David Braley, owner of B.C. Lions, dead at 79

David Braley, who owned three Canadian Football League franchises including the B.C Lions, died Monday morning at age 79.

Hamilton businessman also owned Tiger-Cats, Argonauts at one time

David Braley, owner of the B.C. Lions, has died. He was 79. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

David Braley, who owned three Canadian Football League franchises including the B.C Lions, has died. He was 79.

The team said in a statement that Braley died in his Burlington, Ont., home Monday morning. A cause of death was not provided for the owner and chairman of the Lions.

Braley entered the CFL in 1989 as the owner of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The franchise became community owned in 1992 but the resident of Burlington, Ont., wasn't gone long, returning to football ownership in 1997 when he bought the Lions.

Braley also owned the Toronto Argonauts from 2010 to 2015 when he announced the sale of the franchise to Bell and Larry Tanenbaum, the chairman of Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment. Braley served as the chairman of the CFL's board of governors and as interim commissioner (March 2002 to November 2002).

"David has been a proud and fiercely loyal owner of our team, a champion of the Canadian Football League, and a leader for whom his love of our game and our country went hand in hand and spanned decades.  We share our deepest condolences with his family, friends and admirers," Lions president Rick LeLacheur said in a statement released by the team.

"One of his final acts of devotion to Canadian football was a clear expression of his desire that the stability of our club be maintained through a smooth transition following his passing. We will work closely with David's estate to follow that plan."

McMaster athletics centre bears name

Braley's football teams have won four Grey Cups. B.C. has accounted for three of them (2000, 2006 and 2011) while Toronto captured the historic 100th Grey Cup in 2012.

"It was heartbreaking to receive the call that David passed away," former Lions head coach Wally Buono wrote on Twitter. "It's a sad day for all the many people that David's life touched."

Braley is doused with champagne after winning his third Grey Cup title as owner of the Lions in 2011. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press/File)

Bob Young, who refers to himself as the Tiger-Cats' caretaker and not owner, is mourning the loss of Braley.

"He was an enthusiastic Hamiltonian and a wonderful benefactor to our community's hospitals and universities," Young said in a statement. "The CFL and Hamilton communities have lost a great leader and champion today.

"While David was well known for his role with the BC Lions, he was also always, at heart, a Ticat fan. Our sincerest condolences go out to David's family, and his wide circle of friends and admirers across our community."

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie said in a statement Braley will "forever be remembered as a CFL legend." He added Braley was "our champion in every sense of the word."

"He also championed the CFL itself, as a member of its board of governors, its chair and as an interim commissioner," Ambrosie added. "Most of all, though, he championed an idea with passion and purpose: that the Grey Cup, the CFL and Canadian football play an incredibly important role in Canadian life and culture, and they deserve to be supported and cherished."

But Braley's involvement in sport wasn't limited to just football.

  • Braley also owned soccer's Vancouver 86ers and later the A-League's Vancouver Whitecaps, until 2000.
  • He served as chairman of the 2003 world cycling championship in Hamilton and was a director of Ontario's successful bid to host the 2015 Pan Am Games. He was a member of the board overseeing preparations for the Games but was forced to resign upon being appointed to the Senate in May 2010 by then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

However, Braley resigned his seat in November 2013 without publicly stating a reason.

'We have lost our greatest champion'

He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2012 and the athletic centre at McMaster bears his name. He received the Order of Canada in 2019 for his contributions to the CFL, and for his entrepreneurial and philanthropic leadership in his community.

Braley was also a philanthropist and contributed $5 million to the athletic centre at McMaster. He has also made significant donations to the Cardiac, Vascular and Stroke Research Institute at Hamilton General Hospital, which also bears his name.

"We have lost our greatest champion. All of us associated with the Lions have personally seen, time and time again, David's selfless commitment to our club and our fans," LeLacheur said.

"But his example and inspiration, along with the direction he provided us all as his health failed, fuels our confidence in the Lions future. The B.C.Lions will continue to work hard to honour his memory by being the best we can be on the field, in the boardroom and in the community."

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