Picking the top 75 players in the history of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers was both fun and frustrating.
After all, you could pick one player from each season and not go far wrong.
But to try to pick the top 75 Bombers of all time was an exercise in frustration. We have, however, given it the old Winnipeg Sun try. We have based these selections on first-hand knowledge over the past three decades, then relied heavily on the reports of Vince Leah and Jack Matheson, both of whom inked historic tomes of the club, or should that be tomes of history?
One criterion we cannot ignore is if the player was inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame. And yes, some personal favourites may have gotten the nod over some oldies but goodies (although we have gone to great lengths to try to include them here). But feel free to register your agreement or displeasure.
This is the start of a weekly feature and from those who just made it in we take a closer look at receiver Rick House.
House was a pioneer.
The former Winnipeg Blue Bombers slotback became the first Canadian free agent to actually sign with an opposing team back in the 1980s. Much to the chagrin of then-Bomber head coach Cal Murphy.
"The idea was that the GMs had a (gentlemen's) agreement to leave each other's players alone," House recalled recently.
But Edmonton Eskimos GM Norm Kimball, who was seeking a replacement for aging slotback Tom Scott, had other ideas. And he signed House in 1985, the year after House had helped the Bombers win their first Grey Cup in 22 seasons. House went to two Cups with the Eskies, who won one of the best CFL championship matches ever played in 1987. Although he enjoyed the way he was treated in Edmonton, House wanted to return to Winnipeg.
"I went back to school (Simon Fraser) in '88 to become a certified teacher so I approached Mike Riley, who was the Bombers head coach then because I still had a house in Winnipeg and it was tough always moving my family around," House said. "I told him, if it could ever work out, I'd love to come back to Winnipeg. Well, Cal (who had become GM) wasn't ready for it yet."
BURIED THE HATCHET
The following year, House and Murphy finally buried the hatchet, and Murphy later acquired House from Edmonton "for a box of tape or something."
So, House finished his illustrious career by playing the last three years in his adopted hometown, where he is now a teacher. And, despite playing four years in Edmonton, House is still fourth on Winnipeg's all-time receiving list with 6,286 yards on 385 catches (also fourth). House, now 48, is also in the Bombers Hall of Fame and has earned the No. 69 spot on The Sun's top 75 Bombers of all time.
"I'm proud," House said of his top-75 selection. "There's been so many good players over the years. I did have a good career. It turned out pretty well."
House's fondest memories as a Bomber are when they beat B.C. in the 1984 West Final, then went on the defeat Hamilton in the Grey Cup.
"That was unbelievable," he said. "What made it so emotionally dramatic is that we had been trying for four years to get over the hump. We always felt we had the second-best team to Edmonton. That West Final in '84 was right up there in dramatics as well. That was quite an experience.
"But 1984 was kind of bittersweet for me because I was playing out my option. I was prepared to do anything because I felt I was being jammed here with no option and I didn't like that."
House refers to the 1987 Cup being the most suspenseful but winning the 1990 Cup with Winnipeg was perhaps the most special.
"It wasn't the best team but it was one of the most satisfying for me," House said. "Our defence was so good that the job of the offence was to not lose the game that year.
"The tension around the team in '89 had been terrible. When I came back, Sean Salisbury was the quarterback and Bob Baker was the offensive co-ordinator who ran an NFL offence -- except he had an extra guy on the field who ended up running around doing nothing. I had the benefit of being in some of the best offences in the CFL so I started raising some points. But I got called aside by someone in the backroom and he told me they said I was becoming a cancer and questioned whether they should get rid of me or not. So, I kept quiet."
And opposing defences shut the offence down. The next year, both Baker and Salisbury were gone and the Bombers wound up blasting Edmonton 50-11 in the Grey Cup.