November 19, 2012
Argos owner David Braley is host with the most
By TERRY JONES, QMI Agency
It would have been a better story if both his teams had made it to the 100th Grey Cup game.
But it's still a pretty good one with Senator David Braley's teams making it to back-to-back Grey Cups as host franchises with a chance to double down for their owner.
Last year, it was the B.C. Lions team he has owned for 16 seasons, winning the Grey Cup in Vancouver.
This year, it's the Toronto Argos, the team he bought in 2010 to keep the tradition of the Boatmen -- dating back to 1873 -- alive in the CFL, playing host to the greatest party ever planned for the event.
Considering all those rootin', tootin' Calgarians, with their horse in the lobby of the Royal York Hotel, flap jack chuckwagons all around downtown and white stetson celebrants turning it into the Grand National Drunk in 1948, maybe it's only right that the Stampeders are here for this one instead of the Lions.
But the Braley Bowl might have been a hoot, too.
It was 45 minutes after his Lions lost 34-29 to the Stampeders in the West final and seven hours after his Argonauts had received the opening kickoff from the Montreal Alouettes en route to their 27-20 win in the East final that your correspondent managed to reach Braley on cell phone to offer both congratulations and condolences.
Braley was still at B.C. Place, where he chose to spend the day, instead of Montreal, because for his CFL West team it was a home game. He was there watching the TSN telecast from Montreal long before the crowds came.
"I watched it in the box and on the scoreboard," he said. "It was a great victory for the Argos. Toronto did a marvelous job."
The Boatmen enter the Grey Cup on a four-game win streak -- as they say, getting hot at the right time.
"I think the key was when Ricky Ray was hurt," Braley said. "We decided to sit him out until he was totally healed so he'd be ready for the playoffs. It was a successful strategy."
Ray completed 95 of 130 passes for 1,326 yards including 11 touchdown passes with a quarterback draw for another in those four games.
And, for the record, Braley said there's nothing to any of the conspiracy theories about how the Argos came to acquiring Ray to lead them to the promised place for the 100th Grey Cup game other than a trade which he said was negotiated over a span of three weeks.
Braley said having the Argos win certainly didn't dial down his wish to see the Lions win, too.
"I want both my teams to win all the time. Besides, if the Lions had won, that would have meant one of my teams was going to win the Grey Cup."
Braley's Lions have played host to three Grey Cups, including last year's 99th edition which had a $118-million impact on the Vancouver economy. The Lions won their fourth, fifth and sixth Grey Cups in 2000, 2006 and 2011 under his ownership.
Originally involved in the league as the owner of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1989, Braley stabilized that franchise until turning it over to a community group three years later. He took over ownership of the Argos to help stabilize the CFL and it has proceeded with little controversy or suspicion.
"David Braley is one amazing Canadian, deeply committed to this country and what makes it strong and vibrant, especially the Canadian Football League," said commissioner Mark Cohon at the time.
Indeed, Senator Braley has been so completely above suspicion about the way he's handled the situation and has so much respect for his intentions as somebody who is involved to keep the CFL alive as an institution, it was hard to find anybody who figured it would have been unseemly if both his teams had reached the Grey Cup.
"Not one single time," said Braley of getting involved in any football operations business involving either team.
"It's called integrity," he said.
Braley said the potential benefits of the Toronto win in Montreal Sunday can't be understated.
"The victory created an opportunity to get fans excited about the Argos and involved in Grey Cup week and, maybe, when it's over, to vote for Argos football by purchasing season tickets," he said.
There's no question fans from all over the nation are coming to celebrate this special Grey Cup but until the Argos won Sunday to put them in the game at home for the first time since the final year of the Eskimos five-in-a-row run in 1982, there was doubt if the people of Toronto would embrace it.
Braley said he believes they will now.
"It's going to be a very special, extraordinary festival, triple the size of anything ever done.
"It might be four or five times the size of anything ever done before. It's going to be absolutely amazing."