Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Memories of a Cheerleader 

Posted by James at 7:26 AM ET

While the US was enjoying turkey and 5am doorbuster deals, this past weekend the CFL held the 95th Grey Cup.

by Heather Polischuk
The Regina Leader-Post

It's not every day a former Saskatchewan Roughriders Cheerleader gets to bring her pompons to court.

Wearing a set of green and white wrist pompons and her original Riders Cheerleader sweater, judicial officer Linda Cruickshank flipped through a photo album of her former days as a cheerleader as she sat at her workplace, Regina Provincial Court, on Friday.

Among the photos is one of a group of young women sitting on a bus as they make their way to the 1976 Grey Cup game in Toronto, where the Riders took on the Ottawa Rough Riders.
Linda, Roughriders Cheerleader
"That was amazing," Cruickshank recalls. "That was my first Grey Cup and to see the people and the excitement ... it was just amazing. We had to sleep in a school in the basement, in the gym, because there were absolutely no hotel rooms and we couldn't afford much back then. And there were so many people."

That particular game didn't turn out so well for the Riders or their fans.

"We lost and that was devastating," Cruickshank says.

But it certainly didn't dampen her spirits as a Cheerleader, or as an avid Rider fan.

Before 1970, Cruickshank admits she didn't know much about football at all. That year, her family moved from Calgary to Regina and Cruickshank -- a cheerleader from her school days -- decided she'd try out after hearing an announcement advertising tryouts for Riders' Cheerleaders.

"So I grabbed the bus and I went down and I tried out and Carol Gay Bell was the instructor and I made it," she says. "I was so happy. And I really didn't know a lot about football when I started, but I certainly have learned a lot over the years."

Since that time, Cruickshank has been a huge Riders fan, going to every game she can and catching the remainder on television. But in the 1970s, she had one of the best seats in the house -- something she particularly cherished during the 1976 big game.

"We were probably just as nervous as some of the players were, in different ways," she remembers. "We're such huge fans as cheerleaders and I'm sure they are today as they have been since 1961 when they started, that at a Grey Cup game, it's just, I don't know how to put it into words. It's just so exciting because everybody's in the same frame. They want them to win, they're nervous, they're excited. It's just excitement all over the place."

Cruickshank -- also the Miss Saskatchewan Roughrider Molson Golden Girl of 1979 -- officially hung up her pompons in 1980 after spending about three years as cheerleader captain. But in her heart, Cruickshank says she will always be a Riders Cheerleader.

While she doesn't yet know where she will watch Sunday's big game, she is definitely going to be sitting in front of a television somewhere, doing what she was trained to do in the '70s: Cheering on her favourite team. And as far as the outcome of the game, there is little doubt in Cruickshank's mind.

"Oh, they're going to win -- huge," she says, adding with a little flourish of her pom-poms, "I love my Riders, as you can tell."

Note: Sunday night the Roughriders defeated the Blue Bombers 23-19.

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