The gathering of Bomber greats this week has been touched by tragedy with the passing of Frank Rigney.
The former standout offensive lineman died in Vancouver on Tuesday, two days after suffering a heart attack. He was 74.
“You can’t have too many Frank Rigneys on your team,” his former coach, Bud Grant, said on Wednesday. “If you don’t have any, you can’t win.”
Grant was the one who signed Rigney, who played 10 years with the Bombers from 1958 to 1967. He appeared in five Grey Cups, winning four of them, and was voted the CFL’s top offensive lineman in 1961.
Ken Ploen and Rigney not only spent a successful decade together in Winnipeg, but they were also teammates at the University of Iowa and remained good friends.
“Frank Rigney was just a big moose of a tackle,” Ploen said Wednesday. “In short yardage situations it was never too difficult to come up with the play. I ran where Frank was or ran somebody where Frank was.
“He was a great individual. It’s a big loss. Sorry to see him go. He was still too damn young. He was something special.”
Rigney was a three-time CFL all-star. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1984 and into the Winnipeg Football Club Hall of Fame a year later.
“Frank was a tremendous football player during his time in Winnipeg,” Bomber president Jim Bell said in a release. “He will always be remembered as a champion throughout the province of Manitoba.”
Those who didn’t see Rigney play might remember him as a colour commentator for CBC and CTV football broadcasts. He also covered other sports for CTV.
READY TO GO: The Bombers conducted their final practice on Wednesday, and Paul LaPolice, who will be making his pro head coaching debut, believes his squad is prepared.
“It’s been a long time since the last game, so we’ve gotten our legs back and we’ve had a long time to talk about Hamilton, especially since we played them in the last game,” he said.
As for the plan of attack, LaPolice didn’t hide the fact that they need to smack around former Bomber pivot Kevin Glenn a little bit.
“We gotta make sure that we do a good job of making sure that we stop the run and make sure Kevin Glenn can’t get in a rhythm, because he’s pretty good when he’s in a rhythm,” he said.
KEY TO VICTORY: Considering he’s guided four Bomber teams to Grey Cup wins, Grant was asked what it takes to win a CFL title.
“Have the best players,” he said. “It’s not the best coaches. You gotta have the best players. Most coaches will win with the best players.”
BUD’S FASHION TIPS: Grant had an interesting answer Wednesday when asked if Blue and Gold still ran through his veins.
“I’m not quite sure I’m enamoured with the gold as it is today,” he said. “It’s a little bit duller than I remember. They changed the colour a little bit. The gold could be a little brighter, if you want my suggestions.”
LATE HITS: Receiver David Ball accepted a spot on Winnipeg’s practice roster and took part in Wednesday’s practice … The NFL Network will air 14 regular-season CFL games this season, including three Bomber contests … Alex Suber and Brandon Stewart will start at defensive halfback for the Bombers on Friday … According to the Hamilton Spectator, Ticats receiver Maurice Mann (ankle) hasn’t practised all week and is unlikely to play on Friday.