A retired mechanic who won almost $179,000 in the Grey Cup 50/50 draw says he actually threw out his ticket — then promptly fished it out of the garbage — because of a misprint on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' website.
Charles Ritchot of La Salle, Man., came forward with the winning ticket number (W-551531) on Tuesday and claimed the $178,748 prize.
Ritchot said he had heard his number announced during the game on Nov. 29, but he did not claim it right away.
"Too much hassle at night and I wanted to surprise the wife in the morning," he told CBC's Up to Speed program late Tuesday afternoon.
But that plan went awry the next morning, when the couple went on the Bombers' website and they saw the last three digits were in a different order.
"They had it as 351 instead of 531 so I said, 'Oh crap, I misread it. I didn't win!' So I throw the ticket away," he said.
"Then I go, you know, I'm going to keep this ticket. If nothing else, it's going to tell me I'll never get that close again, don't buy another darned ticket. So I pulled it out of the garbage and kept it on my dresser."
Not claimed for days
Ritchot said several days later, he noticed the 50/50 draw winner had not been announced, so he contacted the Blue Bombers on Thursday to check. Staff still had the winning number ending with 351, he said.
So he decided to keep his ticket for a little while longer.
"Someone's got to claim it if it's wrong, if I'm wrong," he said.
"No one claimed it, so then I went on the website this morning and it was now 531. So I phoned this morning and they admitted that it was wrong on the website."
His first reaction? "I said, 'Holy crap!' I said, 'Now the wife's going to think I'm pulling her leg again!'"
The Bombers had issued an appeal to fans on Monday, saying the winner had until Dec. 29 to come forward. If no one claimed the prize by then, officials said the team would have to decide what to do with the money.
Ritchot said prior to winning the 50/50 draw, the most he had ever won in a lottery was around $120.
The father of four and grandfather of three added that the prize money will help his family.
"I used to be a mechanic but I had heart surgery that went bad, so I haven't been working in five years — I'm on permanent disability — so this is definitely going to help."
Proceeds from the 50/50 draw will support amateur football and community programs in Manitoba.