The 2016 class will be honoured at the Hall of Fame Legacy Dinner on Wednesday, September 21st, 2016. The Blue Bombers’ annual Hall of Fame game precedes the celebration, with the football club playing host to the Toronto Argonauts at Investors Group Field on Saturday, September 17th.
“We are thrilled to be adding these three gentlemen as deserving members into our Hall of Fame,” said Wade Miller, President & CEO of the Winnipeg Football Club. “John Helton is one of the most dominant defensive linemen in Canadian Football League history and Bob Molle was both an Olympic medalist in wrestling to a two-time Grey Cup champion. Bob Irving, meanwhile, remains the preeminent football play-by-play voice in this country and has given so much to the football club for over 40 years.”
A dominant defensive lineman who is already a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame (inducted in 1985) and the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame (1993), Helton joined the Blue Bombers in a 1979 trade after spending the first decade of his CFL career with the Calgary Stampeders.
Considered one of the top players in CFL history – he was ranked #12 on TSN’s Top 50 in 2006 – Helton was a CFL All-Star nine times (1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1982) and a West Division All-Star 12 times (1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982).
As well, he was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Lineman in 1972, the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 1974 and in 1979 was honoured with the Tom Pate Memorial Award.
Helton was a member of the 1971 Grey-Cup champion Stampeders team and in 1979, his first as a Blue Bomber, was a CFL All-Star and the winner of the Norm Fieldgate Trophy as the West Division’s top defensive player.
“It was a total surprise, but an honour to be recognized by the Bombers,” said Helton. “I was pretty much done with football in every way other than being a spectator at this stage in my life. I would never have thought of this.”
A first round draft pick of the Blue Bombers in 1985 (9th overall), Molle arrived in Winnipeg an already accomplished athlete after capturing an Olympic silver medal in wrestling at the XXIII Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984.
Molle would begin his career with the football club on the defensive line, but was switched to the offensive side and spent seven years with the club, much of it at the right guard spot alongside Chris Walby.
He was a member of both the 1988 and 1990 Grey Cup championship teams and is the only athlete to have both an Olympic medal and Grey Cup championship ring. Molle is also a member of the Simon Fraser University Hall of Fame (1990), the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) Hall of Fame (1991), the Canadian Wrestling Hall of Fame (1992) and the Saskatoon Sports Hall of Fame (1993).
“I go back to all the great relationships I had in Winnipeg,” said Molle. “The football was great, but it’s the relationships that are lasting. It’s the locker room I miss most and all those times I would just laugh my guts out with the guys.”
Bob ‘Knuckles’ Irving began his broadcasting career in Estevan, SK, moved to Brandon in 1970, and joined CJOB in Winnipeg in 1973 where he instantly became part of the Bombers broadcast crew.
A humble and classy sort, Irving is being inducted in the builder category as his service to the football club goes far beyond his capacity as the play-by-play voice.
He was induced into the Football Reporters of Canada wing of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1997, had the press box at Investors Group Field – the Bob Irving Media Centre – named in his honour in 2013, and was made a member of the Order of Manitoba, a civilian honour for ‘merit in the province’ in 2014. In 2015, Irving was honoured with the Hugh Campbell Distinguished Leadership Award. Irving is also a member of the Manitoba Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour (1995).
“I’m somewhat taken aback with this,” said Irving. “But I’m very flattered, humbled and quite honoured that the club would think that highly of me to give me this kind of special award.”