Chris Walby is best known for his Hall of Fame career with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Arguably, one of the best ever, offensive lineman to grab dirt and get at ‘er. In total, he played in five Grey Cup finals, winning three.
The Winnipegger was also named to several All-Canadian teams. At 6-foot-7, the big man cast an imposing figure on the field. These days he can be heard on 1290-TSN, providing pre and post-game analysis. He’s also the go-to guy for many media outlets when it comes to football, and the Grey Cup.
What many sports fans don’t know is that Walby also played in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. He played two seasons with the West Kildonan North Stars: 1975 to 1977.
“Man, I loved that team, and playing hockey,” Walby said with a laugh. “Hockey was my number one favourite sport. I never had any dreams of playing anywhere. Fact was, I really didn’t give football a second thought.”
“We (North Stars) were a championship caliber team. We had a fantastic combination of goal scorers (Kim Koswin, Jim Flett) and really tough guys (Mark Smerchanski and Flett). So many great guys. Great goaltending; fantastic coach. (Greg Lacomy).
“I played hockey as a kid. Moving up the ranks. I played for Luxton and eventually moved to the North Stars from juvenile.”
Walby was quite the imposing figure skating up and down the ice. By his own admission he played a “very rough” style of game.
“The league was full of tough players,” he says with a laugh. “My first game was in Brandon against the Travellers. They had this big, tough guy and of course we dropped the mitts. After the game he came over and said “thanks, no one would fight me.”
After graduating junior hockey he then turned his attention to football. “I played one year of high school,” he said.
“I tried out for the Hawkeyes, and they cut me. Those were the days when no one would get cut. You kidding me! I got cut.”
He then decided to get serious about football, lifting weights to build up his strength, and improve his foot speed. After a year away from the field, he made and excelled with the Junior Winnipeg Rods. He then earned himself a scholarship to Dickenson State.
“I really enjoyed my hockey days,” Walby says. “It’s great to see the league has expanded and doing really well.”