The Encyclopedia of CFL History

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

[The history section below also covers other Winnipeg teams]

Colours:  Blue and Gold

Founded:  1930

Grey Cups Won:  10 (1935, 1939, 1941, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1984, 1988 and 1990)
Grey Cups Lost: 16 (1937, 1938, 1942*, 1943*, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1950, 1953, 1957, 1965, 1992, 1993, 2001, 2007, and 2011)

* The 1942 and 1943 teams went under the name Winnipeg RCAF Bombers.  They were composed mainly of Blue Bomber players, but added other players from city league the Bombers were playing in with the WIFU having suspended action.  The CFL Facts & Figures lists those two years separately from the Bomber record, but they are listed in the Winnipeg media guide for the Bombers.

The Winnipeg Tammany Tigers played in one Grey Cup in 1925 and lost.

All-Time Blue bomber Roster


The Winnipeg Blue Bombers trace their official start back to 1930 when the Winnipeg Football Club was formed, but football in Manitoba goes back well before that date.  Football / Rugby in the West was initially organized along provinical lines with provincial football unions such as the Manitoba Rugby Football Union (MRFU).  Each of the western provinces would determine a champion and a western champion would be determined by a series of playoff games.  Starting in 1921, the Western champion travelled East to challenge for the Grey Cup. The Winnipeg Victorias were the first Winnipeg team to become Western champions in 1924, but a dispute between the players and team officials over which rail line to use for the trip East to the Grey Cup kept them from challening for the cup that year. The Winnipeg Tammany Tigers were the first Winnipeg based team to play in the Grey Cup, losing to the Ottawa Senators (the Rough Riders had termporaily changed their name for a few seasons) in 1925 by a lopsided score of 24-1. 

In June, 1930 the Winnipeg Football Club was formed from the merger of teams in the MRFU, including the Tammany Tigers.  Eventually, the newly formed club would officially add the nickname Blue Bombers in 1937.  During this period, there were two or three teams in the MRFU consisting of the Winnipeg Football Club (often referred to as the Winnipegs or the Pegs), St. John's College and the University of Manitoba.  The latter would eventually move over to the Western Intercollegiate loop when it was formed.  St. Jonn's College, an Anglican college and now part of the University of Manitoba, was the Manitoba representative in the West playoffs from 1928 to 1932.  In each of those years, however, the St. John's team lost to the Regina Roughriders, at least partly because the best local talent in Winnipeg was split between the two teams.  Tired of losing to their Western neighbors, the Winnipeg Football Club and St. John's College merged to start the 1933 season.  The new team continued with the name Winnipeg Football Club, but were most often called the Winnipegs or Pegs.  Pegs was not a team nickname like Roughriders, but just a shorthand form of referring to the football team from Winnipeg. In other words, there was no team called the Winnipeg Pegs as is sometimes given.   One consequence of the merger was that there was no league left for the team to play in as the University of Manitoba had at that time stopped its football program.  The solution was for the Pegs to play exibition games against university teams from Minnesota and North Dakota where they would play one half using Amerian college rules and one half using Canadian rules.  The team would then participate in the Western playoffs in November.  This continued through the 1935 season, and then the team joined the new Western Interprovincial Football Union (WIFU) when it was formed in 1936 along with the Regina Roughriders and the Calgary Bronks.  The 1933 merger paid immediate dividends as the Winnipeg team defeated the Regina Roughriders in the West semi-final and won the West title by beating the Calgary Altomahs.  Rather than going directly to the Grey Cup, however, the Canadian Rugby Union (CRU) which ran the Grey Cup, decreed Winnipeg would play the Toronto Argonauts in a semi-final and the winner would play the ORFU champion Sarnia Imperials in the Grey Cup.  Winnipeg played well against the Argonauts but lost 13-0.

1934 was a bit of a step backward for the Winnipegs as they lost to the Regina Roughriders in the West playoffs again.  This didn't sit well in Winnipeg, and they set out to change things.  In a move that would have lasting repercusions on the whole game of football in Canada, Winnipeg recruited a number of American players.  The most notable of these players was the legendary Fritz Hanson.  Bolstered by the imports, the Winnipeg team would not only defeat the Regina RoughrRiders Roughriders in the West playoffs in 1935, but went on to win the first Grey Cup by a Wesetern team, defeating the mighty Hamilton Tigers 18-12. The victory by Winnipeg, would set off an East-West fight about imports and eventually lead to the formation about rulesto govern the numb er of import players a team could use.  There certainly had been other Amercicans playing football in Canada prior to 1935. These were mostly guys who had migrated to Canada or came here for work and just happened to play football.  Starting in 1929, teams had begun to actively recruite the odd American specifically to play football, but Winnipeg took it to a new level with seven imports on the 1935 team, recruited specifically to beat the Roughrdiers and capture the Grey Cup from the East..

1936 sw the first use of the term Blue Bombers.  Credit for that goes  to Vince Leah, a writer for the Winnipeg Tribune. During a 1936 exibition game against the University of North Dakota, Leah called the Winnipeg team Blue Bombers in comparing them to the then heavy weight boxing chamption Joe Louis, who had the nickname "The Brown Bomber".  The name caught on and was officially adopted by the team in 1937.

