In the days before the lucrative NFL TV contracts, the cash and the glory went to the scoring stars. Many of the linesmen came up to Canada for more money. Meanwhile, Roger Savoie, from St. Boniface, played centre, guard and linebacker before settling in on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' defensive line. Savoie was not small at 6’ and 245 pounds, but he went against bigger linesmen with college and NFL experience. He had to face all-stars Bud Tinsley (260) and Dick (The Bull) Huffman (265) every day in practice. Soon they called Savoie “the Baby Bull”. He remembers lining up against Arnie Weinmeister of the BC Lions, a former New York Giant all-pro; Saskatchewan’s Martin Ruby; Tex Coulter in Montreal; and he found former Bomber Joe Aguirre a tough guy with Edmonton and the Roughriders. Savoie’s credentials? Winnipeg Rods juniors.
“However, I never let any of them intimidate me or felt inferior,” he said. This probably explains his 16-year career in the trenches. Savoie claims he was more nervous when Winnipeg’s top businessmen sat across the table and said it was an honour to play for the Bombers and he should not expect much money.
Savoie was named Bombers' most valuable Canadian lineman in 1956 and top lineman in the West and an All Star in 1962. He was team captain in 1964 and 1965 and was enshrined in the Bombers' Hall of Fame in 1987. He played in seven Grey Cup Games. “Every game was against Hamilton,” he recalled, “we won four of them.”
Things almost went the other way when the NFL’s Detroit Lions expressed interest in Savoie. “They flew me down there and paid for my honeymoon, but by that time I was making a little money and Detroit couldn’t match it,” he said. He also had offers from the Alouettes as he was a rare bilingual player. “They loved me in Montreal for interviews,” he said. In 1988, Savoie later ran into one of his toughest foes, colon cancer. At this point he was forced to sell Golden Fawn Lodge which he operated in Ear Falls, ON, to concentrate on making a full recovery. Roger Savoie moved to Vancouver in 2004 thinking it would ease his arthritis. “But I’m a flatlander,” he said, “I miss the prairies and wouldn’t mind having a little place back here for the summer.”
b. July 29, 1931