Bell saved by the fax

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:48 AM ET

Graeme Bell is a big believer in things happening for a reason, especially since nearly dying 21 months ago after someone attacked him with a baseball bat.

It's why the Canadian running back and special teams standout is a member of the Edmonton Eskimos today and not a Winnipeg Blue Bomber -- despite signing contracts from both teams.

Weird, wild and wacky stories come out of free agency all the time, but Bell's just might take the cake.

It all began Sunday morning, when Bombers director of football operations Ross Hodgkinson faxed an agreed-upon contract to Bell, who lives in Saskatoon.

Bell double-checked the deal, signed it and faxed it back to the Bomber offices at 9 p..m. Sunday. He then went to the movies with his dad.

Meanwhile, back in Winnipeg, according to a source, the fax machine spat out blank pieces of paper that should have been Bell's signed contract.

According to the source, the Bombers figure Bell faxed the contract upside down.

The Bombers called Bell immediately, telling him the fax didn't come through, and he told them he would do it again after the movie.

Unfortunately for the Bombers, while Bell was at the theatre, CFL free agency began.

And that's when the Eskimos sprang into action, beginning an all-out assault, trying to convince Bell to come to Edmonton.

"I didn't know that free agency was like this," Bell said. "They came in far shy of the Winnipeg offer, but I'm thinking, 'Why did my fax not go through?'"

SLEEP ON IT

That thought was reason enough to give Bell pause, so he decided to sleep on it. The Eskimos resumed their vigourous pitch Monday morning and increased the salary, but it still wasn't what Winnipeg was offering.

Bell started realizing, however, that signing with Edmonton would allow his family to see him play more. His parents are in Saskatoon, and his sister, brother and sister-in-law live in Calgary.

Bell headed off to work at Winston's English Pub, where he is the manager. Now, normally it's the patrons who tell the bartender about their problems, but on Monday afternoon it was the other way around, with Bell asking his customers what he should do.

"They were all saying, 'Go to Toronto!'" Bell said. "It was kind of funny. I was in and out of the pub. I'd go to my car and think. It was a real whirlwind day, but it was somewhat entertaining when the patrons were getting involved."

Despite a last-minute pitch over the phone from Bombers head coach Mike Kelly, who told Bell he would get more playing time in Winnipeg, the three-year CFL veteran signed Edmonton's contract, which paid him less than Winnipeg offer, and faxed it to the Eskimos at 7 p.m. on Monday.

"When it all comes down to it, the reason the fax didn't go through is probably for a good reason," Bell said. "... I'm happy with the decision I made."


Videos

Photos