Sue Linnen is battling life-threatening cancer but the disease didn’t stop the 73-year-old Regina fan from travelling halfway across the country to watch the Saskatchewan Roughriders take on the Toronto Argonauts at the CFL’s Touchdown Atlantic in Halifax on Saturday.
Sue and her husband Ken Linnen have been Riders season ticket holders for 49 years and this is one game she didn’t want to miss.
Barbara Linnen, one of Sue’s three daughters, submitted an application for her mother to the Cameco Riders Touchdown for Dreams — a partnership between the Roughriders and the Cancer Foundation of Saskatchewan that helps women facing life-threatening cancer diagnoses have their dreams fulfilled.
Sue’s wish was to watch her favourite team play on the east coast and she’s making the most of the opportunity. Touchdown Atlantic between the Riders and Argos is the first-ever CFL regular season game in Halifax.
Sue and Ken watched the team’s entire practice at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax on Friday in the blistering heat.
At the end of the practice — Sue was met with a surprise she will never forget. She received a handoff from Riders running back Jamal Morrow, gave enthusiastic fist bumps to the entire team and got some new Riders swag.
“We’ve done a lot of travelling over the years, we’ve travelled the world and seen many exciting events, but this one I think is close to the top,” Sue said on Friday.
Sue has been battling lymphoma, a cancer that begins in infection-fighting cells of the immune system, for the past 12 years.
While huddled up with the Riders, she gave the team some words of encouragement.
“I’m fighting my disease and you’re fighting for the team, I appreciate that,” Sue told the team.
After the players let out some cheers, Sue and Ken joined the Riders for a team photo.
Motivating the team
The green and white’s starting QB Mason Fine said he will be thinking of Sue when he suits up on Saturday to take on the unbeaten Argos.
“It’s so awesome her one wish was to come watch us play,” Fine said. “You take that and put it in the back of your mind and it’s an extra chip that you’re not just playing for your teammates and coaches, but also for people like that.”
Watch | Sue Linnen meets the Roughriders in Halifax
Riders head coach Craig Dickenson said it was special for the team to be part of Sue’s wish and it shows his players an important message.
“I was proud of the team, I felt like they really came together there and showed some compassion and that’s the good stuff,” Dickenson said. “It tugs [at your heart], it’s a good reminder that football is really important but it’s not everything.”
Riders faithful showing out in Halifax
Linnen is happy to see tons of Roughriders fans make the long journey from Saskatchewan to Halifax.
“We’ve been walking along the boardwalk along the harbour and there are far more shirts that are green than blue,” Linnen said.
“I know Riders fans have certainly supported the team through the good and the bad and I’m proud of Riders’ fans … they have come out in large numbers to support the team.”
Sue said her wish to come to the Maritimes for a Riders game has been a wonderful experience so far.
“We’ve been here many times and just love Halifax, the people are warm and friendly,” Linnen said. “Hopefully with a Rider win … it will just top off an otherwise perfect weekend.”
Sue and Ken will be in the stands at St. Mary’s University for kickoff at 2 p.m CST on Saturday. The Riders look to improve on their 3-3 record this year in the rematch of last year’s Touchdown Atlantic where the Argos’ secured a 30 to 24 victory over the Riders in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.