'Toba Hall inducts Joe Pop

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

When Joe Poplawski first came to Winnipeg to try out for the Blue Bombers, he thought he might stick around for a couple of weeks. Never in his wildest dreams did the Edmonton product foresee himself becoming a star on the CFL football club and later, a fixture in the community.

"I had opportunities to leave Edmonton to go away on (football, hockey and soccer) scholarships but I wasn't ready to leave home," said Poplawski, who played for the Blue and Gold from 1978 to 1986 and highlights the 2004 Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame & Museum inductees that were announced yesterday. "When I left, I thought I was coming here for two weeks of training camp and going home. In my first three days, I didn't even line up as a receiver. I was a place kicker and punter and I was brutal. Absolutely awful. I didn't even get a playbook until the fourth day of camp and by the fifth day I was right in the competition at wide receiver. By the end of the second week, I called my dad and told him I was sticking around. I'm a perfect example of being in the right place at the right time."

Poplawski says beating the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 47-17 at Commonwealth Stadium to capture the 1984 Grey Cup remains a career highlight but when asked about vivid memories, he went back to his rookie season when he was asked to deliver a short kick against the Ottawa Rough Riders.

"On short kickoffs, Ray Jauch would pull me in," said Poplawski, who was inducted into the Blue Bomber Hall of Fame in 1990 and the CFL Hall of Fame in 1998. "Everybody was expecting the kickoff to be with my right foot but because of my soccer background I could kick it as good with my left so I sailed the ball across to Gordie Patterson, who catches the ball and probably could have run 55 yards for a touchdown, but he was so nervous that we executed it perfectly that he just fell down. Two plays later we got a touchdown. After the game, Coach Jauch presented Ralph (Dieter) Brock and I with the game ball. That was pretty special."

The 25th anniversary induction is slated for Nov. 13 at Canada Inns Polo Park.

Joining Poplawski in the athlete category are world handball champion Lisa Fraser-Gilmore, Henry Gerow for rifle shooting and Nick Mickoski, who will be honoured posthumously for his contributions to hockey and golf.

WON BOTH CHAMPIONSHIPS

Going into the team category are 1995 to 1997 Smitty's Senior A Women's Softball team, which won both provincial and national championships in each of those three seasons with very little roster turnover.

Entering the hall in the builder category are Ralph Cantafio (soccer), Aihlin Walker (golf) and Vic Pruden (basketball). Quarterback Jack Jacobs will be posthumously honoured as the veteran athlete and the 1958 Blue Bombers are the veteran team being enshrined.

Fraser-Gilmore recently gave birth to her second set of twins and plans to return to competition in January.

She said other sports, like volleyball, basketball and hockey, came to her more naturally but she was driven to succeed at handball after picking up the sport at the downtown YMCA in 1985.

"I was really bad (at first) and I consider myself fairly athletic,'" said Fraser-Gilmore, noting Merv Deckert is the only other handball player in the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame. "It was natural still, but it took a lot of work and practice for me, which was unusual. That kept me on the court and it just took off from there.

"There's nothing else like it for me. I can run, play tennis, do whatever but I don't get the same satisfaction as I do after I play handball."


Videos

Photos