all the student athletes.
Huskie coach Scott Flory appreciates that support and says it makes a huge difference in terms of both recruitment and retention.
“The players can feel a sense of what this program means to the community and just how supported they are,” said Flory. “The scholarship money raised is crucial to the competitive success of the program.”
The Dogs are coming off a successful 2018 campaign. Last November, the team captured their first Hardy Cup since 2006 with a win over the previously undefeated University of Calgary Dinosaurs. Flory says he is looking to build on that success in 2019.
“The Dogs’ Breakfast shows all the new recruits just how important football is in our community. It shows them how supportive and invested people are in the team and their own personal success.
“It humbles and empowers players to know they aren’t alone. . . . This year, we have a great recruiting class and I’m really excited to see the immediate impact of players such as Josh Ewanchyna, Ramsey Derbas and Connor Delahey,” Flory said.
The Dogs’ Breakfast 2019 is expected to attract a crowd of 1,400 to 1,600. Doors open at 6:45 a.m. on May 2 at Prairieland Park, Hall B.
For more information or to purchase tickets go to www.huskiesfootballfoundation.com and click on tickets. Tickets can also be purchased at the door.