Bombers saddened by death

JIM BENDER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:35 PM ET

HAMILTON -- The words kept catching in Ryan Donnelly's throat.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers had just been greeted with the news that Tiger-Cats special advisor Ron Lancaster had lost his latest battle with cancer yesterday.

"I'm shocked," Donnelly said. "I just went through my head, 'Wow.' I can't believe it happened. It feels like I was just on the field here in Hamilton talking to him the other day. He was always a positive guy and one of the favourite coaches I ever played for."

The former Tiger-Cat offensive lineman spoke in stops and starts.

"He's ... the guy I respected in football ... He coached me my first couple of years," he said. "He was always a class guy, always a guy you wanted to be around to talk football ... A great guy to be with."

One of the Canadian circuit's all-time greatest players, a Grey Cup-winning head coach and both a TV and radio personality, Lancaster personified the CFL he loved.

"It was so shocking because I just saw him about three weeks ago," said former Tiger-Cat linebacker Zeke Moreno. "After he went to one of his treatments, he came to the office and they presented him with a big card with his picture and bunch of signatures, a bunch of, 'Get Well Soons' and he was there to accept it. He looked good. He was actually playing golf. He played nine holes that day and looked really good. He looked like a man who still had a lot of fight in him. It's very disappointing and sad."

Moreno suggested that tonight's Hall of Fame Game is the appropriate one to celebrate Lancaster's memory.

"This weekend is all about guys like that who paved the way for us in the CFL," he said. "This game's going to be extra special because he passed away. For the CFL and especially the City of Hamilton -- he was a rock star here -- he's irreplaceable and he's going to be missed."

Bomber wide receiver Arjei Franklin learned of the Lancaster legend as he grew up, just as most Canadian kids do.

"I always knew he was one of the big names in the CFL, definitely as a coach, and I also learned about his success as a player in Saskatchewan," Franklin said. "Hearing that he passed away (Wednesday) night was a shock to me and, I think, to this country. We just want to send our best to his family and I hope that people will celebrate his accomplishments."

Bomber head coach Doug Berry has respected Lancaster as both a coach and as just a regular guy since he first arrived on the CFL scene back in 1999.

"That's an incredible loss to the CFL," summed up Bomber defensive lineman Doug Brown. "As a player, a coach, whatever aspect he's been involved in, it's a tremendous loss."


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