Just in time for the holidays, Saskatchewan Roughriders fans have a new season to celebrate and anticipate.
On Thursday, the Canadian Football League released its complete 2018 schedule, which will see the Riders open the regular season at home on June 15 against the defending Grey Cup champions.
Mosaic Stadium will play host to the Toronto Argonauts for the Riders' opening game, which will give the Green and White a chance to avenge their loss in this past season's Eastern finals.
"The passion that Rider Nation has for their team and our league is incredible, which makes for an amazing atmosphere at Mosaic Stadium and generates strong broadcast ratings," said CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie in a press release.
Based on those strong broadcast ratings, the Riders will be featured in high-profile TV time slots, including Thanksgiving Monday and four Thursday night appearances.
Once again, the Roughriders will host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the traditional Labour Day Classic on Sunday, Sept. 2. The Riders have won 12 of the last 13 matches and hold a 35-18 advantage through the first 53 Labour Day meetings.
"It is always exciting for football fans across the country when the schedule gets announced," said Roughriders president and CEO Craig Reynolds.
He gave credit to the CFL office and teams across the league for the work to get the schedule released earlier than usual, giving fans a chance to buy season tickets as Christmas presents as well.
The league has also extended the regular season by a week. It will stretch over 21 weeks rather than 20 in an effort to prevent injuries by reducing the number of short turnarounds, the CFL said.
Roughrider schedule notables
The Riders open the regular season at home for the seventh time in the last 10 seasons.
The team has a split of five home games and four away games in the first half versus four home, five away in the back nine.
They will play most of the other eight teams once at home and once away. Calgary will make an additional trip to Saskatchewan, and the Riders will make a second trip to Winnipeg to fill the 18-game regular season.
This is the fifth time the Riders have been scheduled to open a regular season at home versus Toronto. The Riders carry a 1-3 record in those contests, winning in 1998 while suffering losses in 1984, 2000 and 2016.
The Green and White will showcase the 2018 hopefuls in their first pre-season game on Sunday, May 27, when they visit the Edmonton Eskimos.
The following week, the Riders will host the Calgary Stampeders in their final pre-season match-up on Friday, June 8 at 7:30 p.m.