For five months leading up to the 103rd Grey Cup, the public had a chance to see some of the great moments and artifacts from Winnipeg Blue Bombers history on display at the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.
The Gridiron Greats exhibit helped relive some of the greatest moments in Winnipeg football history. For some people, the exhibit was a great reminder of the sport they’ve always loved. For others, it was a window into a world they never knew about.
The exhibit included cases displaying outstanding Canadians, high school jerseys of Manitobans who went on to play with other CFL teams, and a number of items from the Hall’s own collection, which otherwise remain kept in storage much of the time.
The Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame was fortunate enough to receive pieces of history from honoured members to put on display for the entire five months. In total, 26 people loaned items to the exhibit, including: Matt Dunigan, Ken Ploen, Khari Jones, Milt Stegall, Willard Reaves, and 2015 inductee Trevor Kennerd.
The exhibit walked viewers through decades of Winnipeg football history, starting from when the Winnipeg Football Club became the first western team to win the Grey Cup in 1935. It showcased the winning culture of the Bud Grant era in the late 50s and early 60s, it showcased the Jack Jacobs era that saw both the Blue Bombers and the CFL move in new directions.
Despite the lack of championship wins, recent history was not passed over either. People like Khari Jones and Milt Stegall were both recognized in displays for their achievements, even without a Grey Cup victory to their names.
The Gridiron Greats exhibit, and the 103rd Grey Cup being played in Winnipeg, led to a neat opportunity for the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.
Long since removed from his pro football career, and even further removed from his time as Head Coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Bud Grant still has a special place in the hearts of Winnipeggers.
Grant was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984. Until this year, he remained one of the few honoured members who had not been to the Hall in person. Many football fans remember Grant for his successes as Head Coach of the Minnesota Vikings, where he took the team to four Super Bowls. Others, however, remember him for his time in Winnipeg.
He played four seasons for the Blue Bombers as a two-way player, suiting up at both wide receiver and defensive back. The thing he’s most remembered for, however, is his stint as the team’s Head Coach. In 1957, at 30 years old, Grant took over as the head man of the team. In his first season he took them to the Grey Cup, ultimately losing to the Tiger-Cats. After getting his feet wet as a coach that year, he took the team to four of the next five Grey Cups, winning them all.
Rick Brownlee, Sport Heritage Manager, has been with the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame since he was a summer student there in 1983 and ’84. Until 2015, he had not met Grant.
“I don’t usually get starry eyed when it comes to these people,” says Brownlee, “but I was looking forward to meeting Bud Grant because of all that he means to the city. He’s always spoken very highly of Winnipeg and the CFL.”
November 2015 was the first time that Bud Grant went to the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, where he has been an honoured member for over 30 years. He was in town for the 103rd Grey Cup, and NFL Films was here with him shooting a segment about the legend.
The CFL Hall of Fame surprised Grant by bringing in the Grey Cup and his CFL Hall of Fame bust to the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame. Also, hanging in the exhibit was the 1959 Grey Cup banner, the second that Grant earned with the team.
Brownlee says that when Grant was looking up at the Grey Cup banner, the first words out of his mouth were “Where are the other three?”
(Note: If you are aware of any locations of the other three banners, 1958, 1961, or 1962, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org)
While visiting the Hall of Fame, Grant signed his name on the Wall of Inductees. He made sure to find Ken Ploen’s signature, because after all, Ploen was his quarterback, and he signed his name nearby.
The Gridiron Greats exhibit acted as a salute to the great players and faces in Blue Bombers history. Bud Grant’s return was a salute back to the fans.