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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

BUONO LOOKING FORWARD TO SASKATCHEWAN FINALE


REGINA - Wally Buono first began visiting Saskatchewan as a visitor for CFL games as a rookie with the Montreal Alouettes in 1973. That was 45 years ago.

In between, Buono has come into Taylor Field as an Assistant Coach, Head Coach and General Manager with the Calgary Stampeders and B.C. Lions.

This Saturday will mark Buono's last regular season visit to Canada's football capital as he brings his B.C. Lions (9-7) into Saskatchewan for a massive West Division showdown with the Saskatchewan Roughriders (11-6).

"Going to Saskatchewan is always .... it's always an experience," Buono told BCLions.com. "I can remember the Rob Murphy episode (in 2007) which almost turned into a full scale brawl. I remember another episode when they were showering us with Pilsner beer (in 2008).

"These are all things that make going to certain places more memorable. It's always been a great place to go because of the fans, the noise. You know when you go there it's not just a football club you're fighting, but you're also fighting the crowd."

Whether it be at legendary Taylor Field or the glitzy new Mosaic Stadium, Buono has always been a favourite target of the Rider Nation, particularly those who sit behind the visitor's bench on the east side.

The crowd routinely serenades the iconic coach with a cheer of, "WALLLLLLLLLLLYYYYYY", especially when the Montreal product gets fired up over incidents in the game which didn't go his team's way.

Buono's daughter Christie even Tweeted this week that she's coming to this game, and doesn't want to be let down!

"Rider Nation I'm coming to you this weekend & couldn't be more excited," she wrote from @ChristieBuono. "In my whole life I've never seen my Dad coach there. SO I want to experience it all. What should I check out? Oh & I want ALL the Wally chants in full force."

The Rider Nation has always been upset that Buono seems to be allowed to walk well onto the field to argue with CFL officials, while no other coach is afforded that opportunity without being penalized.

As far as Rider Coach Chris Jones goes, he feels Buono has taught him a lot.

"This is one of the few times you look back on it and go, 'Man, he's a great coach'," Jones reflected Wednesday. "Looking at him from afar, I basically workout before the game now because we were in Montreal and I saw Wally working out before the game. I didn't ask him why he did it, but I thought 'Hell, if he's doing it, I should it'. That's something I've copied from him. People aspire to be as good as what Wally Buono is.”

Buono will retire as the CFL's all-time winningest coach and has already been inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. He's won Coach of the Year four times and has won seven Grey Cups. Chris Jones says it's easy to point to what Buono's legacy will be.

"It's pretty clear," Jones laughed. "You win as many games as he did, it didn't matter what hand he was dealt, he ended up winning games. I think that's the mark of a great coach."

The Lions and Winnipeg Blue Bombers enter the final two weeks of the season tied for third-place in the CFL West so it's conceivable Buono could return to Regina in the playoffs, especially if Saskatchewan clinches 2nd-place with a win on Saturday.

However for the time being, it's time to relish in the memories of WALLLLLYYYYYY in Regina.

RP
@rodpedersen

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