Ivan Gutfriend gave 38 years to the Saskatchewan Roughriders – but despite being named one of two inductees to the Plaza of Honor, he remains very humble about his role.
“I’m not the focal point, it’s not all about me,” Gutfriend said Tuesday morning at the announcement. “It’s about the players and my job is to try to keep them on the field or try to get them back as fast as possible.”
Born in Saskatchewan, Gutfriend joined the team in 1978 as an athletic therapist. It was something he said was a dream come true for him.
“I’m just overwhelmed right now at this honour.”
Gutfriend has been the with team through six Grey Cup appearances – and three wins, and said greatest memories with the team centre around those big championships. The first: winning the trophy in 1989 – and the second was the heartbreak of the Grey Cup loss in 2009.
“Here’s a game that we had with just a few minutes left and lost a game like that.”
Beyond the Grey Cups, Gutfriend worked through 668 regular season games, 27 playoffs match ups and numerous injuries. One injury that stands out to him was from an Eddie Lowe tackle during a Labour Day Classic.
“It was a lower leg, it was at a 90 degree angle, so it was fracture that was really, visibly, it [was] really disturbing. That’s probably the worst one I’ve seen.”
The other inductee, Matt Dominguez said it was only fitting he was inducted to the Plaza of Honor with Gutfriend – given their history.
“I told my wife, it’s kind of a joke. I spent a lot of Ivan, so for me to go in at the same time as him, it kind of makes sense,” said the fan favourite wide receiver, who suffered his share of knee injuries during his playing career.
Those injuries didn’t hamper the fan support for Dominguez. By the time he left the CFL he had amassed 250 receptions for 3,741 yards and 19 touchdowns. He was also a western division all-star in 2006.
But it all started when Dominguez came up to Regina for a try-out in 2003. Back then, the Plaza of Honor wasn’t on his mind.
“When I first got here, my thing was, just make the time, just try and make the team,” Dominguez said, but after that, he said he got to be a part of something else: the resurgence of the Riders.
Dominguez noted that in his six years with the team, they never had a losing season.
“I never thought about the end, I always thought about – just go as hard you can. It’s just an honour to be here,” he said.
In 2007, Dominguez won the Grey Cup with the green and white with Kerry Joseph at the helm, though an injury prevented him from actually playing in the game. Dominguez said he does look back on those games fondly, but his greatest memories are from his teammates.
“There’s much more moments in the locker room, guys being brothers and going through training camp together … the locker room becomes your family,” he said. “You remember a lot more of those than the wins and the losses.”
At the end of his career with the Roughriders, Dominguez decided to stay in Saskatchewan and made his home here with his family.
“I didn’t see myself in anything other than green.”
The Plaza of Honor is happening on September 16. Tickets are at $350 and available at the Roughrider ticket office.