Hall celebrates fourth Grey Cup with Blue Bombers
Richie Hall remembers a signature moment from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ Grey Cup celebration.
The Blue Bombers’ defensive co-ordinator noticed that quarterback Chris Streveler wasn’t wearing a shirt during post-game locker-room chaos after Winnipeg defeated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 33-12 in Sunday’s Grey Cup game.
“He asked me if I wanted to sign the front or the back and all of the players were signing his body,” Hall recalled with a chuckle from his Blue Bombers’ office. “That’s what you love and that’s watching them celebrate. They were like a bunch of kids.”
The scene was a contrast to earlier Sunday evening, when TSN’s cameras caught Hall being overwhelmed by a wave of emotions. He was thinking of his 57-year-old brother, Michael, who died of a heart attack in September.
“It was bittersweet, because a lot has gone on in my life in the last two months,” the 59-year-old Hall said. “I just couldn’t control it and all of that came out. I was happy and sad at the same time while spontaneously experiencing the highs and lows.
“It’s just that you can only control so much and I was sad that my brother wasn’t there. I was happy that he was looking down upon us and I was so happy for the players.”
Hall knows all about Grey Cup celebrations. He has reached five Grey Cup games over his CFL career, emerging as a champion on four occasions.
He would go on to earn Grey Cup rings with the Riders as the defensive co-ordinator in 2007 and 2013 before celebrating Sunday’s win. His lone loss in the Grey Cup was in 1997 when the Toronto Argonauts beat Saskatchewan 47-23.
Hall is the only person to win three championships as player or coach with the Roughriders.
“You can’t get any higher than with the first one ever,” he said. “It was the first one and, as a player, that’s what you go out for.”
“The 2013 one, it was at home. You can’t get any nicer than that,” he said. “We had an up-and-down season and at times we looked like a very good football team that was Grey Cup-bound. We also struggled, which every team does at some point in time during the season. To be able to play it at home at old Mosaic Stadium, you couldn’t have written a better script.”
Hall added that it’s still sinking in that the Blue Bombers are Grey Cup champions.
“It’s not like you don’t have confidence going out there. You just don’t think that it’s going to happen,” Hall said. “Then it happened. It’s almost like you pinch yourself to make sure that it’s not a dream.”
Hall had assurances that it wasn’t a dream while re-watching the end of the game on TSN.
“I could feel the goose bumps running through me as I was watching it,” he said. “I won’t watch the (coaches’) tape until February, but sitting there watching the fans and just the way the game plays out as people watch it was pretty exciting.”
Taking part in the Winnipeg’s championship parade on Tuesday was also a highlight.
“You could see people crying, because it had been 29 years,” Hall recalled. “There were about 10,000 people and the weather was perfect for this time of year. Being able to sit back and watch the players and the enjoyment they had was special.
“It was the fun that they had with the fans and that’s what makes the CFL so special. It’s touchable and you’re right there mingling with the crowd. It’s just a great feeling.”
Hall understood what the players were experiencing, having been a defensive back and punt returner in the CFL. He spent nine seasons as a player — five with the Calgary Stampeders and four with Saskatchewan — and later became the Riders’ defensive backs coach in 1994.
He was promoted to defensive co-ordinator in 2001, a role that he retained through 2009, after which he spent two seasons as the head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos.
Hall returned for a second stint with the Riders in 2011 and remained with Saskatchewan until joining Winnipeg’s staff in 2015.
The 2019 season featured challenges on both sides of the ball, but the Blue Bombers overcame them en route being the first third-place West Division team to win the Grey Cup since Edmonton accomplished that feat in 2005.
“Winning the Grey Cup is the icing on the cake,” Hall said. “Everyone can say whatever they want, but I know we’re the only team that won its last game and we are very happy about it.”
Hall can look back on a stalwart defensive effort during Winnipeg’s playoff run.
The Blue Bombers defeated the host Calgary Stampeders 35-14 in the West semi-final and downed the Roughriders 20-13 in the division final at Mosaic Stadium. Then the 11-7 Blue Bombers dominated the Tiger-Cats, who boasted a league-best 15-3 regular-season record.
“We gave up two touchdowns (in the playoffs) and we were a plus-13 in turnover situations and that’s awesome,” Hall said. “Those players should be commended for it because it was pretty special.”
Hall lives in Regina during the off-season with his wife of seven years, Helen. Over the winter, there will be plenty of time for reflection on a football life that has recently reached another peak.
“I’m just blessed with the opportunity to go out there because there are a lot of people that don’t get to do the things that they enjoy doing,” Hall said.
“For me, it’s not a job. For 35 years — or ‘all of my adult life minus two years’ as my mom would say — I get to play a kids’ game. To me, that’s pretty special.”