Saskatchewan Roughriders

Bob Poley - Offensive Line - Regina - 1978-83, 88-92

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The days of the Polecat; The offensive lineman helped build the Rider Nation - Roger Currie - The Leader-Post - 25-07-2014

The list of men who have worn the uniform of the Saskatchewan Roughriders over the past century includes many legendary characters. The man they call the Polecat would jump off the page if this were a novel or short story.

Bob Poley was born 58 years ago in Saskatoon, and saw quite a bit of the province before settling in Regina to play for the junior Rams. He spent part of his childhood in the small community of Prairie River.

He recalled, "We didn't have a high school, so at age 14, I was bussed 25 miles to Hudson Bay. They took one look at my size and started encouraging me to play football. It didn't take a lot of coaxing."

Poley took to the game immediately, and in 1974 he was invited to join the Rams in Regina. That's where he first met Roger Aldag, another Rider great, who remains his closest friend. Poley took part in Roughrider training camp four years in a row, and during the 1978 season he became a full-time member of the Green and White.

It was a troubled time for the proud franchise. After their near miss in the 1976 Grey Cup against Ottawa, the western Riders would miss the playoffs for the next 11 seasons.

Ron Lancaster retired as a player after the 1978 season, taking over as head coach the following year. Lancaster was saddled with the grim task of cleaning house and getting rid of a number of veteran players who had recently been his teammates. The rebuilding process provided an opportunity for the Polecat to centre the offensive line for the next five seasons.

The Roughriders won only two games in 1979, but the notion of Rider Pride was permanently encapsulated into the Saskatchewan firmament. Former Leader-Post sports editor John Robertson, who was working at CBC in Winnipeg at the time, served as inspirational cheerleader, and the process of rebirth was underway. By 1981, under head coach Joe Faragalli, the Riders were the best 9-and-7 team that never made the playoffs in the CFL. "As players, we felt badly that the results weren't there yet, but it took time for us youngsters to gain experience," recalled Poley.

Poley said his career received a nice rejuvenating boost in 1984 when he was traded to Calgary. "Steve Buratto had taken over as head coach of the Stampeders. We struggled in '84 and '85, but by 1986 and '87 we were very competitive, and it was a lot of fun playing there," he said.

But the lure of the Green and White can be very strong, especially for players from Saskatchewan. At the 1987 Grey Cup in Vancouver, Poley was a finalist for Outstanding Offensive Lineman. Roughrider general manager Bill Baker asked him to go for a walk in Stanley Park. By the time the walk was over, they had reached an understanding on a deal that would bring Poley back to the Riders in 1988.

"All my family wanted to come home, and I was very glad that the opportunity presented itself," said Poley. The Stampeders released him in September of 1988 when he refused to sign a new contract, and he was immediately back in Rider Nation.

Such was the lure of home that he was prepared to return for substantially less than the Stampeders had paid him. It was, in fact, what the Riders could afford to pay in those fragile economic times. 1988 saw the Riders host their first home playoffgame in 12 years, although they were soundly beaten by the B.C. Lions in the western semi-final.

The next year, 1989, saw a roller coaster ride. The Riders went 9 and 9 through the regular season, but they seemed to be a team of destiny in the post season. With Kent Austin directing the offense, they went on the road and knocked offCalgary in the semi-final and the 16 and 2 Edmonton Eskimos at Commonwealth Stadium to advance to the Grey Cup in Toronto.

The following Sunday, there was a sea of green at Skydome. Fans were treated to what many still regard as the greatest Grey Cup game ever, between the Riders and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The score was tied at 40 on the final play, as Dave Ridgeway prepared to kick a 36-yard field goal.

Bob Poley's vital task was to deliver the snap to holder Glen Suitor. "We called time out to make sure there were only 12 of us on the field," recalled Poley. "Then Hamilton called time out. The three of us knew what had to be done, so we passed the time sharing thoughts about a very attractive lady in red who was sitting a few rows up behind the Rider bench." Time was whistled in and the field goal was made to give Saskatchewan its second Grey Cup championship.

Poley retired as a Roughrider in 1992, after 15 seasons and 236 games in the CFL. Since retiring as a player, he has been very active as a fundraiser for Ducks Unlimited. He and his wife, Elaine, recently moved to the Okanagan region of B.C. More than 20 years after his last football game, he still pays a price. "I've got a hip issue now, plus a wonky knee, and I had a shoulder done last year. But I can still throw my grandkids up in the air, so it could be worse," he said with a broad smile.

"Larger than life" will always be the phrase that springs to mind when the man they call the Polecat is mentioned.

Gull Lake’s Roger Aldag began his outstanding football career playing nine-man football in his hometown.  He then followed his brother Barry’s footsteps and joined the Gord Currie-coached Regina Rams of the Manitoba/Saskatchewan Junior Football League.  As a four-time All-Star centre, two-time Most Valuable Ram player, and the 1975 Most Valuable Lineman in the league, Aldag helped lead his team to the 1973 and 1975 Canadian Junior Football Championships.

 

While still with the Rams, Roger broadened his skills by attending three Saskatchewan Roughrider training camps before moving up to our province’s pro team in 1976 while still having a year’s junior football eligibility.  Roger’s successes as an offensive lineman in the Canadian Football League (CFL) are legendary.  He was a Western Conference All-Star eight times (’82, ’83, ’86, ’87, ’88, ’89, ’90, and ’91) and was selected as an All-Canadian in 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, and 1990.  Aldag was chosen as the Schenley Award winner as the CFL’s top offensive lineman in 1986 and 1988.  In addition, Roger received four Mack Truck “Bulldog” Awards when he was honoured as the league’s top offensive lineman as chosen by the league’s defensive linemen.

 

The highlight of Roger Aldag’s career the winning the thrilling 1989 Grey Cup with a 43-40 barnburner over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.  Roger was honoured to be one of the team’s captains during this triumphant year.  As well, Roger has received a number of honours including induction into the Rider’s Plaza of Honour in 1993 and the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2002.  Roger Aldag is also one of only eight Roughriders that the team has seen fit to honour with the retirement of his famous number 44 jersey.

 

Installed in the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame on June 17, 2006.