Braley makes first public comments since illness, says B.C. Lions must be sold

David Braley will admit what has been suggested locally about the ownership of the B.C. Lions for some time but still isn’t willing to commit to a timeline that would result in a change at the top.

The 75-year-old owner spoke publicly Thursday for the first time since he became seriously ill more than a year ago and repeated his intentions to sell the CFL franchise. However as he has done on numerous occasions in the past Braley would not specify whether it would happen soon.

“A sale could occur this year, next year or the year; everything is paid for,” he said. “We’re in good shape financially.”

In previous interviews, Braley has said he wouldn’t sell the team once training camp is underway and if that remains the case he would have just under two months to complete a deal this year with veterans scheduled to report to Kamloops May 28.

The Hamilton-based owner was last scheduled to attend an event in Vancouver last year at this time when he took ill prior to a breakfast put on by the team’s business advisory group, the Waterboys.

Reported as a bacterial infection, Braley said he had to undergo a significant recovery.

“I was very sick. I was in the hospital for over three months, then I had a rehabilitation because you lose all your muscles. I had to learn to walk again,” he said. “I’m about 85-95 per-cent.”

The owner was interviewed at the Lions practice facility in Surrey upon arriving from Hamilton Thursday, billed as an exclusive on the team’s website.

He was not asked about published reports that the family of Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini continues to inquire about a purchase, repeating that he has had numerous conversations with interested parties. Braley also wasn’t asked whether he will seek to secure a contract extension with Wally Buono, who is going into the final year of his contract as coach/general manager, or for a reaction to last year’s franchise record low playoff attendance for the West Division semifinal.

The only move involving management undertaken by the Lions during the current off-season came when Braley re-assumed the title of president that had been held previously by Dennis Skulsky, who is now listed as a vice-chairman. Club staffers have suggested Braley has been more active in day-to-day operations since Skulsky took a reduced role and that Braley will continue to run the Lions much as he has done for the previous 20 seasons.

Braley is scheduled to attend the Orange Helmet Awards dinner, the team’s annual salute to amateur football, in Vancouver Friday but before invariably being asked about the state of his team he only repeated what he has said all along with respect to his ownership, only with a slight twist.

“It has to be sold,” he said. “I’m 75 years old. I don’t want to be sitting here at 95 owning the franchise.”

 

 

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Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.