Research Assignment: Bill Henry

Published on May 28, 2017 6:06 PM by dbo.

Introducing a new type of post on CFLdb, which may become an irregular series, Research Assignments will be a request to the Canadian Football research community to research and clarify discrepancies or ambiguities in the statistics record. Researchers get to do what they like, which is research, the statistical record gets corrected or clarified with sources and reference material, and CFLdb focuses on developing the sites rather than research into potential data issues. As always, credit will fall to the researchers, with a summary of research findings submitted to CFLdb published here, but researchers are free to publish elsewhere.

The first assignment is Bill Henry. In the mid-to-late-eighties, the source record has two Bill Henry’s on the Saskatchewan Roughrider roster. The goal is to unravel if they are the same person, or two unique individuals.

Current Status: Case closed, solved by Chris Sinclair (see below)

Update June 2018: Resolution added

Update May 2018: Additional information added


FFR = CFL annual Facts, Figures and Records publication

CPFE = Canadian Professional Football Encyclopedia publication

The Facts

The facts are as follows:

  1. Bill Henry, DL from UBC, was drafted by the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the 5th round (38th overall) of the 1986 CFL draft.
  2. 1988 FFR lists William Henry, C, 6′ 0″, 265 lbs, born 1960-08-31 from UBC on Saskatchewan Training Camp New Players roster
  3. 1989 FFR lists player profile for William Henry, G, 6′ 2″, 265 lbs, born 1960-08-31, birthplace Minneapolis, Minnesota, school UBC as playing 18 games with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1988, and the following transaction history:

    Selected by Saskatchewan Roughriders in the 5th round (38th overall) of the 1986 CFL College Draft. Traded to Winnipeg Blue Bombers in June, 1987. Released by Winnipeg in July, 1987 and returned to the Richmond Raiders (Jr.) for a year. Signed with Saskatchewan in March, 1988.

  4. Through his career, it appears Henry wore #63.
  5. #1-4 all appear to refer the same person. In the 1990 FFR and forward, birthday is updated to 1961-08-31.
  6. 2013 CPFE lists William (Bill) Henry, OG-C, 6′ 0″, 267 lbs, born 1961-08-30, UBC; Richmond Raiders Jr., drafted 5th round (38th overall) by Saskatchewan as playing 6 seasons (1988-89, 1991-1994).

The Ambiguity

  1. CFL provided rosters show a Bill Henry on the 1986 Saskatchewan Roughrider roster, playing 3 games at DL.
  2. Presence of this player appears to not be in error, as roster numbers balance.
  3. Research has found Bill Henry was added to Saskatchewan practice roster Sept. 12, 1986 (pg 58) as an OT (Sept. 11).
  4. A Bill Henry was listed as #50 OT on media rosters for Sept. 20th and Sept. 28th Saskatchewan games in 1986, before returning to the practice roster for the remainder of the season.
  5. No mention of Bill Henry’s identity in newspaper reports when he was added to practice roster or active roster can be found.
  6. 1987 FFR has no record of Bill Henry in player profile or 1986 Saskatchewan Game Participation. Instead, a Henry Williams is listed as playing 3 games. The player profile for Henry Williams lists him as a WR born May 31, 1932 (which would make him 54, an obvious error), playing 8 games for Edmonton. This is Henry “Gizmo” Williams, born May 31, 1962. All records indicate he was signed as a free agent by Edmonton in September 1986 and dressed for 8 games. FFR does not show him playing 3 games for Saskatchewan that year, however, CPFE does list “Gizmo” with 3 games played and no stats with Saskatchewan in 1986. However, total Games Played in FFR for 1986 Roughriders equals 629, which is exactly the same total CFL provided rosters equals with Bill Henry.
  7. 2013 CPFE does not list another Bill Henry or any Henry who participated in 2 or 3 games with Saskatchewan in 1986.