Starting with the 1935 Grey Cup win, the Blue Bombers would go on to become the dominant team in Western football for the next dozen years or so.  In a 13 year period from 1935 to 1947, the Bombers would play in 10 Grey Cups. In fact, in that stretch, the three years in which the Bombers were not in the Grey Cup, there was no Western team present due to disputes over rules or because of WW II.  Besides 1935, Winnipeg would win the cup again in 1939 and 1941.  The seven losses in that time period would include three straight after the war (1945-47) to a powerful Toronto Argonaut squad coached by Teddy Morris and led by stars Joe Krol and Royal Copeland. There was a bit of irony in the Toronto wins since the Argonauts were proudly made up entirely of Canadians and beat the team that had first popularized the import.

The war years deserve a special mention in Bomber history.  The WIFU suspended play from 1942 to 1945, though in 1945 there was set of playoff games to determine the West champion and representative in the Grey Cup.

In 1942, while most other cities had a shortage of players and couldn't field a team, Winnipeg was awash with football players, civilian and military, but no one to play against.  To solve this the Winnipeg Football Club (i.e. the Bombers) set up a three team city league. The civilians composed the Bombers, while thos serving in the military were on a second team called the Winnipeg RCAF Flyers.  A third team was from the University of Manitoba with a few additions to make them more competitive.  At the end of the season, an all-star team was formed for the West playoff and for the Grey Cup.  That team played under the name Winnipeg RCAF Bombers, and was composed mainly of players from the Bombers plus a few players from the Flyers and U of M Bisons.  The official Winipeg all-time roster includes the players who played for the Bombers in the regular season and those added for the playfoffs from the other teams.  The whole league was really run by the Winnipeg Football Club with 1941 Blue Bomber coach Reg Threfal acting as the "league coach", so in a way all the players on all three teams could perhaps be listed on the Blue Bombe rall-time roster, but are listed separately on this site to better indicate how the players were split into teams.  You can view more details on the 1942 season, oncluding scores and rosters with the following link.

1942 Winnipeg City League Details

The 1942 team played lost to a powerful Toronto RCAF Hurricanes team which was coach by Lew Hayman and which featured many star players from the IRFU (Big Four) and ORFU.

In 1943, there was a similar situation with the Bombers playing in a service league with another Winnipeg team and one from Regina.  Again, an all-star team called the Winnipeg RCAFBombers went to the Grey Cup, losing this time to the Hamilton Flying Wildcats. 

1944 was the only year during the war when the Winnipeg Football Club / Blue Bombers fully suspended play. Football was kept alive in Winnipeg and Manitoba via a five team inter-services league in which many former and future Blue Bombers played on the various teams. One of the teams in the league did actually use the nickname Bombers, but the players on it are not considered part of the Bomber all-time roster, and the league champion did not challenge for the Grey Cup that year.  You can view more details on the 1944 season via the following link.

Details of the 1944 Manitoba Interservices League

The Bombers did go to the Grey Cup twice in the early 1950s, losing in 1950 and 1953, but it was the late 1950s and early 1960s that were the golden years for the Bomber franchise.  Under head coach Bud Grant, who would later go on to coach in the NFL, the Bombers would play in the Grey Cup in five of six years from 1957 to 1962.  Winnipeg would win four Grey Cups and lose one with all of the games being against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.  Those Bomber championship teams were led by some of the greatest names in Bomber history, including quarterback Kenny Ploen, speedy halfback Leo Lewis and brusing fullback Gerry James.

There was one final hurrah to the the era with a 1965 Grey Cup loss, but there was a gap of 22 years until the Bombers won the Grey Cup again in 1984.  It was not that the Bombers were a bad team in that period, and in fact they had some very strong teams and some great players during that time.  In the early 1970s, there were players like quarterback Don Jonas, and running backs like Mack Herron and Dave Raimey.  In the late 1970s and early 198s, the Bombers had some of their strongest offensive teams in their history, led by another great quarterback in Dieter (Ralph) Brock.  The Bombers, unfortunately ran into the Edmonton dynasty which won five straight Grey Cups from 1978 to 1982. The 1984 Grey Cup team was led by players like quarterback Tom Clements, running back Willard Reaves, receiver Joe Poplawski and kicker Trevor Kennerd.  In yet another touch or irony, the win came over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats who were quarterbacked by none other than Dieter Brock who had come up empty after so many years in Winnipeg, and would come up empty again against his former team.

Winnipeg won thei next Grey Cup in 1990 under the leadership of quarterback Tom Burgess and with stars like running back Robert Mimbs and linebacker Greg Battle. Burgess and Battle were the offensive and defenisve players of the game in the Grey Cup.  It was the second straight Grey Cup for Burgess who had won the cup with Saskatchewan in 1989.

The Bombers have not won a Grey Cup since 1990, the longest championship drought among current teams.  There were, however, still fou trips to the Grey Cup in 1992, 2001, 2007 and 2011.  The 2007 loss to Saskatchwan was hard for the Bombers to take as they had to play without thei rstarting quarterback Kevin Glenn who had been injured in the East final and the blue and gold were forced to go with rookie quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie.