Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–15–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Pierce steps up to the plate

Blue unveil new set of tags: Quarterback not afraid to wear his heart on his... bumper

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Buck Pierce is hoping Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans don't take his shiny new licence plate literally.

The Bombers starting quarterback, along with Manitoba Justice Minister Andrew Swan and Bombers CEO Garth Buchko, posed at a news conference Tuesday with a new series of Bombers licence plates the province is issuing through Autopac agents beginning May 28.


Afterward, Pierce revealed that one of the plates he posed with -- 'B00004' -- is actually his new licence plate. Pierce said he has no reluctance in so visibly identifying himself in traffic by his Bombers uniform number, but joked that he hopes fans don't take his new plate to mean that he is encouraging them to 'B-o-o-o-o 4.'

"I noticed that right away," Pierce laughed with reporters. "It's pretty funny actually."

Identifying yourself as the Bombers starting quarterback in such a public way is fraught with risk. It's tough enough trying to change lanes in a city in which activating your turn signal is considered an act of war: Imagine Pierce trying to do it after he's thrown a game-winning interception the night before?

But true to form, Pierce says he's game for the challenge. "I make myself very approachable and out there. I don't hide from anybody or anything like that," said Pierce. "I'm sure it will draw a little bit more attention, but that's OK. I want to represent the Bombers organization."

It would be hard to conceive of a better billboard for the Bombers newest business venture than the personal vehicle of their most popular player.

While the licence plates might seem like not much more than a cute novelty, the Bombers actually make big money with them. The club receives $30 of the $70 cost of each set of plates, which translated into just less than a quarter-million dollars in free money on last year's financial statement after the Bombers sold out an inaugural run of 8,100 team plates.

This year, the club stands to make $150,000 if they can sell out a more modest run of 5,000 of the new look plates.

Buchko says the team license plates -- along with other new ventures, such as a Bombers lottery announced earlier this month -- are just part of a broader transition, as the club prepares to move into a new stadium, that is effectively seeing the Bombers evolve from being just a football team into something more like a sports and entertainment company.

"It's vital to have as many revenue streams as possible," said Buchko. "The lottery is doing extremely well. The licence plate will help us signficantly. Our season ticket revenue is better than expected. And our sponsorship revenue is spectacular."

The new series of Bombers plates joins a series of other specialty plates, including ones for Winnipeg Jets fans, Canadian veterans and, just recently announced, firemen.

It all raised the obvious question for Swan, the minister in charge of MPI -- has the province put any kind of cap on the number of different plates they're willing to issue? "There's been a number of other requests and we're very interested in partnering with other organizations," said Swan. "But we want to make sure there's a critical mass and there's enough plates we think an organization can sell to make it worthwhile... It has to be revenue-neutral for MPI.

"I expect we will see some more plates."

Does that include a Winnipeg Goldeyes plate? "You'll just have to stay tuned," said Swan.

Swan was also asked if city police have expressed any concern about the growing number of different license plates Manitoba is issuing. "It really isn't a problem for law enforcement," said Swan. "We make sure we run any potential new plate by the police and they've told us they've had no challenges with the new plates."

So is it possible that we might get to a point where there no longer is any official Manitoba plate? "I think there will always be a role for the award-winning Manitoba license plate," said Swan. "But if people can show their support for the Bombers, Jets or some other organization, it's a win for everybody."

Getting a sense of what Buck is thinking


With just a week remaining until rookies report to Bombers training camp next Wednesday, starting quarterback Buck Pierce held court with the media on Tuesday on a range of different topics. Here's some of what Pierce had to say:


On what he's expecting to see in this year's training camp: "We have question marks throughout our roster so we'll hopefully answer those questions for us. A lot of young guys, a lot of young talent. So there will be some surprises hopefully in camp... guys coming out and winning jobs"

On new offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton: "I've spent quite a bit of time with him now... He's just started to put his stamp on what we want to do and integrate what he's done in the past and bring it up to the CFL game. He's still learning this game. I think that's an exciting part of our relationship -- he's so willing to learn and I'm so willing to learn, it just works out good"

On what kind of changes from last year that fans can expect to see in Crowton's offence: "I don't think it will be a complete overhaul. With some of the talent that we had last year and some of the young guys coming into their own, we don't want to take away from what they can do. We still feel we can stretch the field and have explosive plays on offence. We want to be more consistent up and down the field though... It will be different and he is going to bring change. How much? We'll see in a few weeks."

On the gaps along the offensive line created by the off-season departure of guard Brendon LaBatte to Saskatchewan and the retirement of centre Obby Khan: "Obviously I'd like to have as much experience around me as possible. And I think this training camp will be big for all of us to come together and be competitive. We've got to have competitions at those spots and that will bring out the best."

On working out in the off-season with Steve Morley and Chris Kowalczuk, the leading candidates to take over for Khan at centre: "We've been working a few days a week. The main thing for them is to learn the system and learn the calls. Physically, I think they will be fine -- snapping the ball and making the blocks. It's just the mental aspect, from going from one position to the centre position is a big jump."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 23, 2012 C3

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