Former Blue Bombers player/coach Joe Zaleski dies at 89

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The man who accepted the toughest job in Winnipeg Blue Bombers history has passed away at age 89.

It was Zaleski who applied for and accepted the Bombers coaching job after Bud Grant decided to take the head coaching job in Minnesota in 1967. In Grant’s final year, the Bombers finished with a record of 8-7-1, were second in the West and lost to Saskatchewan in the Conference final.

Zaleski came in and the Bombers went 4-12 in 1967, 3-13 in 1968 and 3-12-1 in 1969 (10-37-1) before being let go. In fairness, he did win four Grey Cup championships as an assistant under Grant.

Zaleski was from New Kensington, Pa., and was the quarterback at the University of Dayton. He went into the Marines for two years and came out and was the backup quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams for a season before signing with the Blue Bombers.

He played for the Bombers as a QB and defensive back in 1953 and 1954 and then played a year with the Montreal Alouettes before starting his coaching career in 1956 with the Sarnia Golden Bears of the Ontario Rugby Football Union.

He returned to Winnipeg to be an assistant under Grant and lived in the city from 1958 until 1969. He also went on to be an assistant coach with the Edmonton Eskimos.



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