The Winnipeg Blue Bombers could have easily shipped Richie Hall’s 2019 Grey Cup ring to his off-season home in Regina.
Or the club could have sent the office intern to make the enthralling six-hour drive west to make a special delivery.
But when Hall answered the door last month to be introduced to his latest piece of jewelry, he was in for a surprise.
“All of a sudden I hear the doorbell and it was coach (Mike) O’Shea and his wife,” said Hall in a phone interview.
“He had brought it out and that was pretty special… To see a picture of it doesn’t do it justice. He gave it to me and I opened it and my eyes kind of got watery. It was just unbelievable… It would’ve been great to receive it with the teammates, the other coaches and everyone in the organization, but this was the second-best. I got a chance to do it with someone I really respect and the captain of our ship.”
With the 2020 CFL cancelled owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the message from Bombers head coach O’Shea has been for his assistant coaches to take advantage of the time away from football to bond with family, relax and do things they typically don’t have time to do. For Hall, the team’s defensive co-ordinator since 2015, that meant having a chance to return to his home town of Denver, Colo., to visit his dad for 17 days.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve had the opportunity to be at home at this time of the year. You know, since 1982,” said Hall, who joined the Calgary Stampeders as a defensive back in 1983. He’d finish his playing career with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1991 before transitioning into coaching.
“I got to go down there and time wasn’t a restriction, so it was comfortable. It was nice.”
“He had brought it out and that was pretty special… To see a picture of it doesn’t do it justice. He gave it to me and I opened it and my eyes kind of got watery.”
— Richie Hall on Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’shea delivering his Grey Cup ring to his home in Regina
The extra family time, especially with his dad Richie Sr., who lives alone after Hall’s mom Jean died, has been much appreciated. Last October, one month before the Grey Cup game, Hall’s younger brother Michael unexpectedly died. He was 57.
While life without football has given Hall more time to dwell on the loss of his brother, he’s managed to find positives in his break from calling defensive formations.
“A distraction sometimes is good. A distraction gives you an opportunity to not focus on one thing,” said Hall, who turned 60 earlier this month.
“But at the same time, that and COVID and the uncertainty of it, you think about a lot because everything was changing. You don’t know what the future holds. It was good and bad, at least for myself, to slow down, to re-evaluate life, to re-evaluate what’s important, to take time to do things you haven’t done in a while, especially at this time of year… It gave me a chance to think about other things than football at this time of year. A chance to relax.”
But Hall isn’t interested in relaxing forever, even though he’s now a four-time Grey Cup champion (three with the Riders, including one as a player). Hall has also wasted no time in seeing what his hand looks like with all four rings.
“It looks pretty sweet,” he admits. “You look at it and each year they get bigger, but they’re all very special and have their own memories with it, but I say I want to be greedy and I need one for my thumb. I think coach O’Shea has five. He fills up his whole hand.”
The question remains when, or if, Hall will get another chance at a ring. There was no season in 2020 and it remains to be seen if 2021 will be any different for the league. Hall’s been around the CFL long enough to know it has faced no shortage of obstacles over the years. This one might be the toughest test yet, but Hall is confident the league will be able to get up off the mat.
“I have total belief that we will. What is it gonna look like? I don’t know what it looks like. But I do believe because other teams and other leagues have played, I think we have an opportunity to look back and see what worked and didn’t work and how we can add to it,” Hall said.
“… we’ve had a full year, a year and a half, to come up with a plan… It’s going to be different, but I have full faith there’s going to be a CFL season in 2021.”
— Richie Hall
“When the whole virus hit in March, all of sudden we’re in May when our season is supposed to start and they keep pushing it back. You try to find these quick-fix solutions. Now we’ve had a full year, a year and a half, to come up with a plan… It’s going to be different, but I have full faith there’s going to be a CFL season in 2021.”
Even if Hall’s prediction comes true, it will be a long winter until CFL football kicks off again. But Bomber fans don’t have to worry — with Hall living in Regina and proudly wearing 2019 Grey Cup champs apparel, Riderville won’t soon forget who the reigning champions are.
“One day I was at a Wal-Mart and every time I saw someone with a Rider hat or shirt on, we seemed to hit eyes and they’d just smile and I’d have a big grin… It feels very good to walk around Saskatchewan right now knowing we’re Grey Cup champions.”
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
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