Monday, April 8, 2024

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Remembering Hopson

Last week we bid farewell to an important figure in Rider history. Former president Jim Hopson passed away. Ever since his passing many wonderful things have been written and many wonderful memories have been shared about the impact Hopson had on the team and on the people he interacted with. I won’t pretend that my words will add anything that hasn’t already been said but I do want to add my perspective on what he meant to Rider history.

The defining impact of Hopson will be the resetting of expectations when it comes to the Riders. Prior to his arrival the prevailing attitude was that we should just be happy we have a team at all. Their survival was at risk year to year so if the team sucked for decades at a time then we were all taught to just be happy they didn’t fold. We thought it was fine that we had only 2 championships ever. We thought it was fine that we had no jumbotron. We thought it was fine that it was not cool to wear Rider gear unless your goal in life was mockery and physical beatings. We were lovable losers… with heavy emphasis on the losers.

Until Hopson’s leadership that all changed. Now he didn’t do it all himself (and he would be the first one to admit that). But change of the magnitude that took place requires strong leadership with a clear vision and relentless pursuit of that vision. Hopson brought that. Old Mosaic was brought out of the stone ages and into the 80s (being only 20 years behind was a big step forward) and eventually replaced completely. We brought in GMs, coaches and players that expected greatness. We won games. Seats filled up. We won as many championships under his tenure as in the 90 previous years. Merchandise flew off the shelves. We put a logo on anything and everything and people were proud to display it. We went from the CFL’s equivalent of a lovable but unemployed and mooching uncle to the benchmark of excellence. 

And its not like it was all roses and sunshine for Hopson. Sure the timing of the ’07 Cup probably accelerated everything but let’s not forget that in his tenure involved some rocky moments. He had to make the tough call to fire Roy Shivers. He had to deal with Shiver’s replacement having to be put on administrative leave while he dealt with legal issues stemming from alleged inappropriate conduct with a babysitter. There were 4 head coaches during his tenure. There was brawl on Dewdney ave involving players. But despite all this, the expectations and accomplishments of the team continued to rise. On top of the successes, I think most telling is all the stories coming out about how much people respected Hopson as a person. 

His impact on the franchise will never be forgotten… unlike Andrew Harris’ quest to find the person responsible for tainting his supplements.

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