Recalling the Roughriders

From across the room, it looks like a green-flecked team photograph is hanging amid the permanent collection inside the MacKenzie Art Gallery.  

If you’re at all interested in the local football team—and, really, who isn’t in this province?—you scoot over to see it’s actually oil on canvas, painted by Kenneth Lochhead and entitled The Roughriders, 1993. 

There are shades of aqua and gold in the cloud-swirled sky, with barely discernible markings to distinguish horizon from land, where one football sits in front of the team between two distinctive, green helmets. 

Hmmm, the 1993 Saskatchewan Roughriders had a pretty good CFL season, coached by Hall of Famer Don Matthews to an 11–7 record before losing a playoff game. Some of the franchise’s most well-known and popular players were on the roster—Bobby Jurasin, Don Narcisse, Kent Austin, Ray Elgaard, and Glen Suitor. So were athletes less known but among the most talented to ever don the team’s green-and-white jerseys, like Mike Saunders, Jearld Baylis, and Barry Wilburn. 

You look for faces, numbers, the familiar characters who graced the sports pages and Taylor Field’s artificial turf almost 30 years ago. Is that Elgaard’s scowl? Narcisse’s haircut? Jurasin’s bandana? 

The group is arranged in typical fashion for a team photo, in three rows, with 13 in the back and 15 in the front, white players mixed with Black, properly replicating the roster’s diversity. The middle row has 14 people, most in green shades with three men in the middle, evidently wearing white golf shirts. Matthews must be one of those coaches, likely flashing his toothy, confident grin. 

Lochhead doesn’t give in. You can’t see faces, numbers, or smiles. The Roughriders, 1993, are indistinguishable. 

An Ontario native who spent 1950–64 at the University of Saskatchewan’s Regina campus as director of the School of Art, Lochhead evidently learned what everyone does in this province: The Roughriders are timeless, and every memory is yours. 

-Darrell Davis

Darrell Davis has spent 40 years writing primarily sports stories for The Globe and Mail; the National Post; the Moose Jaw Times-Herald; The Kindersley Clarion; various magazines; and his hometown newspaper, the Regina Leader-Post. For 21 of his 25 years at the Leader-Post, he covered the Canadian Football League and the Saskatchewan Roughriders, earning enshrinement into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. He has also written, co-authored, or edited six books, all about hockey or football and none about art. During “semi-retirement,” he dabbles in radio, serves on numerous committees (mainly sports related), and teaches journalism classes at the University of Regina.

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