Classic Memories | 2003 Labour Day Classic

No doubt there will be heartfelt arguments issued from the fan bases in Edmonton and Calgary, Toronto and Hamilton.

But to many who follow the Canadian Football League no rivalry comes close to matching the annual Prairie showdowns between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders.

And that rivalry reaches its regular season zenith during the weeks of the Labour Day Classic and the Banjo Bowl – the back-to-back showdowns between the Bombers and Riders in Regina, then Winnipeg, in early September.

These two weeks are must-see events on the CFL calendar and that’s what makes the cancellation of the 2020 season so particularly painful.

That won’t stop us from reminiscing all week, as we re-live some of the great moments in the history of the Labour Day Classic.


Date: August 31, 2003

Attendance: 40,320

The matchup: Blue Bombers (7-3) vs. Roughriders (6-4)

The story: The ’03 Labour Day Classic was played in front of what was then the biggest crowd in the game’s history – 40,320 – as Taylor Field was being expanded to play host to that year’s Grey Cup. That total was surpassed in 2013 – another year Regina hosted the Grey Cup – when 44,910 fans took in the Labour Day Classic.

The Labour Day weekend began with four of the five teams in the West Division all within two points of each other – the Bombers, B.C. and Edmonton were all 7-3, the Riders were 6-4 and trailing was 2-8 Calgary.

The Bombers cranked out 191 yards along the ground, including 124 by Charles Roberts, who would later capture the first of his three CFL rushing totals over the next four years.

FYI, just a couple of months later – just prior to the West Semi-Final won by the Riders – Troy Westwood would take his infamous ‘banjo-pickin’ inbreds’ shot at Riders fans, a quote hat would lead to the establishment of the Banjo Bowl in 2004.

Notable: Winnipeg would win the Labour Day Classic again in 2004 in a 17-4 snoozefest, marking just the first time since the early 80s that the club won consecutive Classics. The Bombers longest Labour Day Classic winning streak came from 1978-82 when they won four straight.

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