WINNIPEG - They opened the season with a victory on Friday.
They did it on the road.
And the Winnipeg Blue Bombers won when a loss could have been lost in the euphoria surrounding the return of the NHL Jets to Winnipeg.
“To get off to a good start was great, especially on the road,” Bombers assistant GM Ross Hodgkinson said Sunday. “That gets a huge monkey off our back.
“We haven’t had a great deal of luck over last year, so I think we sent a little bit of a message (Friday).
And beating Hamilton 24-16 in a CFL game in light of the Jets pandemonium?
“It’s important for us to win and be competitive regardless of who else is here,” Hodgkinson said. “The city deserves competitive teams and we’re doing a lot more to provide that.”
A Hamilton Spectator columnist suggested the Bombers are “in a dogfight for eyeballs and relevance now that the Jets have returned to town and essentially sucked up most of the oxygen in Manitoba.”
We’re guessing he missed the fact the Bombers sold about 23,000 season tickets despite the fact the Jets sold theirs out faster than a New York minute (or at least the last ones they made available).
“Everyone wants a winner, there’s no doubt about that,” Hodgkinson said. “This city is very sports-minded and very sports-educated and I think our players realize that. It’s a passionate city for sports so we are under the microscope a little more and that’s proven to be a huge benefit for us.”
And he welcomes the Jets back.
“It was a difficult thing for a lot of people to swallow when they left and it was deserving of the city to get them back,” said Hodgkinson, who was impressed the Bombers won despite losing such veteran starters as receiver Terrence Edwards (ribs) and cornerback/punt returner Jovon Johnson (hip pointer) to injury against Hamilton.
“And we played the game without Clint Kent who has become a real stalwart at outside linebacker,” Hodgkinson added. “That’s a credit to the guys who stepped up.”
Johnson took a shot on a punt return and Hodgkinson does not expect he or Edwards to be out of action long. But the Bombers will not know the full extent of any of the injuries until the players visit the doctor Monday morning.
“There’s going to be a lineup outside the doctor’s office,” he said.
Kent (ankle) may not be out for more than one more game while safety Brady Browne (biceps) and receiver Kito Poblah (knee) could be out longer.