by Paul Yanko
In the greater scheme of things, it was just a football game.
But to the people of Saskatchewan, the 1989 Grey Cup game was a
fairy tale 23 years in the making. It was on a crisp, late-November
afternoon that that fairy tale, and a piece of Saskatchewan history,
were written. And Dave Ridgway wrote both pieces - with his foot.
|- courtesy John
|Dave Ridgway, alias
It's a beautiful and hot summer day as Dave Ridgway and I pull
up to Taylor Field in Regina to chat about what has become known
simply as 'The Kick' (this story was written in 1999). We'd barely made it a few steps from the car
when 'Ridge' is recognized by a couple of Saskatchewan Roughrider
players headed toward the dressing room to get ready for practice.
'Hey Ridge', they say, and alter their course to shake the hand
of an old friend.
After a brief exchange of pleasantries, which include questions
on the whereabouts of former teammate and Moose Jaw native Dallas
Rysavy (whom they refer to as 'Rice Krispy'), we head into the dressing
Ridgway retired from the team at the end of the 1994 season after
playing 14 years in the Canadian Football League (CFL). It's been
six months since last he visited Taylor Field, athough you'd never
Choruses of 'Hey Ridge' and 'What Up?' arise from former teammates
who are still with the Green and White. From the rookies, who know
him only through his legendary exploits as one of the finest kickers
ever to play the game, he gets respectful nods.
Rider Head Coach Cal Murphy, leaning against a wall and talking
to a player, interrupts the conversation briefly to nod and say
Don Narcisse, one of the few players remaining from the '89 squad,
bounces up to him excitedly, shakes his hand, and the two step aside
for a brief chat.
Then Ridgway spots longtime equipment manager, Norm Fong.
"Hi Norm," says Ridgway, but in slightly more colorful locker-room
jargon. He strolls confidently into Fong's small office.
"You here to kick?" asks Fong, unfazed by Ridgway's unexpected
"I will be, unless he gets better," quips Ridgway, nodding toward
Rider kicker Paul McCallum, who's on a couch in the corner eating
soup from a styrofoam bowl. McCallum's nursing a groin injury.
They all share a hearty laugh.
"I miss the guys, I miss that sort of camaraderie," Ridgway tells
me later, once we find a quiet place in the stands on the west side
of Taylor Field. "I don't miss the game."
|Comfortable in retirement:
Ridgway with his boys (l to r) Christopher, Drew, Derek and
It's ironic that Ridgway should even talk about missing anything.
During his time in the league he amassed 10 CFL records, including
goal-accuracy leader (78.2%), longest field goal (60 yards), and
most consecutive field goals (28). During the 1993 season Ridgway
booted a nearly impossible 90.6 per cent of his kicks accurately.
No wonder everyone outside the dressing room called him 'RoboKicker'.
Yet despite these tremendous accomplishments, Ridgway is best remembered
for only one kick. The kick.
"I still get people coming up to me and telling me they remember
exactly where they were and who they were with," says the 40-year-old
Ridgway, who now works for provincial phone utility SaskTel. "This province must have been
a pretty quiet place that Sunday!"
The Rider's 1989 regular season was an up and down affair that
saw the team finish with a 9-and-9 record, good enough to earn them
a playoff berth. In 1988, the Riders made the playoffs for the first
time since appearing in (and losing) the 1976 Grey Cup. But in '88,
they bowed out after only one game, losing to the B.C. Lions.
This year was going to be different.
"We are not just going to the Grey Cup, we are going to win the
Grey Cup," a focused Rider Coach John Gregory told the media, immediately
after securing the team's spot in the championship game by defeating
the heavily-favored Edmonton Eskimos.
"We can't be satisfied with just this."
The Riders were set to face the Hamilton Tiger Cats at SkyDome,
in Toronto. Ridgway recalls the week leading up to that Grey Cup
Sunday as a whirlwind of activity, and one in which the pressure
was building with every passing day.
"Normally we would get into town and have 24 or 48 hours to kill
before a road game," Ridgway explains. "So after three or four days
of practicing it's like, 'let's just get going!'. I was getting
The torturous days of practice finally yielded to the Game Day
that Ridgway had eagerly anticipated.
A couple of quick Hamilton field goals gave the Tiger Cats a six
to zero lead and cast an air of uncertainty over the jubilant Saskatchewan
fans, thousands of whom had made their way to SkyDome to cheer on
their beloved team.
For years Rider fans have faithfully supported their community-owned
team through the good and (mostly) bad times, developing, in the
process, something that has become known far and wide as 'Rider
Pride'. This sense of undying loyalty earned Rider fans the reputation
of being the greatest in the league, and it helped give their team
the unofficial title of 'Canada's Team'.
