Canada's best bull rider Tanner Byrne chomping at bit for Edmonton event

EDMONTON, ALBERTA. NOV.9/2011- at Tanner Byrne scored 83.75 in the bull riding on the first day of the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton, Alberta. Nov. 9, 2011. (Bruce Edwards/Edmonton Journal)

DAN BARNES, EDMONTON JOURNAL
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The Canadian Finals Rodeo was good to Tanner Byrne, but Professional Bull Riders changed his life.

The now 24-year-old from Prince Albert competed at CFR in Edmonton three times, won the bull riding final twice, carted off decent money, and is a little sad that the legacy event is on the move for 2017.

“Definitely. It’s been a tradition there for years and years. I remember going there with my dad (Ryan) when he was fighting bulls there for many years. But it’s just one of those deals; times are changing.”

No kidding. In 2012 Byrne made it onto the PBR’s lucrative top circuit, the Built Ford Tough Series, where he’s the highest-ranked Canadian at No. 12 in the world standings; his career earnings are already $586,342; and he’s all in favour of moving the sport forward in Canada and seeing the PBR in Edmonton specifically.

“Right now maybe people are a little sad the CFR is leaving and it seems like the end of it. But they’ll go somewhere else and I think once the PBR hits town, all the fans that were mad the CFR is gone are going to be pretty happy the PBR came in.

“When we come into Edmonton it’s going to be nothing like the normal rodeo that you see. It’s a rock and roll concert, pyro, everything mixed into one, the best bulls in the world and the best riders in the world. It’s something we haven’t seen this big in Canada before. It’s huge that PBR is moving into Canada and we’re going to be showing off what we do. I can’t wait.”

The Oilers Entertainment Group signed a five-year deal with the PBR, now owned by International Management Group, to bring bull riding events to Rogers Place, starting in 2017. And the latest word from rodeo sources is that there will be two PBR events in Edmonton each year.

One of them will be a stop on the newly announced Monster Energy Canada Tour, which kicks off in Ottawa on Aug. 20 and makes its way through London, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Calgary, Abbotsford and Saskatoon.

“PBR will continue to expand in Canada, and grow the series beyond the seven cities we’ll visit from August through November of 2016, including a high-profile stop in Edmonton,” said PBR spokesperson Andrew Giangola, in an e-mail exchange. An official announcement should come in early July.

The Monster Energy Canada Tour events feature pots of $25,000 in prize money. That’s a good start. But it doesn’t sound like the flashy, high-profile affair that OEG has promised will replace the CFR and act as a complementary event for Farm Fair International at Northlands. So a second Edmonton event is likely to offer much more prize money, perhaps $150,000, and should feature a star-studded field that could have 20 Canadians and 20 international riders.

“I plan on being in Edmonton no matter what they bring there,” said Byrne. “I have a very good feeling Edmonton is going to be a huge event that I’m definitely looking forward to. To ride in Canada, as a Canadian, to represent Canada, you don’t get much better than that.

“I know it’s going to be amazing. Going into Edmonton, no matter which series it is, they’re going to go full out. It’s going to be a huge event and I’m just very, very psyched that the PBR is expanding into Canada.”

There have been recurring and one-off PBR events in Canada since 1996, but this is the first unified, competitive, fully televised, cross-country series here. Points earned at all seven stops will help riders qualify for the Built Ford Tough Series and World Finals in Las Vegas.

“It’s going to be a big thing for the Canadian riders,” said Byrne. “Because of this new series, the Monster Energy series that’s heading out east and coming out west, you’re going to see a whole lot more Canadian bull riders on the top tour.”

That should mean other Canadians will be living the dream, riding fewer but meaner bulls for more money than on the traditional rodeo circuit.

“I grew up watching the PBR and dreamed of being there,” said Byrne. “It’s the NHL of our sport. It’s the big leagues. Once you make it there, that’s what you’ve been gunning for your whole life. For me to get there was a big huge stepping stone and now I’m in the running for the world championship race. So now I train. I’m a professional athlete in all aspects. I work hard to be where I’m at to make money and live the life that I do.

“When I was rodeoing and going hard, you’re getting on a bull almost every day in the summer time especially, and it’s a huge grind and it’s not near the same amount of money. The PBR’s motto was less bulls, more money.”

dbarnes@postmedia.com

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