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Bombers set to erect statue of hall-of-fame coach Bud Grant

Finally, the most successful coach in franchise history gets his due

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Bud Grant led the Bombers to four Grey Cups from 1957 to 1966.

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Bud Grant led the Bombers to four Grey Cups from 1957 to 1966.

I had lost hope in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Not the team.

Not the hope of the Bombers winning a Grey Cup in my lifetime or even having a winning season.

No, I'd lost hope that my campaign to have the organization erect a statute in honour of Bud Grant and all that would represent and mean to the organization and the community, had not only failed, it had been ignored.

Board chairman Brock Bulbuck had suggested when we spoke last year that it was an appealing idea. But it was a year ago this month that I wrote the first of three columns explaining why a statute to the iconic Bomber coach should be placed outside Investors Group Field.

I went on to say I had heard there had already been talk of a statue to Grant among those tasked with honouring the team's tradition, but the statue concept needed a nudge.

"Consider this a big nudge," I wrote. "Furthermore, consider this: The Bombers should start a fund to commission a statue to Grant..."

A year passed.

The team, I reasoned, had more pressing matters, and gradually I lost hope the statue would happen in Grant's lifetime, if ever.

Then last Friday an email arrived, it was a courtesy message delivered by Kim Babij-Gesell, the team's co-ordinator of communications.

"Hi Gordon,

"Just a heads-up for you, we're going to be sending out a media release shortly regarding a Bud Grant statue we'll be erecting at Investors Group Field this fall. I know this is of particular interest to you, so I wanted to make sure the announcement doesn't pass you by..."

The words hit me like a bolt out of the Bomber Blue. I felt the way I had when my dad took me to my first Bombers game.

What I hadn't known, until I spoke Monday with GM Wade Miller, is that five months ago the organization's player recognition committee, Bomber staff and a couple of people from the community, had been raising the tens of thousands of dollars from the private sector that would be needed to pay for a statue that undoubtedly will cost in the six figures to create.

Fittingly, the Blue Bombers alumni has donated to the cause.

Speaking with Miller, it was evident he was on side all along. Miller's dad, Al Miller, played for Grant in the 1960s and Wade remembers being a kid when he met the then-legendary Minnesota Vikings coach.

"He's the perfect symbol for all the people who have coached or played," Miller said of Grant. "He's the perfect person to symbolize the rich tradition of the football club."

In the end, the announcement made me happy for the fans, for the Bomber organization -- from Miller to the much-maligned board of directors -- and of course for Harry Peter "Bud" Grant, who turned 87 last month, and God willing, will be around to witness the unveiling in late October. Which is something Grant alluded to when the Bombers front office reached him to inform him of the honour.

"Usually people who get this kind of honour are dead," Grant said, "so I'm glad I'm alive for this. Or at least I hope I still will be."

Grant wanted to know where the statue would be, indoors or outdoors. The life-size statue will rise three metres from its one-metre base and stand next to Ken Ploen Way, the stadium street that honours the quarterback who led the Grant-era Bombers to three of its four Grey Cup victories.

Then he had another question.

"What will the statue be wearing? ...A raincoat? Or a parka?"

A raincoat, as it happens.

Bud Grant seemed pleased especially when he heard the late October date.

"Great," he said, "I can go to the unveiling and go hunting right after."

There will be those who wonder why it's so important to put up a statue to honour Bud Grant. Fans are more concerned with the present: their first look at the team's new quarterback and the recent history of an organization prone to a chaotic, crisis-management style.

But for me, the decision to create the statue stands out as a symbol of hope Wade Miller and the board finally are taking the team in the right direction.

Forward to the glorious past that should serve as a model for a future that's symbolically celebrated in a statue of a man who exemplified the Bombers' best. Be hopeful, fans. This Bud's for us.

gordon.sinclair@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 10, 2014 0

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