|Based in||Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada|
|Home field||Osborne Stadium (1935–1952)|
Canad Inns Stadium (1953–2012)
IG Field (2013–present)
|Head coach||Mike O'Shea|
|General manager||Kyle Walters|
|Team president||Wade Miller|
|League||Canadian Football League|
|Colours||Royal blue, gold, white|
|Nickname(s)||Bombers, Blue and Gold, Big Blue, True Blue|
|Mascot(s)||Buzz and Boomer|
|Grey Cup wins||11 (1935, 1939, 1941, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1984, 1988, 1990, 2019)|
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are a professional Canadian football team based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Blue Bombers compete in the Canadian Football League (CFL) as a member club of the league's West division. They play their home games at IG Field after many years of playing at the since demolished Canad Inns Stadium.
The Blue Bombers were founded in 1930 as the Winnipeg Football Club, which has always been the organization's legal name. Unlike most other professional teams in the four most popular North American team sports (but much more common in soccer, especially in Europe) the official legal name Winnipeg Football Club continues to see significant everyday use alongside its nickname, particularly in local media and especially when reporting on the club's business affairs. Another unique aspect to the club compared to other North American professional sports teams (but also more common in Europe) is that it is organized as a corporation without share capital, meaning no one person or entity "owns" the team - while there are two other "community-owned" non-profit professional football teams in the CFL and one in the NFL, unlike the Winnipeg Football Club they all have shareholders.
Since their establishment, the Blue Bombers have won the league's Grey Cup championship 11 times, most recently in 2019 when they defeated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 33–12 in the 107th Grey Cup. The team holds the record for most Grey Cup appearances of any team (25) and were the first club not located in Ontario or Quebec to win a championship.
The first football team in Winnipeg was formed in 1879, and was called the Winnipeg Rugby Football Club. On June 10, 1930, they amalgamated with all the other teams in the Manitoba Rugby Football Union to create the Winnipeg Winnipegs Rugby Football Club, adopting the colours green and white. The Winnipegs played their first game against St. John's Rugby Club on June 13, 1930, when St. John's won by a score of 7–3. In 1932, the Winnipegs and St. John's merged into one team and adopted the colours blue and gold.
Western teams had been to the Grey Cup game 10 times since 1909, but they had always gone home empty-handed. It was clear in those days that the East was much more powerful, outscoring their opponents 236–29 in these games. On December 7, 1935, the Bombers got their first shot at winning the 23rd Grey Cup. The game was being held in Hamilton, with the home-town Tigers being their opponents. It was a rainy day at Hamilton Amateur Athletic Association Grounds, with 6,405 fans in attendance.
Winnipeg was up 5–0 before many fans had even reached their seats. Hamilton player Jack Craig let the opening kickoff bounce to the turf while a Winnipeg player promptly recovered the ball at the Hamilton 15-yard line. Winnipeg scored quickly on a Bob Fritz pass to Bud Marquardt to get the early lead. After scoring another touchdown on a Greg Kabat catch in the endzone, Winnipeg went into halftime up 12–4. Their lead was soon cut to three points in the second half after Hamilton scored a touchdown of their own, helped by a blocked kick that placed the ball on the Winnipeg 15-yard line.
Then, after a Hamilton rouge, Winnipeg's RB/KR Fritz Hanson caught a punt, and after a few moves and a few missed tackles, was on his way to a 78-yard touchdown return, making the score 18–10. Hamilton would force a safety to bring themselves within six points, but failed to crack the endzone, getting as far as the Winnipeg four-yard line. The final score was Winnipeg 18, Hamilton 12. With that, Winnipeg had become the first team from Western Canada to win a Grey Cup.
In 1935, before an exhibition game against North Dakota State (NDSU), Winnipeg Tribune sports writer Vince Leah decided to borrow from Grantland Rice, who labelled Joe Louis as "The Brown Bomber". He called the team the "Blue Bombers of Western football". Up to that point, the team had been called the "Winnipegs". From that day forward, the team has been known as the "Winnipeg Blue Bombers". In that same year, the Blue Bombers, Calgary Bronks, and Regina Roughriders formed the Western Interprovincial Football Union as the highest level of play in Western Canada.
From 1936 to 1949, the Bombers won the right to compete for the Grey Cup in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1941, 1942, 1943, and 1945. Of these appearances, Winnipeg won only twice, in 1939 over the Ottawa Rough Riders and again in their 1941 rematch.
Jack Jacobs, known as Indian Jack, was a Creek quarterback from Oklahoma. He came to the Bombers in 1950 after a successful career in the United States. He led the Bombers to two Grey Cup appearances, losing both. His exciting style of play and extreme talent increased ticket sales and overall awareness and popularity of the club. The revenue the Bombers were getting from their newfound popularity was enough to convince them to move from the small, outdated Osborne Stadium to the new Winnipeg Stadium (later known as Canad Inns Stadium). Jacobs was so well liked, the fans even referred to the new stadium as "The House that Jack Built". Jacobs retired in 1954 to become a talent scout for the team.
In 1951, Jack Jacobs became the first professional football quarterback to throw for over 3,000 yards in a season with 3,248. That year, he was also the first professional football quarterback to throw for at least 30 touchdowns, with 33. The next year he bested that mark with 34.
Bud Grant joined the team in 1953 after a two-year stint with the Philadelphia Eagles, as one of numerous NFL players lured to Canada during the first part of the decade for then-better salaries. After a four-year career as a receiver, then at the time called an offensive end, he accepted the position of head coach of the Bombers in 1957. Grant went on to coach the team for the next 10 years before becoming the head coach of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings.
In 1956, Blue Bombers fans named Labatt's Pilsener Lager, which had a blue label, Labatt Blue, in honour of their team. In 1958, the Blue Bombers joined the newly-formed Canadian Football League and have competed there since.
During Grant's tenure as head coach, the Bombers welcomed the likes of Ken Ploen, Leo Lewis, Ernie Pitts, and Ed Kotowich to the team. The Bombers competed in six Grey Cup games during Grant's tenure, winning four (1958, 1959, 1961, and 1962). In 1961, the Bombers won 21–14 over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the first Grey Cup game to go into overtime. The Bombers and Ticats met again in the 1962 Grey Cup, with the game being postponed with 9:29 left in the fourth quarter due to zero visibility in the famous "Fog Bowl". The game resumed the next morning with the Bombers winning 28–27.
During the second half of the 1960s, the Bombers' domination gave away to lean years, with four seasons of double digits in the loss column. The team bounced back in the early 1970s with the likes of quarterback Don Jonas, running-back Mack Herron, wide receivers Jim Thorpe, and Bob LaRose. The team finished first in the Western Conference in 1972, the first time it had done so since 1962. However, the Bombers came up short in the Western Final against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. In the game, the Bombers squandered a 13-point, third quarter lead en route to a heartbreaking 27–24 loss, with Saskatchewan kicker Jack Abendschan converting a short field goal attempt on the last play of the game to send the 'Riders to the 1972 Grey Cup against Hamilton. The 1972 season also marks the last time the team has finished first in the West. The team struggled for a few more seasons under coaches Jim Spavital and Bud Riley before Ray Jauch was brought in as head coach before the 1978 season. Under Jauch, the Bombers became one of the stronger teams in the West, but usually behind Jauch's former team, the powerhouse Edmonton Eskimos coached by Hugh Campbell.
In 1981, wide receiver Eugene Goodlow became the first CFL player to reach the century mark in receptions in a season. Goodlow caught 100 passes for 1,494 yards and 14 touchdowns. That season, the Bombers became one of the first teams to have three receivers with at least 1,000 yards in a season: Goodlow with 1,494, Joe Poplawski with 1,271, and Rick House with 1,102.
In 1983, Cal Murphy was hired to be the new head coach of the Blue Bombers. Almost immediately, Murphy set the tone for his career with the Bombers by trading popular QB Dieter Brock at midseason (because of Brock's desire to play in the USFL) to Hamilton in exchange for QB Tom Clements. Trading Brock turned out to be a wise decision, with Clements leading the Bombers to crushing victory in the 1984 Grey Cup, coincidentally over the Brock-led Tiger-Cats. This was Winnipeg's first Grey Cup in 22 years, and also their last win and appearance in the championship game as the Western representative until the 107th Grey Cup victory. Murphy was named coach of the year in both 1983 and 1984.
In 1987, Murphy stepped down as head coach to become the team general manager, with assistant coach Mike Riley (son of former Winnipeg coach Bud Riley) taking over head-coaching duties. Then, just prior to the start of the 1987 season, the Montreal Alouettes folded. With the East Division suddenly down to three teams compared to five in the West, the league moved the Blue Bombers to the East to balance the divisions.
