Imagine the scene. Your team has only ever won the ‘big one’ once and that was years ago. Now you have a chance to win it all right at the death. It all comes down to the skinny guy on the team. Out comes the kicker. That’s when you want someone you can rely on. In 1989 the Saskatchewan Roughriders had that someone and because of that “The Kick” remains a big moment in franchise history.
Fans of american football in the UK know just how keen NFLUK are to exploit any British connections. Players like Jay Ajayi are lionised and the fact the Ajayi just picked up a Superbowl ring sent the NFLUK marketing team into a rapturous frenzy. It’s understandable too. If you can create a link to locality, if you can engender a bond between fans and players who are ‘local heroes’ then you can possibly extend the reach of the sport.
Heck to a certain extent it’s always been that way. Back when the game was taking off over here the NFL luminaries were playing up the UK connections of the likes of coach Al Saunders and kickers Mick Luckhurst and John Smith.
The CFL is not known as a historical destination of British talent. So what if I was to tell you that back in the 1980’s and early 90’s there was someone playing in the CFL who hailed from that well-known hotbed of CFL talent, Stockport in England? That person is legendary Saskatchewan Roughriders kicker Dave Ridgway.
Before we get carried away here though and all start adopting Ridgway as a great Brit in the CFL and looking for our classic Riders shirts, I should point out he is a Canadian citizen. Having emigrated as a teen and taken citizenship he was even voted ‘Most Outstanding Canadian’ in the 1989 Grey Cup.
Ridgway emigrated to Canada as a teenager in 1974 and began playing American football while attending high school in Ontario. From 1977, he played college football in the Mid American Conference with the University of Toledo Rockets. He was drafted by the Alouettes in 1981 but didn’t catch on with the team and returned to the CFL with Saskatchewan in 1982, where he signed and stayed for 14 years.
Ridgway’s consistent kicking for the Saskatchewan Roughriders for 14 seasons from 1982 to 1995, earned him the nickname “RoboKicker”. The moment he is best remembered for though is the game winning kick in the 1989 Grey Cup. Considered one of the best Grey Cup games “the kick” went down in Saskatchewan folklore as Ridgway kicked the winner with seconds remaining to give Saskatchewan only their second ever Cup win. The 77th Grey Cup had provided a thrilling back and forth finish.
On the last play of the second quarter, Ridgway attempted his first field goal of the game, a 50-yarder to pull the game within two, but he missed and Hamilton led the game 27-22, at halftime. However, by the end of the third quarter, a Ridgway field goal, a safety and a TD had the Riders up 34-30. He added another 3 FGs in the 4th quarter helping Saskatchewan to a 40-33 lead. Hamilton tied the game through an acrobatic end zone catch by Tony Champion and that set in motion the fairy-tale ending for Ridgway and Riders fans.
With just 44 seconds left on the clock, Riders QB Kent Austin completed three passes for 48 yards to put his team on Hamilton’s 26-yard line with nine seconds remaining in the game. That’s when you need a kicker to hold their nerve and RoboKicker didn’t disappoint. Ridgway booted “The Kick” through the uprights and gave Saskatchewan only their second Grey Cup and their first Grey Cup win in 23 years.
Ridgway remained modest about his ‘heroics’ stating in a retrospective about the game “Football is the epitome of a team sport…Mine is the last piece of the puzzle, but everybody has to do their jobs equally well in order for me to succeed.” http://www.virtualsk.com/current_issue/10_years_after.html
Ridgway is considered one of the best placekickers ever in the 3 down game and was known for his dependability in clutch situations. He is one of the most accurate kickers in CFL history for those who have attempted more than 150 career field goals.
In his first season with the Riders, Ridgway kicked 38 fieldgoals and 163 points to win both West and CFL All-Star honours as a rookie. Ridgway had over 100 points in all 14 seasons, and was over 200 points in four of them with his highest total coming in 1990 with 233 points. He finished his CFL career with 2,374 points. Ridgway’s best year for accuracy was 1993 when he made 46 of 53 field goal attempts for an excellent 90.6% success rate.
During his 14-years in the league he played in 238 games, all with the Roughriders, and made 574 of 736 FG attempts (78%). In 1987 he made a then CFL record 60-yard field goal and still holds or shares CFL records such as 59 field goals made in a season in 1990, and 8 field goals made in a game (which he did twice, in 1984 & 1988).
Ridgway was named 6 CFL All-Star six times (1982, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1993) and West All-Star 7 times (same years as well as 1991). Ridgway was elected to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2003.
Image from cfl.ca