City of North Bay to dedicate land in honor of Blue Bombers head coach O’Shea

He is a six-time Gray Cup champion and a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. But on Saturday he will simply be known as Mike O’Shea of ​​North Bay, Ont.

On Saturday, the City of North Bay will dedicate the soccer field at the Steve Omischl Sports Complex in honor of O’Shea, head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. But while this will be the latest in a long line of footballing achievements for the 51-year-old North Bay native, O’Shea says this one will be different.

« I think there’s obviously a warmer feeling when it’s something to do with the city, » O’Shea said in a phone interview Wednesday. « The other side of that is one of the best things about being from North Bay is you’re just Mike O’Shea from North Bay and nothing else.

« Everyone who was in it understands where I’m from, all your buddies keep you grounded. You’re still just the kid who grew up in the neighborhood, which is a great, great thing. »

I am very proud to be from North Bay.​​​​​-Mike O’Shea

O’Shea, six-foot-three, 228 pounds, had a stellar 16-year CFL career as a linebacker with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (1993-95, 2000) and Toronto Argonauts (1996-99 , 2001-08). He won three Gray Cups as an Argos player (1996-97, 2004) and in 271 regular season games he racked up 1,151 tackles – the most by a Canadian and second in history of the league.

O’Shea was the CFL’s top rookie in 1993 and its top Canadian six years later. Argo of all time, O’Shea was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2017.

Success followed O’Shea through the coaching ranks. He added a fourth Gray Cup ring in 2012 as Toronto’s special teams coordinator with numbers five and six in the past two seasons (2019, 21) as Winnipeg’s head coach. O’Shea also won the Annis Stukus Trophy as the CFL’s top coach last season.

Winnipeg is certainly in contention for a third consecutive title. The Bombers (9-0) are the only undefeated team in the league heading into Thursday’s home game against the Montreal Alouettes (2-6).

With another regular season win, Winnipeg will reach double-digit wins for a sixth straight year under O’Shea, who is 76-55 in the regular season since becoming the Bombers’ head coach in 2013. But the franchise is 64-31 in the regular season since 2016 and a perfect 5-0 playoff record since 2019.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea gets poured a sports drink as his team defeats the Hamilton Tiger Cats in the 107th Gray Cup in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, November 24, 2019 THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

A humble beginning

Exhilarating stuff, indeed, for someone who started football in Year 9 at Widdifield Secondary School.

« You don’t start from that first day being afraid to go out on the field to have it play out that way, » O’Shea said. « I think my early years I was just happy to survive and be part of a team.

« My first year, I probably would have felt good if they hadn’t played me. »

Ever humble, O’Shea downplayed his football accomplishments compared to other North Bay athletes, including freestyle skiing world champion Omischl and waterskiing world champion Jaimee Bull.

« These are the kind of people who come out of North Bay, » O’Shea said. « There are some amazing athletes who have come out of North Bay. I’m bottom of the list in terms of people who have done amazing things.

« I’m very proud to be from North Bay. »

O’Shea is also proud of Winnipeg’s success, which he attributes to the team’s players and coaches.

« We’ve had very good continuity with our coaching staff, but on top of that they’re very, very good coaches coaching very, very good players, » O’Shea said. « They (the players) get it, that’s the easiest way to put it.

« They have a huge capacity for work, they always work, they love it and like to do it together and they do it for the right reasons. »

Something O’Shea says he sees daily.

« The buzz here in the morning before the day has even started is incredible, » he said. « You can just close your eyes and hear the conversations, the tape being watched, the football being discussed, the camaraderie.

« It’s a very easy and pleasant place to live. »

After Thursday’s game, Winnipeg will have its first week off, becoming the last CFL team to have time out this season. But O’Shea said there was no discussion in the ranks about having to play week after week.

« If there were more games on the schedule before our first pass, it would just be ‘That’s the schedule,’ O’Shea said. « It’s almost like when we talk about the grind, the look on their (players’) faces is, ‘What grind?’

« They saw the program, they knew what awaited us, we asked them to manage it and they are smart enough to manage it themselves. The coaches were very flexible when I asked them to give the players more time. A one day prep week was what it was this week. Nothing brings them down in their process.

And that includes Winnipeg, which must continually play with a bullseye firmly on its back.

« The core veterans group has been doing this for years, » O’Shea said. “Winning is nothing new to them and they never try to confuse the issue by talking about a past win or a future game.

« They don’t talk about the record so far, they’re so focused on this week that the rest is irrelevant. Not all the wins this year have been pretty for sure, but they’re all learning It’s not the results it’s not the overall records it’s the lessons and making sure we learn as we go I think that’s another good thing about this year they’re learning continuously and as much as they get it, they never act like they have it. »

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