Seasons come and go. From week to week, let alone summer to summer, the nameplates on the back of those familiar red jerseys are in a constant state of flux. The only predictable aspect of professional sports, of course, is its utter unpredictability.
One variable, however, has been an unshakeable constant for the Calgary Stampeders dating all the way back to 1972: equipment manager George Hopkins, or Geo, as anyone who spends the slightest amount of time in or around McMahon Stadium calls him.
Hopkins is armed with a Canadian Football League resume that would be the envy of a Willie Burden, Wayne Harris or Jeff Garcia: 48 years, 835 regular-season and 46 playoff games worked, a dozen Grey Cup appearances, and half-a-dozen Grey Cup rings.
“The first house I bought? That’d be 1987, in this little gem of a community called MacEwan that nobody knows about,” said Hopkins. “I stayed for 12 years and liked the community so much that I bought my next house just around the corner, about three minutes away.
“In ’87, the market, as I remember, was starting to come back. I paid, I think, $81,000. It was eight years old at the time.”
Before the big purchase, Hopkins was renting a house in Bowness – a situation that had its own interesting backstory.
“Being able to afford the mortgage was, of course, the No. 1 thing. But I had to have a decent-sized backyard with a deck and I’d always wanted a wood-burning fireplace, so those were musts.”
“I’d been living in a repossession in Bowness. Huge house that one of the credit unions had foreclosed on about 10 years earlier. The girl I was living with at the time worked for the credit union, so they gave us a sweetheart of a deal,” he said.
“Well, I broke up with her, stayed in the house and seems they’d completely forgotten about it – about me. At least for a while. So, I was living in this place just off Bowness Road, around 3,000 square feet, and paying $600 a month rent.”
Unfortunately, after about five years, his luck ran out.
“When they caught on, my rent went from $600 to $1,500,” he said. “I figured, ‘For that, I can buy a house.’”
By then, a dozen years into his career and the head equipment manager at McMahon, the timing seemed right.
“Being able to afford the mortgage was, of course, the No. 1 thing,” said Hopkins. “But I had to have a decent-sized backyard with a deck and I’d always wanted a wood-burning fireplace, so those were musts.
“Not smart enough at the time to think that maybe a garage might be a good idea, though.”
Nearly 25 years after deciding on the neighbourhood, Hopkins remains committed to MacEwan.
“I’d bought the place right on MacEwan Drive, as I mentioned, then two kids came along and my wife (Cathy) is looking at me, going, ‘We need a bigger house,’” he said.
“We looked around for a year and wound up buying in what turned out to be the last phase of MacEwan – as I said, a three-minute drive from where we had been living – and that’s been home since ’99.”