Five enter Bomber Hall

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:26 AM ET

One was born in British Columbia, one in Ontario, but their paths crossed here in Winnipeg. It's here they've stayed, and here that their names will live on.

Former Winnipeg Blue Bomber offensive linemen Dave Vankoughnett and Brett MacNeil were among five inductees into the CFL club's hall of fame yesterday.

Joining them were import defensive lineman Michael Gray and, in the builder category, former club presidents Ross Brown and Joe Wilder.

Vankoughnett, from Kamloops, B.C., and MacNeil, born in Nepean, Ont., were teammates in the trenches through a large part of the 1990s.

Both have set up shop here since their playing days ended, and ranked the induction right up there with other career highlights.

"It caught me a little off guard," Vankoughnett, a former centre, said. "I didn't expect to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. It's truly an honour, and a fantastic feeling, for me and my family."

MacNeil, who mostly played guard, compared the thrill with making trips to the Grey Cup in 1992, '93 and 2001.

"It's definitely a career moment," he said. "Winning three Eastern Championships right here was pretty special, the way the fans would flow onto that field and you were surrounded by chaos. Those are great memories."

Although they played similar positions and made all-star teams, Vankoughnett and MacNeil couldn't have had more different personalities.

CEREBRAL APPROACH

Vankoughnett was a soft-spoken centre who took a more cerebral approach to the "hog" position than most.

MacNeil, nicknamed Lumpy because of his tendency to throw up before games, was a brawler who followed the philosophy, "If you can get away with it, it's legal."

Their personalities have even followed them into retirement: the bespectacled Vankoughnett has a career in sales and business, while MacNeil runs a martial arts club and coaches university football on the side.

Yesterday, though, the businessman admitted he may have gotten away with a few underhanded moves on the field, thanks to his partner.

"If you stirred up trouble, you could always blame it on (MacNeil)," Vankoughnett said. "Because everybody would believe it."

Like MacNeil, Vankoughnett never played for a Grey Cup winner, although he received a ring for being with the team during its last championship season, in 1990.

"The people I played with made it everything it was," Vankoughnett said. "We should have been there five times, at least, in those days."

A Bomber for 11 years, Vankoughnett retired after the 2000 season, and watched as his old team rolled to the '01 Grey Cup game, only to lose again.

MacNeil rates that loss as the toughest of his career.

Gray, on the other hand, was part of two championship Bomber teams, in '88 and '90.

It was his "immaculate interception" of a tipped pass that sealed the '88 win over the B.C. Lions.

Brown was the team president that year, in addition to serving the club in various other capacities since 1982.

Wilder was a director as far back as '71, and remained involved until the 1980s.


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