CFL icon Stukus dies at 91

CFL legend Annis "Stuke" Stukus died at the age of 91 at his home in Canmore, Alta., Saturday.

Stukus held several positions during his lllustrious CFL career

CFL legend Annis "Stuke" Stukus, who was widely regarded as a football pioneer, has died at the age of 91 at his home in Canmore, Alta., the Edmonton Eskimos announced Saturday.

Stukus contributed to the success of the CFL in many ways, but will always be remembered for building the Edmonton and Vancouver franchises.

The versatile Stukus was also the general manager of the World Hockey Association's Winnipeg Jets when he signed NHL great Bobby Hull to an unprecedented $1-million contract.

Stukus had a 12-year career with the Toronto Argonauts and played several positions, including quarterback. Playing alongside brothers Bill and Frank, Stukus led Toronto to consecutive Grey Cup titles in 1937 and 1938.

Stukus then continued his CFL career as head coach of the Eskimos in 1949 and was the first-ever coach of the BC Lions in 1953.

Stukus was known for his flair in promoting both franchises and helped them to early financial success.

"This is a tremendous loss for fans of the CFL and for the BC Lions," said Lions president and CEO, Bob Ackles.

"Annis was an outstanding player and coach and an even better person off the field. Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time."

The league began to pay tribute to Stukus in 1961 by naming its annual coach of the year award after him.

"He was a big-time character," said Ackles.

"He was the person who really sold football here in British Columbia. He did a heck of a selling job in the community. The Lions were the first professional team other than Western Hockey League hockey in this area. It was really a virgin market for professional sports."

Stukus also held positions as a broadcaster and sportswriter in Toronto and Vancouver.

He was inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame as a builder in 1974 and is a member of the Canadian Sports Hall.

Stukus was born in Toronto on Oct. 25, 1914 and is survived by his wife of 67 years, Doris, daughters Suzanne, Sally and Mary, grandsons David and Sam, and great-granddaughter Maddy.

With files from Canadian Press