REGINA—For the thirdstraightseason, the team hosting the Grey Cup lifted it, but the effects of a hometown crowd might have been more acutely felt this night than ever. The 44,710 fans in attendance at Mosaic Stadium for Saskatchewan's 45-23 win were mostly clad in Rider green, and they made an earsplitting din that made life extremely hard for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Saskatchewan head coach Corey Chamblin said after the game that the fans were a massive part of the Riders' success against the Tiger-Cats.
"The fans were unreal," he said. "It was unreal. From pregame warmup I knew it was going to be tough for those guys. I looked at them and said I wouldn't want to be in your shoes. That was the best home game we had all year."
Middle linebacker Mike McCullough said he thought the crowd threw the Tiger-Cats off.
"I think it had to," he said. "Coming into this environment, it's not an easy environment to play in. To know all those people 45,000 fans were behind us. I mean, they played unbelievably well, and I wouldn't want to be them having to come into this stadium and play against us."
He said the support the fans gave the Riders really amped up their defence.
"Just to see the fans, and the cheering, it was awesome," McCullough said. "This was just another home game for us, and that's what made it so special."
Running back Kory Sheets, who was named the game's Most Outstanding Player for his 20-carry, 197-yard performance, said the crowd was definitely an edge for the Riders.
"I said before the game started this is not a neutral crowd, this is not a neutral site. Our fans are going to be here rocking and they proved it."
Hamilton quarterback Henry Burris, who had complained about the league's ostensible Riders' bias before the game, had a particularly tough night, with thousands screaming "HEN-RY! HEN-RY!" mockingly during every Tiger-Cats' huddle, and the fans' abuse likely played a role in his performance; while he threw for 272 yards, he finished the night with just 20 completions on 43 attempts (46.5 per cent) with one interception and no touchdowns. Saskatchewan defensive halfback Dwight Anderson played with Burris in Calgary and won a Grey Cup with him in 2008 in Montreal on hostile turf against the hometown Alouettes. Anderson said things were difficult for Burris and the Stampeders' offence in 2008, and he expected them to be just as difficult Sunday.
"Going out to Montreal, we had everyone on our back just like Hamilton had here," he said. "With our team there, it was dangerous man, Hank didn't really get the snap counts down and our receivers didn't really come out of their waggles like they wanted to. It was just all about this crowd, man, it was great."
Slotback Chris Getzlaf, who was named the Grey Cup's Most Outstanding Canadian, said the typically-intense Saskatchewan fans elevated their game to a new level for the Grey Cup.
"That's the loudest I've ever heard it, and I didn't expect anything less," he said.
Getzlaf was born in Regina, played his college football for the Regina Rams and has played all but two games of his CFL career with Saskatchewan (after being drafted by Hamilton, he was traded to the Riders partway through the 2007 season with Corey Holmes for Jason Armstead). He said for him and the other locals on the roster, this was a dream come true.
"It's like a Cinderella story, being able to come home and play in front of the hometown crowd," he said. "We've got quite a few guys from Regina on this team, and to celebrate a Grey Cup with Rider Nation is amazing."
Wide receiver Rob Bagg said it felt great to return the fans' support.
"They're a fanbase that puts so much into everything that we do," he said. "For us to be able to give this to them here at home was amazing."
McCullough, an 11-year CFL vet who's spent his whole career in Saskatchewan, said this was an incredible moment for him.
"To do this, it's like a dream come true," he said. "You can win at any time, but to win in your province, in front of your fans, in the city where I've been playing for 11 years...it's amazing. It's a blessing."