The Errors

I think the following errors are clear:

  • In 1986, the Bill Henry that was on Saskatchewan’s practice and active roster was as an offensive lineman, not a defensive lineman (the position the drafted Bill Henry played in college).
  • In 1987 FFR, a transposition error resulted in Henry Williams being listed on Saskatchewan’s 1986 Player Participation role with 3 games played. The same confusion led to no Bill Henry player profile being included, which lost Bill Henry’s 1986 participation record to history. CPFE balanced the numbers as published, listing Henry Williams with 3 games with Saskatchewan in 1986.

The Questions

There are a lot of discrepancies in the facts. Questions remain to be answered to clarify these facts and eliminate the potential ambiguity.

  • For the known Bill Henry, what is his correct birth date (leaning towards 1961-08-31)?
  • For the known Bill Henry, what is his correct height — 6′ 0″ or 6′ 2″?
  • Was the Bill Henry who participated in 1986 the same Bill Henry who was drafted and played six seasons in the CFL starting in 1988?
  • If this was a different Bill Henry, what is his college, birthdate, birthplace and other vitals?

The Theories

It seems logical that these are the same Bill Henry, as there is no evidence of another player with the same name, playing the same position. But why was he dropped from CFL records, receiving no credit for games played in FFR for 1986 season?

First, let me state these theories are not to malign practices or raise controversy for something that occurred over 30 years ago. It is to set the record and facts straight, and properly account for what happened and credit the proper individuals for their service.

One theory is the team brought him on to the practice roster after drafting him, and dressed him as a backup in a couple games, and in order to maintain his Junior eligibility, this participation was expunged. However, in 1986 a graduating Junior was the year a player turned 23, and Henry would have been 25 in Aug. 1986 by his latest known birthdate. I also don’t recall what, if any, professional participation did to Junior eligibility in that era (was 2 or 3 games too many?). It does raise the question of how a 26-year old Henry could return to the Richmond Raiders Jr. in 1987 after being cut by the Bombers as the record states.

A simpler theory is that although Bill Henry was on the Roughrider practice roster in 1986, and was slated to dress for 3 games, he in fact was a late scratch, and therefore did not register any games played. However, player participation records should show the game difference in another player, and they don’t. The only way the roster numbers balance is with Henry on the roster. Sticking with the simple, it is possible these are the same Henry (ignoring the Junior eligibility) and confusion with Henry Williams saw Bill Henry’s 1986 participation lost, that, with paper record keeping, was never rectified.

Another theory is this is just the result of bad record keeping. Missed in the original records in 1986, the 2 or 3 games were lost and with no electronic record keeping, the only person who could correct it was Bill Henry, who wasn’t aware or concerned about what FFR said. This jives with CFL Statistician Steve Daniel correcting the CFL record with those games, though the position was incorrect, and they being the same Bill Henry. The CPFE either did not get this information, or faced with ambiguity, did not list the games with the known Bill Henry nor create another Bill Henry with no known college, birthdate or birthplace, or based their research off the 1987 FFR which listed Henry Williams as the owner of the 3 games.

A final theory is there were two players named Bill Henry, one was from UBC and drafted, and another, a little younger, was a Junior player. The draftee played with the Roughriders in 1986. The Junior player attended training camp with Winnipeg in 1987 before returning to Richmond Jr. and then signing with Saskatchewan in 1988. The mixup occurred when Saskatchewan and Winnipeg traded a Bill Henry or when the second Bill Henry signed in Saskatchewan, though perhaps Winnipeg already had the rights to a Junior Bill Henry. This only makes sense if Winnipeg owned Bill Henry’s rights due to his being from Manitoba. Since the known Bill Henry is stated to be born in Minneapolis, MN, where his rights would belong is unclear, and such information may discredit or help the case of separate college and Junior Bill Henrys.

Requirements and Resources

To resolve this, proof will be required of the 1986 Bill Henry’s biographical information. This may be found from a 1986 game program that lists his birthdate and school, or media guide, or other source from the era.

