Affectionately nicknamed "Yussel the Muscle", Joe B. Ryan was involved with football in Canada for over thirty years. Although he was famous for promoting the concept of the Western Football Conference and was instrumental in forming the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Ryan was particularly proud of the successful formation of the Western Interprovincial Football Union in 1934. This eventually included Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver.
Ryan occupies an unique place in Canadian Football League history as the only person to have managed three different professional teams in the league: the Winnipeg Blue Bombers from 1933-41, the Montreal Alouettes from 1945- 49, and the Edmonton Eskimos from 1959-66. Ryan was a central figure in these organizations and his skillful management of the Blue Bombers and Alouettes resulted in Grey Cup victories. Ryan began with the Blue Bombers in 1933 and managed them to the Grey Cup in 1935, the first time that a Western Football Conference club won the national title. After he won two more titles with Winnipeg in 1939 and 1941, Ryan left to work with the federal tax department in Montreal, Quebec. By 1945, Ryan formed the Montreal Alouettes and led them to the Grey Cup in 1949. Ryan's managerial accomplishments were due to his pioneering practice of recruiting American players and coaches such as Fritz Hanson, Bob Fritz, Reg Threlfall, Carl Cronin, and Joe Perpich who all played under Ryan in Winnipeg.
Ryan was central in the movement to allow the forward or pro pass into Canadian football, which made the game more exciting for the fans. Ryan became the first life member of the Winnipeg Blue Bomber Alumni Association in 1958, received the Canadian Rugby Union plaque for outstanding service in 1964, and entered the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1973.
Joe Ryan is also a member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Hall of Fame.