Reaction from around the CFL to David Braley’s passing

As news of David Braley’s passing made its way across the country on Monday, the many teams and figures he impacted as an owner, the chair of the league’s board of governors and as an interim commissioner paid tribute to him and his impact on the game.

Braley owned the Toronto Argonauts from 2010 through 2015. The team released the following statement Monday afternoon:

“The Toronto Argonauts are pained to announce that former owner and Canadian Football Hall of Famer David Braley passed away peacefully this morning at his home in Burlington, Ontario.

Mr. Braley purchased the Argonauts in 2010 and would own the team for five years with his crowning achievement in Double Blue occurring on home soil when the Argos won the 100th Grey Cup in 2012 in Toronto.

Born in Montreal but raised in Hamilton, Mr. Braley purchased the B.C. Lions in 1997 and has been the owner ever since, capturing three Grey Cup championships along the way in 2000, 2006 and 2011. Previous to owning the Lions, he owned the Hamilton Tiger-Cats from 1989 until 1992 when the team returned to community ownership. The great owner’s CFL roots did not stop there as the McMaster University alum served as the chair of the CFL’s Board of Governors and interim commissioner between March and November of 2002. Mr. Braley was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2012.

The 79-year-old’s interest in sports was not just limited to football as he kept soccer alive in B.C., purchasing the Vancouver 86ers (A-League), who would later become the Whitecaps (USL, MLS), in 1997, owning the team until 2000. Beyond that, he was a driving force behind Southern Ontario’s successful bid for the 2015 Pan Am Games and helping bring the 2012 World Cycling Championships to Hamilton.

A life seemingly filled with success at every turn went beyond the realm of sports and into politics in 2010 after the CFL champion was appointed to the Canadian Senate by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Mr. Braley would serve in this position for nearly three years before retiring from the government. In 2019 he would receive one of the highest honours this country bestows, the Order of Canada, given to Canadians who make a major difference to the country through life-long contributions in every field of endeavour. Those endeavours included philanthropy as he donated over $125 million to various organizations over the years including Hamilton Health Sciences, St. Joseph’s Healthcare and McMaster’s medical school and athletic departments.

The Toronto Argonauts Football Club extend our deepest condolences to Mr. Braley’s family and friends.”

Braley owned his hometown Tiger-Cats from 1989 to 1992. The team sent its condolences out on Monday afternoon: 

“The Hamilton Tiger-Cats Football Club is saddened to learn of the passing of former owner and iconic Hamiltonian, David Braley. He was 79.

Owner and champion of the Canadian Football League’s BC Lions since 1997, Braley previously owned the Tiger-Cats from 1989 to 1992 and the Toronto Argonauts from 2010 to 2015. He 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. Braley is an honoured member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame (2012), McMaster Sports Hall of Fame (2007) and Hamilton Sports Hall of Fame (2006).

“I and the Tiger-Cats mourn David’s passing. He was an enthusiastic Hamiltonian and a wonderful benefactor to our community’s hospitals and universities,” said Bob Young, Caretaker of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. “The CFL and Hamilton communities have lost a great leader and champion today.”

Young added: “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.”

Born in Montreal in 1941, Braley’s family moved to Hamilton in 1943 where he quickly discovered his true passion for the game of football after attending his first Tiger-Cats game at Ivor Wynne Stadium. That passion led to playing high school football at Westdale Secondary School in Hamilton and eventually to three decades of success as an Owner and Governor in the CFL.

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 also provided jobs for hundreds of workers in the Hamilton area.

He was known for being a champion in the world of Philanthropy, donating over $125 million to various organizations over the years. From August 2006 to June 2007, he donated $50 million to McMaster’s medical school and an additional $5 million for the University’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 addition to his CFL involvement on the sporting landscape, Braley was a major force in bringing the 2012 World Cycling Championships to Hamilton in 2012 and was also part of Southern Ontario’s successful bid for the 2015 Pan Am Games.

Braley’s long and storied career also included politics, as 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. In 2019, he was named an officer of the Order of Canada, one of Canada’s highest honours.”

Monday’s news hit home for Calgary Stampeders’ head coach Dave Dickenson, who played for Braley’s Lions from 2003 to 2007. 

“I was very saddened to hear about the passing of Mr. Braley,” said Dickenson. “We certainly were not in touch as often as we were in the previous decade, but I will always know he is forever embedded in the fabric of the CFL.

David and his friends, Bob Ackles and Wally Buono, threw me a lifeline back in 2003 and promised me better days were ahead in the BC Lions’ future. I felt like we all built something special in the mid-2000s in BC, culminating in a Grey Cup Championship in 2006. What was even more special was the support and drive of our three-headed management team. David was the backbone to all of our success and he became the backbone for the entire CFL.

Life must move on, but I think it is important to reflect on the passing of a CFL giant. Thank you for all you did, and let there be hope that somebody reading my words will try and follow your enormous footsteps. We could use someone with your energy and your heart. Rest in peace.”