Our latest contributor to “From the Grandstand” happens to be the brother of the Huskie fan who submitted the most popular FTG to date. Bob Speed doesn’t let a 6 hour drive keep him away from Huskie games, and the occasional practice as well. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and memories of Huskie football, Bob!
Q: For how many years have you been following the Huskies?
Bob: I have been following the Huskies with greater interest since the late 1980’s. Earlier, between 1959 and 1970, I had followed the team when living in Saskatoon, but from 1971 – 1982 I lived and worked outside of Canada and lost touch. In 1987 I started to regularly attend Huskie games, in large part to watch Dan Farthing play. Dan was a wonderful football player who gave Huskie fans of that era a whole lot of Saturday afternoons full of exciting and skilled football. From then on I’ve been hooked.
Q: What is the best Huskie game that you have ever seen? What was special about this game?
Bob: There have been so many great games over the years, but for a few reasons I am going to choose the 2002 Hardy Cup game. The game was played on a cold and snowy Saturday afternoon right in the cradle of Saskatchewan football, Taylor Field. I had been in Regina earlier in the week on business and stayed there for the game. A bunch of friends drove down from Saskatoon. We all congregated over on the east side stands in our winter gear.
The game should be considered in the context of the Huskie season. The Huskies were 4 and 4 during regular season play; not that terrific. The Rams and Huskies had split during the regular season with the Rams having the better points’ differential, albeit slim. Sheldon Ball, the Huskie quarterback, had been dealing with a sore throwing arm for much of the year. However, on the day, Sheldon was right on the money; a very good day of play calling and quarterbacking. You know, first and ten and you throw, second and eight and you run, second and two and you throw. A beautiful catch and run by Nathan Hoffart for a touchdown down the far sideline. The game ended 44 – 23 for the Huskies.
After the game all the Saskatchewan fans were on the field congratulating the players and hoisting the Hardy Cup with snow all over the place. One of the things that really struck me, and one of those moments I have always remembered, was a brief talk I had with the Regina Ram middle linebacker Jeff Zimmer. It seemed that Jeff, in that game and during the season versus the Huskies, was in on every second tackle. I remember him saying, “We just got beat today. Their offensive line pushed us all over the place.” That was very gracious commentary from a great player just having played his last CIS game.
Q: Which Huskie team do you feel is the best ever, or your favourite team?
Bob: I am very partial to the current 2010 team. I saw them play their opener in Calgary, where I now live, and have travelled to see their last three games versus Calgary, UBC and Regina. This team is a very good football team. They have a great deal of depth in all positions. Laurence Nixon is playing his best football ever; strong and accurate passing and better mobility in the pocket and on the play action rollouts where his zip on the ball does not seem to be deterred by his running. The receivers are very skilled and there’s a bunch of them. The running backs, and there’s a bunch of them too, are quick and in sync with a very good O-line. The defence is very strong, especially against the run. The kicking game has improved enormously and is now good. Special teams are very effective and especially dangerous on punt and kick-off returns. Really, this team has the ability to go all the way.
Q: Who are your 3 favourite Huskie players of all time, and why?
Bob:I’ll need more than 3 if I’m to get into favourites. How about allowing me 50?
I’ll talk about three very good players, however, two of whom played defence. Brian Guebert personifies Saskatchewan football. Brian played 6-man football in Outlook, Saskatchewan where his team won the provincial 6-man championship. He had an outstanding career with the Hilltops before joining the Huskies for an all-star career as a defensive end/lineman. A great leader, a great rush end and a great run defender.
Gabe Mackesey, a very good linebacker, got my consistent attention when he played because of his ability to position himself well versus ball carriers and execute great tackling. I know it sounds a little old fashioned but I believe that good tackling is basic to good football.
Brent Schneider won 1 Vanier Cup and 2 Vanier Cup MVP’s. His 1994 Vanier Cup performance, in a losing cause, was a classic. I remember watching him on television accept the MVP trophy at the end of that game where he was obviously choked. I think the MVP was very much secondary to the Vanier which he came back and won in 1996.
Q: What do you think is the best rivalry between the Huskies and another team (current or past rivalry)?
Bob: Currently the Huskies and Rams rivalry is pretty intense. Lots of “province of Saskatchewan born and bred players” and lots of former teammates playing against one another, which ups the ante. It must be a real eye opener for players coming in from other provinces to see these home grown guys wanting to smack one another around. That said, on any given weekend during the season and later in the playoffs other rivalries immediately re-surface. Witness over the years, Alberta, Calgary, St. Mary’s, Western or Laval versus the Huskies.
Q: What would you say to a potential recruit who is considering playing for the Huskies?
Bob: The University of Saskatchewan offers a broad and outstanding range of academic choices, which is important to a player’s decision in choosing a university. The quality of the Huskie football program is pretty much self- evident: very good and respectful coaching, good players to play with, which you’ve got to have to win, a smaller more intimate supportive community and a wonderful cast of committed fans and sponsors who make game playing at Griffiths Stadium very special. Generally, the Huskies will provide to a player a pretty good opportunity to meet his football expectations, within the context of a team whose expectation is to play the game well; and that means well enough to win the Vanier Cup.
Q: Is there anything else that you wish to add? This could include game memories, things from the Dogs’ Breakfast, craziest/funniest thing you’ve seen from a fan…you name it.
Bob: You know, one of the funniest things happened last Friday October 29 at the Huskies’ – Rams’ game. I had travelled to Saskatoon the earlier day arriving later in the afternoon. As such I visited Griffiths Stadium to catch a little of the Huskies’ practice, whereby I was approached with a request to carry the Huskie Flag as part of the Huskies’ fan recognition program. I gratefully deferred, suggesting that Tom Speed might be a better choice. After all, Tom has been following the Huskies for an eternity. Accordingly, arrangements were made for Tom to attend the Friday dress rehearsal with the real thing scheduled later for 7:00 pm. At 7:00 pm Tom was introduced, thereafter running to centre field, positioning himself on the Huskie Logo and commencing Flag waving. I am watching from the stands and notice the Rams encroaching closer and closer to the Huskie Logo and the Flag. Lots of bravado type ‘jawing’ and chest thumping with Tom destined for the epicentre of warring footballers. Eventually the Huskies are introduced and head to the centre of the field with Tom still waving the Flag in perfect cadence. Sure enough the jostling starts, and we’re talking about a significant tonnage of football players precariously close to a fan who is supposedly being honoured for his devotion to the Huskie football program, which I understood not to include the sacrifice of a Flag Bearer’s life in a war where one is scripted to lead the charge at the Halloween Eve Battle of the Saskatchewan Civil War of Football. In time, cooler heads prevail, the courageous Flag Bearer still holding his ground and still waving that Flag until dutifully instructed by the head referee to desist and “please leave the field so we can commence with the kick off and start the game”.