Bob Young believes David Braley ran the Lions ‘as financially effectively as any owner’ in the CFL

Photo courtesy: Raj Taneja

Bob Young wore his Tiger-Cats hat in honour of Hamilton native David Braley on the day the Canadian Football Hall of Famer passed away.

Braley grew up in the Steel City and spent his final years in nearby Burlington. He fell in love with the CFL as a child watching the Ticats and carried his passion into his later years while doing all he could, physically and financially, for its benefit.

“He never wanted to own more than one team. When he was involved in the B.C. Lions, and the Argos and the Ticats were in financial trouble in 2003, I got involved. David could’ve stepped up and taken over the Ticats at that time,” Young said.

“But he understood that wasn’t a good outcome for the league. If he could find someone, anyone, including the idiot he found in me to take on the Ticats, that would be better for the league than for any one person to own two teams.”

His first foray as a CFL owner was with the Tiger-Cats in 1989 as Braley took control of the black and gold until the franchise was returned to community ownership in 1992. He purchased the Lions in 1997 and owned the Argonauts from 2010 to 2015, becoming the only person to own two CFL teams at once. Braley’s mandate with the double blue was to make the team financially successful in order to find a stable ownership group.

“He only got involved in Toronto after they got into trouble because there was no one else who stepped forward,” Young said.

“He was the one who found Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment to take over the Argos — David was the person to make that happen.”

That transaction allowed Braley to focus on the Lions. Many people around the league never felt Braley wanted to sell the team because it was a source of pride worth more than anything money could buy. He truly had a love for the Lions and wanted to see the team return to prominence on the west coast.

“It’s certainly a very sad day, not a shocking one. David’s health had been in serious decline over the last couple of years. Those of us who knew him knew that David was struggling with a couple of different health issues. Nonetheless, it’s a shocking and very sad day,” Young said.

According to Young, his fellow owner was a master negotiator who taught him how to run an efficient and effective organization. Financial discipline was the key Young points to as the reason for Braley’s successful 20-plus year run as the Lions owner.

“He was one of the best financial minds that I’ve ever had the pleasure of coming up against. In my case, he put his financial skills to use on behalf of the CFL,” Young said.

“I was always very grateful for his financial insights in to how to run a CFL team more efficiently, more effectively than anyone else has ever done and as well as it can be done.”

During his time as owner, B.C. won three Grey Cups in 2000, 2006 and 2011. The 79-year-old Braley was CFL commissioner for one season in 2002, served as the chair of the league’s board of directors and inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2012.

“He had seen so many groups come and go in the CFL who had a passion for the game, but not a lot of financial discipline in what they were doing. They would spend a lot of money, they might even win a Grey Cup, but they ran out of money for their hobby and they had to move on to other things,” Young said.

“It’s easy to be a popular owner of a CFL team if you’re willing to bankrupt yourself doing it, but you can’t do that for very long. David did it for twenty years because he did manage the teams as financially effectively as any owner has ever contributed to our league.”

That longevity made Braley a legend in the CFL whose efforts will be remembered for years to come.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.