Blue to honour gridiron legends

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:44 AM ET

If the star power in Winnipeg this week actually does rub off on the Blue and Gold, you can expect an undefeated season and the end of the club’s 19-year Grey Cup drought.

Brock, Grant, Stegall, Riley, Tinsley, Murphy (both Cal and James), Jonas, Poplawski, Walby, Cameron and Ploen. It was quite the collection that gathered for Wednesday night’s annual fundraising Legacy Dinner. The group will also be celebrated during Winnipeg’s home-opener against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday night.

Mike Riley, the last man to guide the Bombers to a Grey Cup win, had never met Bud Grant, and there they were Wednesday afternoon at Canad Inns Polo Park, sitting beside one another while posing for a picture.

“It’s pretty special,” said Riley, now the head coach at Oregon State University. “I worked for Cal (Murphy) for all those years and then to finally get to meet Bud Grant … I’d heard so much about him and then of course watched him on TV for a long time.

“And then all the players, a few of them that I coached. It’s a pretty unique thing to be a part of. I’m very honoured for all that. Just through time it’s just nice to meet more and more people who have been associated with the Blue Bombers.”

The club’s career passing leader, Dieter Brock, is back in Winnipeg for the first time in 20 years. One of the first things he did when he arrived was get together with Joe Poplawski and Rick House for some reminiscing.

“I’m really thrilled, just to have the opportunity to be back here with these wonderful guys and to see Winnipeg again,” Brock said. “I’m looking forward to the game on Friday night. It’s just a tremendous honour to be recognized.

“When I talk about my career, it’s Winnipeg. There’s no doubt about it, it’s the Blue Bombers.”

Grant, who guided the Bombers to four Grey Cups in the 1950s and ’60s, was impressed with the group photo taken on Wednesday.

“If you went through the resume of all these great players and coaches here, you’ve got the best in Canada, certainly in Winnipeg,” Grant said. “It’s interesting to talk to them and share our experiences in Winnipeg. I assure you they’re all good.”

Grant’s quarterback from back in the day, Ken Ploen, still lives in Winnipeg and witnessed the damage that the Bomber brand suffered in 2009. He is hopeful that the franchise’s 80th anniversary celebrations will have a positive effect on this year’s team.

“Football clubs go through ups and downs, and we’ve had a few downs along with our ups,” Ploen said. “It’s a great city. They support well, winning or losing, and it’s great to have this function going on here because I think it’s going to be a special year and I’m sure it’s a bit of an incentive for the football club.”

The Bomber legends will be signing autographs at Canad Inns Stadium on Thursday between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Leo Lewis was unable to attend this week’s festivities for personal reasons.

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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