Happy Saturday, folks.
I’ve been thinking this week about the first time I went on a Bombers road trip.
It was late November of 1989 and the Blue and Gold were off to Hamilton to play the Tiger-Cats in the CFL’s Eastern Final. Winnipeg football fans had endured a roller-coaster 7-11 season by the defending Grey Cup champs, but their hopes for a title repeat were a tad buoyed after the Bombers beat the Toronto Argonauts 30-7 in the Eastern semifinal.
Our Bombers beat guy Dave Supleve was already out east, having covered the victory over the Boatmen at SkyDome and now we were sending additional manpower — myself and columnist Scott Taylor — to Hamilton for the match with the Ticats.
I wasn’t privvy to the decisions back then — sports editor Hal Sigurdson made those calls — but I presume we wanted to have a full contingent on hand for when/if the Bombers went on to the following week’s Grey Cup.
Siggy was also on the road that weekend, covering the Western Final in Edmonton between the Eskimos and the Saskathewan Roughriders.
For those who don’t recall, the Bombers came up short against the Tabbies, dropping a 14-10 decision.
The Hamilton front four sacked Bombers QB Lee Saltz seven times in that game. Saltz had taken over as the team’s starting QB for the playoffs after GM Cal Murphy banished Sean Salisbury for what he thought was a lousy attitude by the season-long starter.
The Bombers had their chances to score an upset vs the Ticats as they were inside Hamilton’s 40-yard line four times in the game’s final seven minutes, but failed to produce a winning score.
Trevor Kennerd missed three field goal attempts although he felt two of the whiffs — from 28 and 31 yards out — actually went through the uprights and the officials made a mistake.
Bob Cameron punted an incredible 17 times in the game, as the offence was unable to match the play of its teammates on defence.
Aside from the game, I recall being pretty darn excited to be on the road as a football reporter.
Keep in mind it was the late 80s and what happens on the road mostly stays on the road — no, Bluto wasn’t there — but I can share with you a few recollections:
Air travel was much different back then and I fondly recall a pleasant flight that included dinner — I used to quite enjoy the meal on the plane — and complimentary beverages.
I also recall landing just as the snow started to fall and Scott and I driving in a rental car from Pearson International to the Sheraton in Hamilton in a snowstorm.
Hamilton was a bit of a CFL hub back then — the league would hold the annual draft and board of governors meetings there as well — and the go-to spot for dinner was an Italian spot called Lo Prestis. Yes, there was a connection to former-NHL goalie Pete.
And man, former Winnipeg Sun staffer Jim Bender shoots a mean game of pool.
Despite the Bombers not winning the game, our Freep troupe carried on to Toronto for the Grey Cup game — still considered one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, championship game in league history. The Roughriders, who had upset the Eskimos in the West Final, defeated the Tiger-Cats 43–40 as Dave Ridgway drilled ‘The Kick’ through the uprights on the final play of the game to give Saskatchewan its first Grey Cup in 23 years.
As some of you know, I was a Riders fan as a kid growing up in Regina, so it was hard a bit hard to contain my joy when Ridgeway booted the game winner. I had previously been advised that cheering was verboten in the press box.
However, my memory of doing interviews on the field afterwards — I will always remember the satisfaction on the face of longtime Riders offensive lineman Roger Aldag — is perhaps only matched by the memory of Rod Hill handing me the Cup for swig of champagne the following November when the Bombers reclaimed their crown in the 1990 Grey Cup at BC Place.
Our Taylor Allen is on his first Bombers road trip this weekend, off to Edmonton to cover the team’s game with the Elks.
No pressure: only our entire readership is counting on you.
I don’t have any grand stories to tell Taylor — or you — about road trips to Edmonton: only that I may have had a pint or two at a place called Sherlock Holmes. Feel free to have one on the boss.
Have a great weekend folks and enjoy the game. FYI, it starts tonight at 8:45 pm.
Don’t ask. I have no idea.
As always, you can reach me by replying to this mailing or by sending me an email here.
— Sports editor Steve Lyons
• 5 Storylines: Taylor Allen provides an in-depth preview of Bombers game vs the Edmonton Elks;
• In the huddle: He also has a yarn on new Edmonton QB Taylor Cornelius, who is starting in place of an injured Trevor Harris;
• Time to bloom: Mike McIntyre has a column on Jets forward Kristian Vesalainen and how it could be this season that the first-round pick finds his place in the lineup;
• Striping it: Mike also has the tale on Winnipegger Justin Johnson being hired by the NHL to be a new linesman this season — the first local product in 20 years to get the call;
• Crowded house: Jeff Hamilton was out at the Iceplex to take in the Jets pro minicamp and has a story on defenceman Ville Heinola and where the top draft pick fits into the team’s plans this season;
• On the farm: He also has a yarn on Moose defenceman Leon Gawanke and the pressure of being in the final year of his entry-level deal and his potential to play for Germany in the Olympics;
• On ICE: And finally, Mike Sawatzky has a story on 16-year-old forward Zach Benson, who is looking to improve on an impressive debut with the local WHL team last season.
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Free Press sports editor Steve Lyons and columnist Mike McIntyre are back with plenty of puck talk as the Winnipeg Jets hit the ice this week for the start of training camp. They discuss the key battles and burning questions heading into a new season. They also look at how the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have surged to the top of the CFL standings, the high-flying Toronto Blue Jays, how they spent their recent summer vacations and concerts on their bucket lists.