Longtime B.C. Lions owner David Braley passes away

Photo courtesy: McMaster/Ron Scheffler

B.C. Lions owner David Braley has passed away at the age of 79.

Braley purchased the financially-strapped Leos prior to the 1997 season. During his induction speech at the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2012, Braley spoke of how proud he was going from 8,000 fans in the stands at his first game as owner to averaging 35,000 at the highest point of his tenure.

His first Grey Cup win as a CFL owner was a historic one. In 2000, the Lions became the first team in pro football to win a championship despite finishing below .500 in the regular season. It was completed with a 28-26 win over the Montreal Alouettes in the 94th Grey Cup at McMahon Stadium.

Three years later, Braley and the late Bobby Ackles successfully lured Wally Buono away from the Calgary Stampeders to serve as head coach and general manager.

The Lions finished first in the West Division every year from 2004 to 2007, posting a regular season record of 52-19-1. In 2006, the franchise won its fifth Grey Cup and second under Braley’s ownership by defeating Montreal 25-14 at Canad Inns Stadium in Winnipeg.

Braley’s team won a third championship in 2011 when the Lions went from an 0-5 start to Grey Cup champions, beating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at the newly renovated BC Place.

A former high school player himself, Braley always believed in promoting the game of football at the grassroots level. It was then-Hamilton mayor Bob Morrow who urged Mr. Braley to step in and purchase the struggling Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1989.

That was the start of his very successful track record of owning football franchises. The Tiger-Cats would appear in the Grey Cup in his first season as owner and would then return to community ownership prior to the 1992 season.

Braley also owned the Toronto Argonauts from 2010 to 2015. The highlight of that tenure was the Argonauts hosting and winning the historic 100th Grey Cup in 2012. It was the fourth and final Grey Cup win for Braley as a CFL owner.

A well-known leader and innovator, Braley also spent time as Chairman of the CFL’s board of governors and also served as interim commissioner from March to November of 2002 before the appointment of Tom Wright.

After studying Sciences at McMaster University, Braley’s success in the business world began with General Motors Acceptance Corporation in Hamilton before he moved on to London Life Insurance.

He then purchased William Orlick Industries (now known as Orlick Industries) in 1969, and over the next several years transformed it from a small business into one of the leading manufactures of aluminum die-cast auto parts. Orlick Industries has provided jobs for hundreds of workers in the Hamilton area.

Braley was also known for also being a champion in the world of philanthropy, donating over $125 million to various organizations over the years.

During a remarkable ten-month stretch from August 2006 to June 2007, he gave $50 million to McMaster’s medical school and an additional $5 million for the school’s new athletic complex, which is appropriately named the David Braley Athletic Centre.

He also gave $10 million to Hamilton Health Sciences for a new cardiac, vascular and research institute as well as $5 million to St. Joseph’s Healthcare for operating rooms and kidney care.

In 2007, he was presented with an award from the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association for charitable and philanthropic contributions.

Braley’s long and storied career also included politics. He was appointed to the Canadian Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in May of 2010 and would go on to serve for nearly three years before retiring from government. He received this country’s highest honour, the Order of Canada, in 2019

Born in Montreal in 1941, his family moved to Hamilton in 1943. He quickly discovered his true passion for the game of football as a young child when he attended his first Tiger-Cats game at old Ivor Wynne Stadium. Love of the game is what led him to strap on the pads at Westdale High School and, of course, carve out nearly three decades of success as an owner and governor in the Canadian Football League.

Braley is an honoured member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, McMaster Sports Hall of Fame and Hamilton Sports Hall of Fame.