Warren Woods loved the CFL and everyone around it

Photo courtesy: Janet Muyres

There were plenty of strange days covering the daily Rider beat in the mid-2000s.

Linebacker Trevis Smith being arrested with police revealing his HIV-positive-status comes to mind. So were other Rider run-ins with the law from Kenton Keith to Shonte Peoples and few others, too. But none were quite as bizarre as August 21, 2006 — the day the Riders fired general manager Roy Shivers.

As a big-mouth, know-it-all nobody in my mid-20s trying to make a name for myself, I was dispatched by my media employer at the time, 980 CJME, to head down to Taylor Field and get reaction from the now ex-Roughrider GM regarding his own dismissal.

I arrived down at the park to find a stakeout of sorts with TV cameras and other media personnel waiting for Shivers to come out of his office. We all waited, and waited, and waited.

Shivers had always been politically charged, controversial, unpredictable, defiant and a bit of a loose cannon in those days. None of us knew what to expect.

After hours of waiting, most of the TV people had to scurry back to their offices to prepare for the supper newscast, leaving lowly rookies like myself and then-CTV intern, now CBC mainstay, Adam Hunter to kill some more hours sitting around just, waiting.

Finally, Shivers emerged from his office refusing to talk to either of us young, snot-nosed punks.

Except Warren Woods.

As Shivers entered his getaway car, Woodsy, whose camera guy had long disappeared and left behind nothing for him to record any of this, started quizzing Shivers with Woods’ usually friendly and folksy demeanour from about 30 feet away.

Predictably, Shivers engaged Woodsy in a calm and fairly detailed discussion about what had just happened while Hunter and I slowly crept in with our microphone flashes in hand. Anytime TSN or CTV ever discusses the Shivers ending in Saskatchewan, they still show the awkward footage of Hunter and I creeping up to him as though we were approaching an angry bear while he talked to Woodsy.

In the end, Shiver calmed down and gave us some great quotes. “I’m going to go home now and cook me a big fat juicy steak.” He drove off into the sunset after six-and-a-half unforgettable years atop the Rider Nation.

Feeling so fortunate to have had Woodsy there, who everyone trusted at a time when media distrust was really growing in the Rider offices, to draw the reaction out that we needed to fill our air-time and give our viewers and listeners what they wanted.

I turned to Woodsy and said, “Thank God we have you here to do all the work for the rest of us!”

Woodsy replied, “Hey, I’m not going to be around here forever, you know. You guys are going to have to make it on your own one of these days.”

Sadly, that day came Wednesday when Woodsy passed away at the age of 66 from COVID-19 complications.

The CFL, its players, media and fans around it are worse off because of it. I, like many of you, will NEVER get over this.

Brendan McGuire has covered the CFL since 2006 in radio and print. Based in Regina, he has a front-row view of Rider Nation.