Under Riley, the Blue Bombers quickly made an impact in the East, winning Grey Cups over their former division rivals B.C. and Edmonton in 1988 and 1990 respectively and garnering Riley the coach of the year award both championship seasons. After Riley left, Darryl Rogers and Urban Bowman each led the team for a season until 1993, when Murphy took over head-coaching duties again. Murphy went on to lead the team to a total of five Grey Cup appearances, winning, as a coach in 1984, and as a GM, in 1988 and 1990. He left the club after the 1996 season, having spent 14 years with the team. Later, he would coach the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1999.
Winnipeg would play a total of eight consecutive seasons in the East before moving to the newly created North Division in 1995 during the CFL's expansion to the United States. With the end of the CFL's American experiment a year later, and the re-establishment of the Alouettes, the Blue Bombers would return to the re-constituted West Division. This arrangement would also last only one season, as Winnipeg returned to the East again for the 1997 season after the Ottawa Rough Riders ceased operations.
In November 1996, Cal Murphy left the Blue Bombers' organization after 14 years. This was partly due to a 68–7 playoff thumping by the Edmonton Eskimos, and partly because the team had not had a winning record the previous two years, winning only seven games in 1995, and nine in 1996.
Jeff Reinebold was hired to replace Murphy as the team coach, and despite a huge amount of hype, and championship promises going into the 1997 season, he proved to be one of the least successful head coaches in team history. The Bombers won four games in 1997, and just three in 1998.
The few notable highlights from that era include:
Milt Stegall joined the Bombers in 1995 after a three-year career returning kicks and seeing spot duty at receiver with the Cincinnati Bengals. He played in the Bombers' final six games of the 1995 season, racking up 469 receiving yards. In 1997, Stegall set a new league record that still stands today for average gain per reception with 26.5 yards on 61 catches for 1616 yards, including 14 touchdowns. Following a brief return to the NFL, that saw him on the verge of making the New Orleans Saints if not for a serious knee injury at the end of training camp, Stegall remained the team's primary receiver.
In 1999, the Bombers acquired Khari Jones from the BC Lions. Together, Stegall and Jones brought the Bombers back to prominence, with Jones being the CFL's most outstanding player in 2001, and Stegall getting the honour in 2002. During the 2006 Grey Cup, Khari Jones and Milt Stegall were voted and honored as the best QB/WR combo in CFL history. Charles Roberts joined them in 2001, a year which the Bombers went to the Grey Cup, which they eventually lost to the Calgary Stampeders. The following season, Winnipeg returned to the West Division following the establishment of the Ottawa Renegades. The team was a powerhouse during this period, being one of the best teams in the league from 2001 until 2003.
Midway through the 2004 season, Jones was traded to the Calgary Stampeders, with backup QB Kevin Glenn taking over the starting duties. Glenn led the team to two mediocre seasons after the trade. Prior to the 2006 season, the Renegades suspended operations and Winnipeg once again returned to the East Division.
With the offensive core of Stegall and Roberts still intact, Glenn led the Bombers back to respectability in 2006. The season included many highlights, but none as exciting at what is simply known as "The Play". On July 20, 2006, trailing the Edmonton Eskimos on the road 22–19, and facing third and long on their own 10-yard line with 4 seconds left in the game, Milt Stegall caught a 100-yard TD pass from Kevin Glenn as time expired to win the game 25–22. It is considered by many as the greatest play in CFL history. Aided by the "miracle" catch, the Bombers ended up making their first playoff appearance in two years. Despite losing in the first round, optimism going into the 2007 was higher than ever.
The 2007 CFL season was in some ways the year of Milt Stegall: he broke the career CFL touchdown record and fell just short of overtaking the career receiving yards record held by Allen Pitts. The 2007 season would likely be Stegall's last, as he was 37 years old and had been contemplating retirement for the previous two seasons.
The 2007 Grey Cup game was played between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the first time the two teams met for the championship. Winnipeg was defeated by the Saskatchewan Roughriders 23–19 in the Rogers Centre in Toronto. During the East division final win over the Toronto Argonauts, quarterback Kevin Glenn broke his arm and Winnipeg was left with an inexperienced rookie to take his place for the championship game. Back-up quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie — in his first CFL start — did not fare well and threw one touchdown pass, fumbled once and threw three interceptions to Saskatchewan cornerback James Johnson. Johnson was later declared the game MVP.
One of the picks was shown in the instant replay to have hit the ground before it was caught. Despite his rookie mistakes, Dinwiddie showed promise going into the 2008 season. He was released prior to the 2009 season.
