No beer for Blue?

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:12 AM ET

It's been a common picture in football locker-rooms for decades: the sweat-drenched offensive lineman clutching a can of beer in a taped hand, enjoying the sweet, post-game taste of victory -- or washing down the bitter taste of defeat.

But it may soon be a thing of the past, at least here in Winnipeg.

In the wake of the drunk-driving death of a baseball player in St. Louis, Blue Bomber management is looking at banning alcohol in the locker-room, beginning this season.

"This has really brought the issue into the forefront, where we believe we have to do something about it," Bomber CEO/president Lyle Bauer said yesterday. "With what's happened, we have no choice but to look at it ... you'll probably see a change in our locker-room."

Three weeks ago, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock, drunk at the time, was killed when he smashed his vehicle into a parked tow-truck. Several Major League teams, including the Cardinals, responded by banning alcohol in their clubhouses.

Bauer and Bomber GM Brendan Taman discussed the issue this week, concluding a change in policy was necessary.

"Our GM and our head coach will meet with the player reps to speak about it," Bauer said. "Players should have a say in what happens. It is their locker-room."

However, unless players agree to accept a share of legal responsibility, the discussion will likely be short-lived.

"There can be significant liability issues," Bauer said. "And the club certainly isn't going to put itself in jeopardy, nor should we put other people in jeopardy, from a safety standpoint."

Providing beer to employees after a hard day's work might not be a common practice outside of sports, but it's engrained in the football workplace.

Many teams, often sponsored by beer companies, supply the bubbly after every game, and offensive linemen in particular have a history of indulging.

"It's certainly common knowledge that in past years there have been refreshments in locker-rooms," Bauer, himself a former lineman, said. "Although I don't think it's partaken of as much as it maybe used to be. Athletes have changed. The world has changed. People are being held more accountable for their actions."

Still, the Bombers could have a mini-revolt on their hands if they decide to go dry.

"It's something that's always gone hand in hand with sports," current lineman Matt Sheridan said. "There's always that solace in the bottom of the bottle or a case of beer. I can see the players not being happy about it. In the end, the locker-room is our home. That's where we work. We should feel free to enjoy ourselves and celebrate any victories we have there."

Sheridan says he understands the position the Bombers are taking, given what's happened.

But he wonders how far the ban will go.

"You're going to have some kind of booze police in there after a game?" he said. "You'd like to think if you left it up to our discretion we would be tasteful and adult about it, but unfortunately that's not always the case."

A spokesman for the CFL says there's no league-wide position on the issue -- teams can do their own thing.

Saskatchewan GM Eric Tillman says he plans to speak with new head coach Kent Austin about the Riders locker-room policies.

If nothing else, he'll make sure players are aware they are held to a high standard in Regina.

"We're not trying to become the Mormon Tabernacle Choir," Tillman said. "What we're trying to do is encourage responsibility, respect and mature decision making. We'll look at it in light of what happened in St. Louis."

More and more teams are.


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