Retire some numbers

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:53 PM ET

Adios Joe Montana, hello Brett Favre.

Quarterback Buck Pierce is ditching the No. 16 he wore the last five years in B.C., dropping his homage to the former San Francisco 49er in favour of No. 4, a nod to the former Green Bay Packer and current Minnesota Viking.

“Coming out here, I thought it was time for a change,” Pierce was saying yesterday. “And I’m a big Brett Favre fan as well. We have some of the same traits.”

Don’t worry, Blue Bomber fans, Pierce isn’t waffling about playing this year.

And he’s not claiming he has as strong an arm, or grows as good a beard, as the NFL’s grizzled vet.

He was talking about how his all-out approach to football compares to Favre’s, that’s all.

Actually, if Pierce had his way, he’d be wearing No. 11 for the Blue and Gold this season.

“That was my high school and college number,” he said. “That was probably my first choice.”

But when he asked for that jersey earlier this week, he heard the name Ken Ploen for the first time, and was told he’d have to choose something else.

It’d be the same if anybody asked to wear 28 or 75, the other Bomber jersey numbers that have been unofficially “retired” for years.

There’s no written policy, just a tradition passed down by equipment managers over the decades.

“As long as I’ve been here, nobody’s ever used those,” current equipment boss Brad Fotty said. “A lot of people have asked for 11. We say it’s taken out of rotation for Kenny Ploen. He was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, quarterback to ever play for the team, so we just don’t use it anymore.”

The other two numbers were worn by Jeff Nicklin (No. 28) and Tommy Lumsden (75). Nicklin was killed in the Second World War, Lumsden fell ill and died on the operating table having his gall bladder removed while in his prime as a player, in the mid-1950s.

Wonder how many Bomber fans knew that?

With the team for the last 20 years, Fotty has since raised three more Bomber jerseys to the imaginary rafters: those belonging to legendary punter Bob Cameron (No. 6), honorary hog Chris Walby (63) and receiving legend Milt Stegall (85).

“If it’s up to me, I won’t ever assign them,” Fotty said.

Others are taken out of rotation temporarily.

Charles Roberts’ No. 1, for instance.

Linebacker Siddeeq Shabazz was going to wear it last season, but a backlash from fans caused then-president Lyle Bauer to suggest he switch.

“Word came from Lyle that maybe we should give it a year,” Fotty said. “So that’s fine. Charlie did a lot of great things for the team on the field. Absolutely, let’s honour and respect it for the year. This year somebody will be wearing it again.”

That somebody is backup quarterback Adam DiMichele.

This whole jersey issue raises the question: isn’t it about time this organization officially honours its all-time greats by retiring their numbers?

What better time than as it celebrates its 80th season?

Fotty says you have to be careful, because if you honour too many you run out.

“Look at the Montreal Canadiens nowadays,” he said. “How many guys are wearing odd numbers because they’re retired so many numbers?”

It’s even more of a problem in football, with bigger rosters and training camps involving 70, 80 players.

As Fotty points out, you could name a dozen Bombers, easily, who deserve the honour.

“Or do you do like some other teams who have a ring of honour with their name and their number? That’s something we could definitely do. I’d love to see stuff like that.”

So would we.

David Asper is promising a Bombers Hall of Fame in the new stadium.

Why wait?

Eighty years is long enough.


Videos

Photos