William Elric Boivin
Born: October 21, 1914 (St. Boniface, Manitoba)
Died: January 28, 2014 (Vancouver)
Bill Boivin, who has died, aged 99, won two Grey Cups with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as a halfback and quarterback before enlisting in the army during the Second World War.
He later served as general manager for the Bombers, importing such playing talent as Leo Lewis, known as the Lincoln Locomotive, and such coaching talent as Bud Grant. Both Lewis and Grant were enshrined in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, an honour not afforded Boivin in his lifetime.
Boivin displayed a clever offensive mind in junior football with the Winnipeg Victorias, juggling running and passing plays in such a fashion as to leave opponents befuddled. He joined the Blue Bombers in 1937 and played four campaigns for the team over five years, missing out on the 1940 season with a knee injury.
The Blue Bombers won the Grey Cup in 1939 by defeating the Ottawa Rough Riders by 8-7 at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa. Boivin gained his second championship two years later when the Bombers nipped the Rough Riders again, 18-16, in a thriller not settled until a missed field goal in the final minute of play at Varsity Stadium in Toronto.
The halfback enlisted on May 2, 1942, playing football later that year for a military team before he was transferred to British Columbia. By 1944, he was a lieutenant in the Queen’s own Cameron Highlanders based on Vancouver Island.
After the war, he returned to Winnipeg, where he became business manager of the Blue Bombers. In 1955, he became general manager. During his tenure, the board of directors promoted end Bud Grant, a player retiring from the field at age 29, as head coach. The brilliant Grant guided the Bombers to six Grey Cup appearances in 10 seasons, winning four. He then became a head coach for the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League.
Boivin missed out on Winnipeg’s glory years, moving to Vancouver in 1958. He was soon after made a director of the rival B.C. Lions, though he quit in 1961 in a dispute over the firing of Wayne Robinson as coach.
Both of his Grey Cup-winning teams from 1939 and ’41 have been inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame. During his time in Winnipeg, he also coached football at Gordon Bell High and at the University of Manitoba.
Boivin lived the final 17 years of his life at the George Derby Centre, a residential care facility for veterans. He leaves a son, a daughter, eight grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife of 53 years, the former Shirley Jackson, who died in 1999.