History proves system works

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:16 PM ET

Norm Kwong has been watching the Calgary Stampeders as long as anyone. He viewed the team from the front office more than a decade ago, still watches from his McMahon Stadium seats and likes the potential he sees from the CFL club's prospective new owners.

The Canadian Football Hall of Famer played three seasons in Calgary and was the last president under community ownership (1988-92), a scenario the new group could pursue.

The man affectionately known as 'The China Clipper' now feels the team could succeed again as a community venture.

"You can't have too many people trying to run the team," Kwong, 75, warned of putting the Stamps back in the hands of Calgarians.

"You have to have a strong board of directors -- experienced business people."

Respected local businessmen John Forzani and Ted Hellard are key players in the new ownership group that hopes to finalize a deal with current owner Michael Feterik within a couple of weeks.

Although the team had fallen on hard times financially in the late 1980s, Kwong was credited with keeping the franchise in business and helping with the transition from community to private ownership under Larry Ryckman.

Kwong wisely appointed Wally Buono GM-head coach in 1992, launching a CFL legend in the process while overlooking another classy candidate -- assistant Tom Higgins.

A decade later, Higgins is now being touted as the man the new ownership team might hire to assume the helm after resigning last month as Edmonton Eskimos head coach.

As for community-owned clubs, Kwong said the Eskimos provide the CFL's strongest template and are consistently successful because of leadership and continuity.

"Edmonton's been so successful because they've had Hughie (Campbell) there for so many years," noted Kwong.

"I recognized when I was managing the Stampeders that what we needed was continuity in a coach and a winning product on the field and that solves a lot of other issues on the business side."

Kwong resigned from his Stamps post in 1992 after the team moved to private ownership under Ryckman.

The Stampeders prospective new owners are examining the books, while other issues that need to be settled before finalizing the sale apparently include severance packages for GM-head coach Matt Dunigan and president Ron Rooke, who both have two years remaining on their contracts.

The fate of former COO Fred Fateri's legal claim to a share of the team and wrongful dismissal suit could also be issues.


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