Winnipeg Blue Bombers surprise ex-player after learning he’d suffered a heart attack

Elton Hobson was a member of the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers from 1945 to 1949. He’s also a former member of the Royal Canadian Air force (RCAF), a Kellogg’s salesman for over four decades, and a golf lover.

Last but not least: he’s my grandfather.

I figure I should point that out now, since anyone glancing between the article’s subject and its byline is going to be confused. He’s the Elton I was named after.

And for five seasons, he played quarterback and halfback in the earliest days of Canadian football, when the CFL was known as the Canadian Rugby Football Union (CRFU).

“Back then, I’d have played for nothing,” Elton said. “At the end of one year, they gave me a cheque for $50 and a leather jacket. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.”

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Earlier this year, Elton Sr. had a severe heart attack and spent  weeks in intensive care. The prognosis was grim. At the time, our family was told by doctors that even a single bypass surgery could kill him.

So you can imagine our horror when we learned that he would eventually have to undergo a quadruple bypass.

It was around this time I reached out to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to let them know what had happened to Elton. We decided to arrange a surprise for their former quarterback, not knowing how much longer he might have.

He surprised everyone when he pulled through the surgery and made a full recovery.

He’s relaxing now at his winter home in Florida, which is where I surprised him with the Bombers’ gift this past Sunday: a jersey with his name and his old number, signed by members of today’s Blue Bombers team.

In addition, the team recorded messages of support from current and ex-Blue Bombers stars, as well as CFL Commissioner Jeffrey Orridge.

“I just want to wish you the best, and get well soon,” Orridge said in his message. “Hang in there, and I love what you’ve done for the league.”

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WATCH: Players, ex-players, CFL commish send their messages of support 

Elton was understandably moved by this gesture from his old team.

“It not only is nice to be thought of, but to be recognized and thought of particularly for somebody who was never a star, but who always felt like part of the team,” an emotional Elton said in response to the gift.

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Elton tried out for the Blue Bombers in 1945 after being discharged from the RCAF at the end of World War Two. He played a combination of quarterback and halfback during his four years in football, as well as a linebacker on defence – in those days, there wasn’t the bench depth for players to play only on offense or defence.

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At only 5’8 and weighing just 175 pounds, Elton was small for a quarterback. He became famous for what later became known, in our family at least, as the “Hobson Hop”: Elton would take the snap, drop back, and begin jumping so he could see his receivers over the heads of his offensive line.

“I don’t know about the ‘Hobson Hop,’” Elton said. “I do know that being short is never a quality they look for in a quarterback. One of the things I do remember is if I drop back, if I had some 6’7 guy in front of [me], as the receiver ran in front of him you’d have to wait until he came out the other side before you could throw the pass.”

WATCH: Elton Hobson remembers how he got the nickname “Hobby” as well as his signature move, the “Hobson Hop”

Elton played in two Grey Cup games during his CFL stint. He says he particularly remembers the 1947 Grey Cup in Toronto, one of the most fondly-recalled and exciting championship games in Canadian football history.

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“We played at Varsity Stadium. And walking onto the field before a crowd of 27, 28,000 people was overwhelming,” Elton said. “It all seemed surreal. It was mind-boggling to play in that.”

A last-second kick by the Toronto Argonauts gave them a 10-9 win over the Bombers, but the game’s intensity and dramatic finish made it a part of CFL lore.

WATCH: Hobson recalls his two trips to the Grey Cup championship game in 1946 and 1947

Eventually, Elton’s football career came to an end when, with a wife and a new baby to look after, he went to the team asking for a raise.

“I understand now. At the time I felt I deserved more money – and I’m sure they knew they could get somebody as good as me for less,” Elton joked.

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He remains a fan of the CFL and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to this day, the love between team and player still clearly mutual.

“I wish you all the best as you go on in your quest for another Grey Cup,” Elton told the team after being presented with the jersey. “Because you are going to get one.”

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