Riders take out billboard two blocks from Ticats stadium

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have provided the Hamilton Tiger-Cats with some significant billboard material for Saturday’s game at Tim Hortons Field. Literally.

The Riders have rented ad space above a vacant car repair shop at the corner of Sherman Avenue North and Cannon Street, just two blocks from Tim Hortons Field. The image features a man opening his shirt to reveal the team’s logo and features the words “Roll Call,” the date of the game against the Ticats and web address of the team’s online store.

The billboard has been up since the start of August and several Ticats players drive by it on a daily basis.

“They don’t even know what do with their money anymore,” laughed linebacker Simoni Lawrence. “Some guys might want to use it as motivation but I don’t give a [crap] about it. But it should make it more fun for our fans.”

Ticat defensive back Mike Daly, now in his third season with the club after playing his university football at McMaster, also saw the humour in the move.

“I saw that and thought ‘you’ve got to be kidding me?’ I just laughed at it,” Daly said. “It’s like the old trick of stealing the mascot: it doesn’t mean anything but it’s a big deal if it happens.

“As long as Stripes is still around, we’ll be alright.”

Gregg Sauter, vice-president of marketing for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, says the team has placed billboards in opposing cities for several years, though this is the first time in recent memory that they’ve done so in Hamilton. He says it’s not intended as a troll job.

“People may think we’re taunting the opposing team’s fans but really this is a shout out to our fans,” Sauter said. “There are Rider fans across the country and we put a lot of effort into staying in touch with them.”

The Riders do have one of the league’s most dedicated fan bases and routinely sell more merchandise than most NHL teams. But while they are a force to be reckoned with in places like Winnipeg and Calgary – closer to the team’s home base in Regina – Daly says he hasn’t noticed a big contingent at Ticat games.

“With our fans, they’d probably come to one game in their green jerseys and never come back,” he said, laughing.

One Ticat player who isn’t smiling is defensive end John Chick, who spent six seasons with the Riders before being released, rather suddenly, after new general manager and head coach Chris Jones took over last winter. Chick was already eyeing a post-football life in Regina – he’d just opened a Cross-Fit gym in the city – and was faced with the prospect of moving his entire family to Ontario. He and his wife have seven kids.

“I took it personally up to a point but I am where I am for a reason. I’m going to use all that for my hype on Saturday and it will play itself out,” Chick said. “I’m pretty excited. Where we are as a team, this is a game that we should win, that we must win. It’s just icing on the cake that it’s against them.”

Sauter says he doesn’t think the ads have an impact on the football side of things, which has been a challenge for the Riders of late. Saskatchewan is 1-6 to start the season and have been embroiled in a number of controversies (they’ve been fined twice for violating CFL rules.)

“When you look at the exposure and chatter it gets on social media, the billboards are a good investment,” Sauter said. “I think if you were asking our coach, he’d tell you that he’s got bigger things to worry about.”

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