Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 08/28/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
Last Modified: 08/28/2014 8:18 AM | Updates
He wasn't the team's winningest head coach -- that mark still belongs (and probably always will) to Bud Grant.
And he never did win a Grey Cup with the Bombers, although he came close in 2001 when a 14-4 team some regard as the best Bombers team never to win a Grey Cup were upset in the big game by the 8-10 Calgary Stampeders.
But what Dave Ritchie did do as Bombers head coach from 1999-2004 is consistently put quality football teams on the field filled with players who wanted only to please their head coach -- or die trying.
Four times in six seasons, those Ritchie-led Bombers teams made the playoffs, a record that looks all the more impressive from the present perspective of a franchise that has missed the CFL playoffs four times in the last five years.
Ritchie was finally recognized for his accomplishments with the Bombers on Wednesday when club CEO Wade Miller announced Ritchie -- along with former players Tony Norman and Jim Heighton and builder Bill Morton -- are the 2014 inductees into the Winnipeg Football Club Hall of Fame.
A legend at the microphone every bit as much as he was on the field during his time in the CFL, Ritchie took advantage of the moment to poke fun at the diminutive former fullback that played for him who has since become the Bombers CEO.
"Even you Wade," Ritchie said via teleconference, "I'm glad you got up to about 5-3 now."
All kidding aside, Ritchie reflected on the lessons he learned while he was in Winnipeg, both on and off the field.
"I had a lot of things happen to me when I was in Winnipeg -- my mom and dad died in the same month in September '99. I had a four-way bypass.
"Hey, how do you say it? I'm just glad to be alive."
Asked to identify the highlight of his time in Winnipeg, Ritchie not surprisingly pointed to the 2001 team that won 12 consecutive games during the regular season.
"The highlight of my time here was probably watching that 2001 team play," said Ritchie. "I've always said coaches coach as players play."
Ritchie posted a 52-44-1 record as the Bombers head coach. Those 52 wins put him third all-time among Bombers head coaches, behind Grant (102) and Cal Murphy (86).
But Ritchie also had some lean years in Winnipeg -- the club was 6-12 in his first season in 1999 and 7-10-1 the next year. His .542 winning percentage with the Bombers is the lowest among the five winningest coaches.
Ritchie retired from football in 2008, but said Wednesday he finds it difficult to be out of the game.
He seemed genuinely touched on Wednesday that he was being remembered with induction into the Bombers Hall of Fame.
"I'm so happy to be in it. It's unbelievable. How would you say it press people -- I'm a little bit speechless."
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @PaulWiecek
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 28, 2014 D3
Updated on Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 8:18 AM CDT: Replaces photo
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