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.
BLUE BOMBERS 28 ROUGHRIDERS 25
Date: September 4, 2016
The matchup: Blue Bombers (5-4) vs. Roughriders (1-8)
The story: The Bombers had started the season 1-4 before switching starting quarterbacks from Drew Willy to Matt Nichols in late July. Winnipeg won its fifth straight in the last Labour Day Classic played at Taylor Field in Regina and, in the process, ended an 11-game LDC losing streak.
The Bombers built a 19-3 lead in the second half, courtesy a Nichols to Quincy McDuffie 82-yard touchdown and four Justin Medlock field goals. But the Riders rallied to tie the game at 19-19 on the strength of a Darian Durant TD strike to Caleb Holley and then a Durant short scoring run.
And, in typical Labour Day Classic fashion, that’s when things got a bit nutty.
The Bombers, leading 25-19 after two more field goals, had intercepted Durant at their own five-yard line late in the game and the ensuing Medlock punt was returned for a touchdown by Kendial Lawrence for an 85-yard TD with 1:09 left in the game.
But the Bombers then rallied as a pass-interference call on a deep Nichols pass put them into Riders territory and helped set up Medlock’s game-winning 43-yard field goal with no time remaining.
Quotable: “That was crazy,” said Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols. “We moved the ball off our goal line after an amazing interception by our defence. You’re thinking the game is pretty well in hand with 40 seconds left and then… I’ve played a lot of years with Kendial Lawrence in Edmonton and I know what he can do. It didn’t surprise me that he was able to take one back.
“As an offence we knew we had to get it out to midfield for Justin to have a chance at it. We made a completions, the pass-interference call and that got us down into field-goal range and then Justin did what he’s been doing all year and hammered it right down the middle.
“He’s as automatic as it gets.”
Notable: The game was memorable for another significant reason, other than a long Labour-Day drought ending. The Bombers had been informed just a few hours before kickoff that long-time executive and diehard fan Jerry Maslowsky had passed away from cancer at the age of 58.
The Bombers had already planned to wear ‘JM’ decals on the back of their helmets and TSN had put together a tribute for Maslowsky, hoping it would lift his spirits.
Heard in the Bomber locker room after the win: “That one’s for Jerry”, a thought that was echoed later by head coach Mike O’Shea.
“Jerry would have loved that.”
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