By the middle of the second quarter the Riders had begun to show
signs of offensive life. Quarterback Kent Austin had completed touchdown
passes to slotbacks Ray Elgaard and Jeff Fairholm, and it was becoming
clear that Hamilton would not be allowed to walk away with the Grey
Cup. Not without a fight.
Ridgway's first call to duty came on the last play before half-time,
a 50-yard attempt.
"It was my first field goal attempt in a championship game and
I missed the thing," he recalls, the displeasure still evident in
The half ended with Hamilton up 27-22.
By the end of the third quarter the Riders had moved into the lead,
34-30. With just under two minutes left to go in the fourth the
Riders were still ahead 40-33 after Ridgway kicked his third field
goal of the day. The stage was set for one of the most exciting
finishes in the history of football.
Hamilton quarterback Mike Kerrigan marched his team down the field
in a drive that not only ate up a good deal of time, but also allowed
the Tiger Cats to tie the game on an acrobatic catch by Hamilton
wideout Tony Champion.
"That was a brilliant catch by Champion, one of the best I've ever
seen in the game of football," recalls Ridgway. "But at that moment
I knew that Kent would get us into field goal range."
And Austin didn't disappoint.
The drive began with 44 seconds left on the clock and included
passes to Ray Elgaard and Mark Guy. A final pass to Guy, who stepped
out of bounds at the Hamilton 26, followed by one 'kneel-down' to
position the ball for 'The Kick', left nine seconds remaining on
the clock. The crowd was electrified.
Saskatchewan flags were waving, people were standing and cheering
and Dave Ridgway jogged onto the field to attempt the greatest pressure
kick of any kicker's career.
"Just before the kick you get into a zone, and I was there," says
Ridgway. "I was ready to do the job."
But Hamilton Coach Al Bruno wasn't about to let Ridgway do his
job, not just yet. He called a time-out to give the kicker a little
more time to mull over the situation, which Ridgway admits is a
sound strategy that works.
During the time-out, Ridgway recalls going over to talk to teammate
Glen Suitor, who held the ball for him for years (the two remain
best friends). Ridgway asked Suitor to talk to him about something
other than football.
In the past Suitor had, under similar circumstances, asked his
kicker if he'd seen the latest Robert Bateman print - they're both
collectors. On this day Suitor spoke of an upcoming camping trip
the two had planned. He also asked whether Ridgway had noticed a
rather attractive woman seated near their bench.
"I knew he was focused, I just wanted to make him smile. And he
started laughing," recalls Suitor from his home in Vancouver, where
he now works as a CFL commentator for TSN. "Whenever we lined up
for a kick we felt we could make it - we had that kind of chemistry.
"But what's really funny is that all of a sudden we had 10 kicking
coaches out there on the field. I looked over at Dave and half the
huddle is circled around him giving him advice like 'keep your head
down', and 'remember to follow through'. And I just told everybody
to get lost - we've kicked a few of these before."
|Suitor holds as RoboKicker nails
The Kick to win the 1989 Grey Cup.
The kick, of course, was good, giving the Riders a 43-40 victory
and the Grey Cup for only the second time in the history of the
"I remember watching it sail through the uprights and feeling like
my eyes were huge," recalls Ridgway. "I think I said something like,
'oh my God, we did it!'"
Suitor was equally moved.
"I didn't know what to do with myself. You feel relieved, you feel
excited - there's just a flood of emotions that hit you," he said.
"We had worked so long and so hard to get to that moment. Through
all the practices and all the weightlifting and all the politics,
you dream of this moment. And we had finally achieved it.
"We've always said that game, the season, the championship, was
all for the fans. But that brief moment when we realized the kick
was good, that was for the players because that's what we'd committed
ourselves to and we'd finally done it."
Despite being called the game's hero, Ridgway is quick to share
|- courtesy John Sokowlowski
|Once more, from
a different angle. Rider fans wonder whether they'll ever again
see such a happy day.
"Football is the epitome of a team sport," he explains. "Mine is
the last piece of the puzzle, but everybody has to do their jobs
equally well in order for me to succeed."
Immediately following the game, Ridgway used a national television
interview to dedicate the win to the people of Saskatchewan.
"During the 80's both football and farming in Saskatchewan became
synonymous with futility - there were very few people who prospered
at either," says Ridgway. "Hey, we didn't solve all the world's
problems or create world peace. But I think we helped the people
of Saskatchewan band together and feel good about something, and
they sure deserved it.
"The fans have always been there for this team."
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