It was announced on January 31, 2008 that Milt Stegall would be returning for one more year for the 2008 season. He signed a one-year contract for $200,000 on the basis of the fact his wife wanted to have their next child in Winnipeg, and the fact that they were in line to be a contender for the Grey Cup. He took a $50,000 pay cut, and started the season 159 yards away from breaking Allen Pitts' all-time receiving yards record.
Other returning players who were free agents going into the 2008 season, including star DE Tom Canada, OL's Dan Goodspeed, and Matt Sheridan, signed for less money from the Bombers than other teams were prepared to pay them, in hopes of a Grey Cup run in '08. Tom Canada, in particular, reportedly turned down a much higher contract offer from the Montreal Alouettes, to come back to Winnipeg.
The Bombers made a surprise trade when they sent all-star running back Charles Roberts to B.C. for Joe Smith on September 2, 2008. Then on September 8, 2008, they traded all-star DE Tom Canada to Hamilton for Zeke Moreno. But on September 9, 2008, the trade was cancelled because Canada was injured and could not play for at least 10 weeks. So, since they could not trade Canada, they sent over Corey Mace and a first-round pick for Moreno.
Following the 2008 season in which the Bombers were defeated in the division semifinals, Doug Berry (the head coach) was fired. Mike Kelly was chosen to replace him. At the end of the Cal Murphy era, Mike Kelly was the offensive coordinator and was passed over for the top job in favour of Jeff Reinebold. With Milt Stegall's early-season knee surgery and drop in production, it was once again speculated that Milt Stegall would retire.
The departure of Brendan Taman on January 13, 2009, was another sign that this era was coming to an end and a new one was beginning. On February 18, 2009, Milt Stegall did retire from the CFL which formally ended the Milt Stegall era.
The return of Mike Kelly opened a new Cal Murphy era, and the board hoped to bring back Murphy's success. However, Kelly was fired by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Board of Directors on December 17, 2009, after one year of employment.
Paul LaPolice was introduced as the 28th head coach in Blue Bombers history on February 5, 2010. The new coach emphasized the idea of "team" and playing for the uniform. He also made it a point to talk about fixing problems rather than making excuses. The new paradigm was tested in the 2010 season in which the team finished 4–14 and missed the playoffs for the second straight year. Nine of those games were lost by four points or fewer, while 10 were lost by a touchdown or less.
The 2011 season featured an almost completely unchanged team (save for a few losses to the NFL and a few gains from the draft). The Blue Bombers reversed their standings from last place in the east in 2010 to finishing in first place in the East division with a 10–8 record. The team success hinged on a league-leading defence dubbed Swaggerville, which led them to their first division title in 10 years. The team advanced to the 99th Grey Cup after defeating Hamilton in the Eastern Final. However, they lost to the favoured BC Lions by a score of 34–23.
On August 9, 2013, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers announced that CEO Garth Buchko stepped down and General Manager Joe Mack was fired.
The CFL returned to Ottawa in 2014 with the establishment of the Redblacks. Initially, the league planned to keep Winnipeg in the East, at least for the short term, due in part to the ongoing competitive dominance of the West. Despite this, Blue Bombers management lobbied heavily to return to the West Division immediately (for historical reasons), and eventually the league relented. The Blue Bombers finished last place in their first season back in the West, with a 7–11 record.
After being named the acting CEO in August 2013 Wade Miller was announced as the CEO and President of the Club on November 12, 2013. The shake up of the top brass in 2013 also led to Kyle Walters having to take over the acting GM duties, which were made officially his on November 26, 2013 when he was named the General Manager.
Mike O'Shea was hired by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on December 4, 2013, to become the team's 30th Head Coach in team history. O'Shea would help the team return to the playoffs when he made the switch to Matt Nichols as the starting quarterback. The team still failed to advance to a Grey Cup despite the rise in success. During the 2019 season, an injury to Matt Nichols and a suspension to Andrew Harris seemed to end their season. The Bombers traded for Zach Collaros right before the trade deadline, who joined his third team for the year. Collaros formed a quarterback pairing with Chris Streveler. The two quarterbacks' play, behind the dominant performance of the defence saw the team win their 11th championship at the 107th Grey Cup, breaking a 29-year drought. Hometown player Harris became the first player ever to win the Grey Cup MVP and Grey Cup Most Valuable Canadian.
Special Teams Coaches
|Pending Free Agents