Blue and Gold need to earn ticket to big dance, Bauer hears

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:33 AM ET

When Winnipeg last hosted the Grey Cup, in 1998, the Blue Bombers were so far out of the playoff picture that they needed binoculars to watch the big game.

Almost everyone who stepped up to the microphone at yesterday's press conference noted how nice it would be to have the home team involved when the Grey Cup returns to River City in 2006.

The poor sap who stood in their cross hairs, a man who wasn't even with the club when it had a 3-15 record in 1998, was current Winnipeg Football Club president and CEO Lyle Bauer.

"Now, Lyle, I'm leaving it up to you to make sure the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will be in this Grey Cup," Mayor Sam Katz cracked. "That's your job."

Even Bauer's own boss, WFC chairman Gene Dunn, issued a public plea for football greatness in two years.

"I'd like to publicly state that Lyle Bauer has one responsibility for the 2006 Grey Cup game," Dunn said, "and that's to make sure that the Blue Bombers are not spectators."

No one more than Bauer wants the Bombers to be playing that day.

"We will be doing our damnedest to make sure Blue and Gold is in the picture," he said.

The Bombers will complete a turbulent 2004 campaign tomorrow night against the Calgary Stampeders. Their record is 6-11 and they will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

The last time the Bombers won the Grey Cup was in 1990.

LAST SHOT AT GLORY? Bombers slotback Milt Stegall, who has played his entire 10-year CFL career in Winnipeg, has never won a Grey Cup.

When the idea was floated by him yesterday that he could win a CFL title on his home turf and then ride off into retirement, the future hall of famer wasn't so sure.

"That would be nice, but I don't know how realistic that actually is," said Stegall, who will be 36 years old on Nov. 19, 2006. "I can't think that far ahead. That would be nice, that would be an ideal situation, and anything is possible, but I don't know how realistic that is."

Stegall, who was the league's Most Outstanding Player in 2002, has been talking retirement, but wants to play next season, and the Bombers want him to return.

Barring a renegotiated contract, Stegall will become a free agent in February 2006.


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