Calgary Stampeders' equipment manager celebrates 1,000th game with team

·2 min read
Long-time Calgary Stampeders equipment manager George Hopkins pictured at practice, the week after his 1,000th game with the team, at McMahon Stadium in Calgary on Aug. 9, 2022.  (Ose Irete/CBC - image credit)
Long-time Calgary Stampeders equipment manager George Hopkins pictured at practice, the week after his 1,000th game with the team, at McMahon Stadium in Calgary on Aug. 9, 2022. (Ose Irete/CBC - image credit)

When he started as the Calgary Stampeders' equipment manager in 1977, George Hopkins was planning to become a history professor.

Now, with 51 seasons under his belt, Hopkins has made some history of his own.

The Stampeders' win in Ottawa on Friday marked Hopkins's 1,000th game while working for the team.

The 63-year-old Calgarian was enrolled at the University of Calgary when he took over as equipment manager for the Stamps. And while he still has a passion for history, Hopkins doesn't regret the career path he chose.

"It just kind of morphed into something that I really enjoyed and it's never really been too much of a hardship to come to work," he said.

Hopkins began working for Calgary's CFL football team as a ball boy when he was 12. During his entire tenure, Hopkins has only missed three regular-season contests. He's been with the team for six of its eight Grey Cup wins. In 2014, he was added to the club's Wall of Fame.

'He does everything for us'

From chewing gum to specialized cleats, whatever the Stampeders need, George Hopkins is their guy.

"He does everything for us," said Shawn Lemon, defensive end with the Stamps.

"He just makes the process easy for us to just focus on playing in the games."

Geo, as he's fondly called, is as much a staple of the team as the stadium itself, according to Lemon.

"It wouldn't feel right walking in this building in Calgary and not having him here."

Ose Irete/CBC
Ose Irete/CBC

For Hopkins, there have been many memorable moments throughout his years with the team.

"I remember when Huf came on board we had to get Tommy Bahama polo shirts that everybody could wear on the road," Hopkins said, referring to Stamps president John Hufnagel.

Hopkins describes his career with the team as a "humbling experience." He said he's in an interesting position as a buffer between management, coaches and players, often acting as a sounding board for every side.

"I'm very proud of my relationship with the players, with the staff and the fact that in 50 years I've made a difference," he said.

Fans will get a chance to celebrate Hopkins at home when the team takes on the BC Lions at McMahon Stadium on Saturday.