By: Justin Boone
It’s been 36 years since John Bonk took the field at Ivor Wynne Stadium.
This Friday, the Stoney Creek native who spent his rookie season as a Tiger-Cat will be honoured along with the other four members of this year’s Canadian Football Hall of Fame Class.
The inductees, featuring Bonk, Doug Flutie, Mike “Pinball” Clemons, Mike Pringle, and Tom Shepherd, will be in Hamilton all weekend taking part in the festivities, including the annual Hall of Fame Game, which will pit the Ticats against the team where Bonk spent the rest of his career, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
All five men will be in the Pepsi pre-game area prior to kickoff between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. for a jacket presentation and autograph session, giving fans a chance to interact with them face to face. At halftime, this year’s Hall of Fame busts, designed by sculptor/painter Gino Cavicchioli will be unveiled.
“This is one of those rare games on the CFL calendar when ALL football fans, not just fans of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, have a chance to really be a part of the rich tradition and history of our league in person,” said president Scott Mitchell. "Fans at the game will meet and mingle with one of the best, if not the best, induction classes of all-time and join in on all of the festivities surrounding the game. It'll be a great night of football on the field as we battle Winnipeg for playoff position, and a great night of celebration for some of our league's all-time greatest players.”
Here’s a little more about each member of this year’s prestigious class of honourees:
JOHN BONK, PLAYER
John Bonk played for 13 years in the CFL from 1972 to 1985. Bonk's pro-football career began when the Hamilton Tiger-Cats invited him to training camp in 1972. Bonk was traded to Winnipeg in October 1973. Bonk started as a linebacker in Winnipeg, but switched to center, the position he played for the rest of his career. He was instrumental in the Blue Bombers 1984 Grey Cup victory. Bonk did not miss a regular season game between 1973 and 1985 (202 games), when a neck injury sidelined him and eventually led him to retire from football following the 1985 season. Bonk was chosen as a Western All-Star and a CFL All-Star in 1982, 1983, 1984, and 1985. He won the Schenley award for Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman in 1984, and was awarded the DeMarco-Becket Memorial Trophy for Outstanding Lineman in the West in 1983 and 1984.
MICHAEL "PINBALL" CLEMONS, PLAYER
Michael Clemons, nicknamed "Pinball" for his knack of bouncing off would-be tacklers, was signed as a free agent by the Toronto Argonauts in June 1989. In his first game as an Argo, he was named player-of-the-game with two kickoff returns for 62 yards and five punt returns for 46 yards. Clemons holds the Pro-football record for both regular season combined yards (3,840), set during the 1997 season, and all-time career combined yards (25, 438). In 1999, he became the only person in Pro-Football to pass the career 5,000 yard mark in four separate categories: rushing (5,341), receiving (7,015), kick off returns (6,349), and punt returns (6,025). After retiring as a player in 2000, Clemons went on to become Head Coach of the Argos leading them to Grey Cup victory in 2004. In 2007, he became the Chief Executive Officer of the Argonauts. He has won the Grey Cup three times as a player in 1991, 1996, and 1997. He was chosen as an Eastern All-Star in 1990, 1993, 1994, and 1997, as well as, a CFL All-Star in 1990, and 1997. In 1990 he was also chosen as the CFL's Most Outstanding Player. Pinball has won the Tom Pate Award, given for community involvement, in 1993 and 1996.
DOUG FLUTIE, PLAYER
Doug Flutie signed with the BC Lions in 1990. In 1991, he threw for a record 6,619 yards on 466 completions. In 1992, he signed with the Calgary Stampeders, leading the team to Grey Cup victory that year. Flutie's 48 touchdown passes in 1994 remains a CFL record. He played with the Stampeders until 1996, when he signed with the Toronto Argonauts, leading them to back-to-back Grey Cup victories in 1996, and 1997. He left the CFL with career passing yards of 41,355 and 270 touchdowns. Flutie was named the CFL's Most Outstanding Player and made a CFL All-Star in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, and 1997. In 2006, Flutie was voted the Number One CFL Player of All Time by TSN. In 2007, he was inducted into both the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame.
MIKE PRINGLE, PLAYER
Mike Pringle signed with the Edmonton Eskimos for the 1992 season. He was released by the Eskimos and spent the remainder of the season with the Sacramento Surge of the World League of American Football. In 1993, Pringle switched leagues to play with the CFL's Sacramento Gold Miners for one season before being traded to the Baltimore Stallions. Pringle made two back to back Grey Cup appearances with the Stallions in 1994 and 1995, winning the Cup in 1995. In 1996, Pringle joined the relocated Baltimore franchise in Montreal. Pringle had a stand out season in 1998 with 2,065 rushing yards setting a record for the most rushing yards during the regular season. The Alouettes would get to the Grey Cup in 2000 and 2002, winning over the Edmonton Eskimos in 2002. Pringle left the Alouettes after the 2002 season and once again signed with the Edmonton Eskimos where he helped them reach and win the Grey Cup in 2003. After the 2004 season Pringle announced his retirement. Pringle was a CFL All-Star in 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2003, as well as, the CFL's Most Outstanding player in 1995 and 1998.
TOM SHEPHERD, BUILDER
Tom Shepherd began his involvement with the Saskatchewan Roughrider Football Club in 1966. Shepherd has been a member of the Annual Dinner Committee (Plaza of Honour Dinner) for 43 years, and from 1976 -1977 was Chair of the Executive Game Plan (Fundraising). While serving as a Club Director from 1980 - 2005, Tom was a Member of the Management/Executive Committee for 22 years and Treasurer for 20 years. During Shepherd's tenure as Club President and CFL Governor from 1987 to 1989, the Saskatchewan Roughriders won the Grey Cup (1989). Since his term of President, as Founder and President of Friends of Riders Touchdown Lottery, Shepherd has raised over $10 million to keep the team in the province. He also found time to serve as a Director of 1995 Grey Cup Inc. and 2003 Grey Cup Inc. In addition to direct Roughrider involvement, Tom has also been involved in other Saskatchewan football activities as Director and Treasurer of Regina Rams Football Club from 1970-1976 and Director and Treasurer of Gord Currie Youth Development Fund from 1977-2001.