Barring such a source, the known Bill Henry may need to clarify if he dressed for any games in 1986. If not him, an investigation into what other non-import Bill Henry offensive linemen of the time will be required, and who could be this second Bill Henry.

An analysis of all of Saskatchewan’s 1986 rosters could determine if the Bill Henry listed with 3 GP by the CFL is in error. Below are links to published rosters for 17 of 18 Saskatchewan games that season. (Links are as close to actual listing as possible, scroll to locate if not visible).

Of course, don’t take anything I’ve stated here as absolute fact. I may have erred in my eyesight, interpretation or by omission. Researchers, alumni, the real Bill Henry, I challenge you to get to the bottom of this once and for all. Besides the glory, you don’t know what else you may receive for your efforts.

The Resolution

Chris Sinclair researched and found additional information that allows for the conclusion there is a single William (Bill) Henry, who dressed for three games with Saskatchewan in 1986 as an offensive lineman. Chris’ findings that filled in the blanks were confirming Henry’s participation in three games and biographical data from his 1986 football card.

The player card further ties everything together. It shows Bill Henry wearing #50, the same number he is listed as on the rosters. The back of the card gives a detailed (and complete) history. The height & weight listed on the card is consistent with the data listed in later versions of the FFR.

Chris Sinclair

Update April 2019

Barry Taman, who was with the ‘Riders during this time, wrote to confirm:

To clarify it even more, yes, Bill dressed for the Rider games and he indeed lined up as a Defensive Lineman, even though he was drafted as an Offensive linemen. The coaches at the time were trying to find a spot to play him as we [the Roughriders] had enough Offensive Lineman to dress but were short of Defensive lineman. During practice he took reps on both sides of the ball to be more versatile for us. If we had injuries, Bill could then play both sides of the ball so they dressed him as a Defensive lineman but if needed during those games due to injuries he would have shifted to the offensive side of the ball. He mainly saw duty on special teams.

Barry Taman

The conclusion on his vitals and career:

  • born 1960-08-31
  • 6′ 2″, 265 lbs.
  • played Junior football with the Richmond Raiders from 1978-1982 as DE and DT
  • played at Santa Ana Junior College in 1983 as OT
  • played at UBC in 1984 as DT
  • coached the Richmond Raiders Jrs DL in 1985
  • Drafted by Saskatchewan in 1986
  • Spent time on Saskatchewan’s practice roster in 1986, dressing for three games as OT #50
  • Traded to Winnipeg in June 20, 1987
  • Spent time Winnipeg’s practice roster, eventually released (release date unknown) and returned to Richmond Raiders Jrs to coach (assumption)
  • Signed with Saskatchewan in 1988, and played in the CFL until ending his career in 1994 with Edmonton

The errors, misdirection and missed information that made this tricky for me to solve:

  • The mixup of Henry Williams and William (Bill) Henry in the 1987 FFR
  • The reference to Bill Henry returning to Richmond Raiders in 1987, which is assumed by most to be as a player, but as a coach as his Junior eligibility had ended five years earlier
  • Different reports of date of birth, height, position, etc. opened door to consider multiple persons with same name
  • Missing the big picture, many theories were formed, when the simplest answer was the correct one

While I was almost certain after reviewing and updating last month that the answer was simply Bill Henry’s 1986 participation was lost when credited to Henry Williams, later corrected by Steve Daniel in roster stats provided to CFLdb, but not included in CPFE, I could still not see the whole picture. I am grateful Chris completed the research on this assignment to come up with a logical and source backed explanation. This has provided the information required to close this assignment. CFLdb Statistics will be updated to list a single Bill Henry, and grant him three games participation in 1986.


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Research Assignment: Bill Henry was published on May 28, 2017 6:06 PM by dbo.

2,321 words.

This article is categorized under and tagged with bill-henry, research-assignment and saskatchewan-roughriders.

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