Time For Bombers To Retire Numbers (Including Brown’s 97)

I’ve been keeping an eye on the Blue Bomber website over the past few weeks to see when the club would update its roster with number assignments for its newly acquired players. As someone who does a fair amount of film study during the preseason, getting a head start on number memorization helps me come game time.

Among the new names and numbers (most notably, Dominic Picard – 68, Stanley Bryant – 66, Sukh Chungh – 69, Sam Hurl – 10, Jordan Reaves – 72) I was shocked to see Ivan Brown, a depth national defensive end signed away from Toronto this past February, listed as number 97.

Unless you’ve recently been stricken with some kind of cognitive ailment, you may recall a different player named “Brown” wearing number 97 for the blue and gold.

Yes, that’s right — Doug Brown’s number 97 is going to worn by a back-up defensive lineman this season. The same player who was named a seven-time CFL all-star, eight-time divisional all-star, and the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian in 2001, is going to have his number thrown back into circulation by the Winnipeg Football Club.

I, for one, feel this is a mistake. With all due respect to Ivan Brown and the hundreds of defensive linemen the Blue Bombers will sign in the coming decades, I don’t believe Doug Brown’s number 97 should ever be worn again. He is one of the Bombers’ all-time greats. He dominated with the club for more than a decade. His seven CFL all-star nominations are third in club history behind only Chris Walby and Milt Stegall (nine each). Like Walby and Stegall, Brown spent his entire CFL career with one team — the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

It’s time for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to officially retire Doug Brown’s number 97. Further to this point, it’s time for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to officially retire any number.

You see, despite the fact that the Winnipeg Football Club doesn’t officially retire numbers, they actually have six they no longer allow players to wear. These numbers are as follows: Bob Cameron’s number 6; Kenny Ploen’s number 11; Jeff Nicklin’s number 28; Chris Walby’s number 63; Tommy Lumsden’s number 75; and Milt Stegall’s number 85. For those who may be wondering about the inclusion of Nicklin and Lumsden, Nicklin was killed in World War II, while Lumsden tragically passed away in 1955 during a routine surgical procedure at the age of twenty-five.

It’s time of do away with the foolishness of keeping this list of numbers private. It is not a list that should be surreptitiously passed from equipment manager to equipment manager, but a list that should be celebrated.

The Winnipeg Football Club has been around for eighty-five years. In that time, seven men have proven themselves worthy of being the last ever to don their number. It’s time for the club to recognize them accordingly.

John Hodge, Blue Bomber Talk

Twitter: @BlueBomberTalk

Email: [email protected]

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.