BY ZACHARY CORMIER
When it comes to rodeo, there aren’t many shows like the Canadian Finals Rodeo at Northlands Coliseum in Edmonton.
The Canadian Professional Rodeo Association’s annual five-day long extravaganza, which held its 43rd edition last weekend, pits the top 12 cowboys and cowgirls in each of the major rodeo events against each other to determine the Canadian champion.
This year was my second time making the trip up north into Oil Country (shudder) to cover the CFR and, just like last year, the experience was one to remember.
In each of the four performances that I was able to attend, the action was fast-paced and tightly-contested making for a truly exciting experience.
And that doesn’t even begin to mention the action itself. From the barrel racing to the bull riding, every competitor brought their A-game this past weekend which made for a couple of tight races to the top.
Let me explain how the CFR works. In most sports when it’s finals time or playoff time, a team’s regular season achievements are wiped out and everyone that qualifies kind of starts fresh.
But in rodeo, it’s the exact opposite. The Canadian champion is the person who earns the most money at CPRA sanctioned rodeos throughout the year. Full stop.
That means that if the CFR didn’t exist, the season leader would always end up being the Canadian champion every year, which would be kind of boring.
That’s where the CFR comes in because the winner of each round gets $12,000, all of which counts towards the Canadian standings. Then there’s the average pot, which basically counts as an extra day as well. That’s a lot of money up for grabs.
It also provides the opportunity for a lot of movement in the standings.
For example, in the bull riding, the two-time defending champion Dakota Buttar came into the weekend in first place in the standings and was a heavy favourite to end up winning his third straight Canadian championship.
And for awhile, it looked like the Kindersley, Saskatchewan product would do it, too. Buttar led the field through the first four rounds of competition, posting scores of 87, 85.75 and 86.25. By Saturday, he had only been bucked off once, which put him in good contention for the average pot.
Then Buttar was bucked off of his final two bulls.
That allowed second-place cowboy Jordan Hansen to swoop in and steal the victory. Coming into finals week, Hansen trailed Buttar by just $30 and he quickly made up that ground by riding all but one of his bulls for the week, consistently scoring above 85 points, which is an exceptionally high score for a bull ride.
Hansen ended up winning the average pot to leapfrog Buttar into first place thanks to an 85.5 point ride on Sunday afternoon, clinching the Canadian title.
The whole thing was kind of like overtime in game seven of the Stanley Cup final, except spread out over a week. It was awesome.
Beyond the action in the arena, the CFR is fun for another reason entirely – the camaraderie. There aren’t many sports where you get to have a beer with the athletes after the competition is done. Imagine if you got to sit down and talk with Sidney Crosby right after he finished playing a game. That’s kind of what it’s like.
So overall, if you’re looking for a fun way to spend your next November long weekend, why not head up to Edmonton to take in a Canadian Finals Rodeo? You might just get hooked.