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August 3, 2021

Guest Columnist Series | David Asper

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Canadian Football League are returning after a long absence. Bluebombers.com has invited three men with three different perspectives to offer up their thoughts on what they return means to them.

Next, diehard fan and long-time Bomber executive David Asper…

A Rivalry Renewed

I have a feeling that August 5th is going to be a really special day in Manitoba as the Blue Bombers return to play at IG Field.

It’ll be special because they’ll actually be playing football, fans will be in attendance and the game will be the first of the 2021 season. It will also feature the same two teams who last competed in a Canadian Football League game, at the Grey Cup in November 2019. Even though that Grey Cup victory seems like a long time ago, the rivalry between Winnipeg and Hamilton goes back a long, long way, and in some ways it might be as epic as the Blue Bombers rivalry with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Winnipeg and Hamilton have met a total of 11 times in the Grey Cup game. In fact, Winnipeg’s first Grey Cup victory – we were called the Winnipeg ‘Pegs back then and they were the Tigers – was in 1935 and this was also the first time a western-based team had ever won the cup. The Hamilton Flying Wildcats beat the Winnipeg RCAF Bombers in 1943 and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats beat us in 1953 and 1957.

The 1957 game is famous for two reasons: First, it marked the first time the Grey Cup was broadcast nationally on television. And secondly, that was the game where after Hamilton defensive back Ray ‘Bibbles’ Bawel intercepted a pass and was headed for the Bombers end zone, a fan on the sidelines stuck his leg out and tripped him. As the story goes, legendary CFL referee Paul Dojack had no idea what to do so he assessed a half-the-distance-to-the-goal-line penalty against the Bombers.

Then the Bud Grant-led Bombers went on a tear against Hamilton, winning the Cup four times in 1958, 1959, 1961 and 1962. There were a lot of big personality players on both teams in that era, and even the coaches got into a bit of trash talking against each other. The 1962 game was the ‘Fog Bowl’ where the field got enveloped in such thick fog that they had to postpone it and finish the game the next day. The 1962 game was also the last time the Bombers would win the Grey Cup for 22 years. Hamilton beat us in 1965 and that was the last time we even made it to the final until it was all made good again in 1984 – naturally, against the Ticats.

I was at that Grey Cup game in Edmonton and to be honest, I don’t recall too much about it after the second quarter. This was the big ‘Brock Busters’ game where Winnipeggers taunted our former quarterback Dieter Brock because of his comments that there was nothing to do in Winnipeg. Amid the controversy, he had been traded to Hamilton for Tom Clements. As fate would have it, they were pitted against each other in the big game. There are many highlights of that game, but mine is and will always be Tyrone Jones absolutely creaming Brock, which caused a fumble that Winnipeg’s own speedster defensive lineman Stan Mikawos ran into the Hamilton end zone. ‘Stash is still happy to discuss this event with anyone who will listen.

With that win, we ended a Grey Cup drought. But as we all know, droughts come and go, and another one set in after the 1990 Grey Cup. We didn’t end it until 2019 against, guess who? Hamilton. That’s twice that we broke through by beating the Tiger Cats, in 1984 and 2019.

Hamilton won most of the individual player awards in 2019 and they were favoured as being a higher-octane team. The underdogs came through!

Oh, and in between there have been many epic games. Who can forget when Hamilton was beating the Bombers in Winnipeg in late 2009 and, to rub salt in the wound, Hamilton players celebrated a touchdown by jumping into and dancing in a sponsor’s fishing boat in the end zone? So, while the Ticats players, coaches and Bob Young probably didn’t enjoy how the 2019 season ended, the fact that the football gods scheduled this game, at this moment, when we really start to emerge from the COVID pandemic, is really a fitting tribute to two proud and successful organizations, the fans and the history of the CFL.

We’ll save up some hoopla for the ‘Riders in due course, but to kick things off for the 2021 CFL season this is a great way to re-start the CFL, with one of the most storied matchups in the league’s history. Will the Ticats avenge their Grey Cup loss and ruin the party? Will the Bombers prove their point and win again?

I just can’t wait to get this game on. Go Blue!