Tributes are poring in as one of Hamilton’s most successful businessmen, philanthropists and a nationally known sportsman has died. David Braley can be credited with saving the Canadian Football league as a governor and also through his purchase of three franchises who were facing bankruptcy. At the time of his death he was the owner of the BC Lions and former owner of the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Braley was born in Montreal and raised in Hamilton, Ontario where he attended McMaster University. Braley began his business career with General Motors Acceptance Corporation (now Ally Financial) in Hamilton, before joining London Life Insurance. In 1969, he purchased William Orlick Limited (now Orlick Industries Limited), now a leading auto parts manufacturer.
Braley owned the Hamilton Tiger-Cats from 1987 until 1990 when the team returned to community ownership. He returned to the CFL with his purchase of the Lions in 1997. He also owned the Vancouver 86ers soccer club, later the Vancouver Whitecaps, of the A-League, keeping professional soccer alive from 1997–2000. In early 2010, he also became owner of the Argonauts, becoming the only person to own two CFL teams simultaneously. He sold the Argonauts to Bell Media and Larry Tanenbaum in 2015.Braley has served as the chair of the CFL’s Board of Governors and was the CFL’s interim commissioner from March 2002 to November 2002.
Braley was chairman of the 2003 World Cycling Championships in Hamilton. He was a director of Ontario’s successful bid to host the 2015 Pan Am Games and was subsequently a member of the board overseeing preparations for the games. He was instrumental in obtaining federal support for the stadium built to host the games—now Tim Horton Field.
In 2010, Braley became the first Hamiltonian to serve in the Canadian Senate in since 1940, a position he held until his resignation in 2013.
Ron Foxcroft was a close friend of Braley. He told the Bay Observer, “WE have lost a Titan, an Icon of a man. Hamilton will not be the same without David Braley. He was a successful entrepreneur, and held everybody accountable, especially himself. His contributions are far reaching in Hamilton and across Canada. The CFL will never have a better friend than David Braley. He supported great causes, such as health care, and those most vulnerable.”
Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MP paid tribute to Braley. “I became acquainted with David Braley during my time as a football broadcaster. Over coffee one morning Dave told me that his football team (BC Lions) didn’t want to stay in downtown Hamilton. His response was a revitalization solution That saw McMaster come downtown with an $80 million dollar health care facility. He was also personally responsible for finding a solution to the Randle Reef problem. In the Harper Government years David Braley was Hamilton’s spokesman.”
From the BC Lions came this statement by Rick LeLacheur, President of the club. “We share this news with the heaviest of hearts. David has been a proud and fiercely loyal owner of our team, a champion of the Canadian Football League, and a leader for whom his love of our game and our country went hand in hand and spanned decades. We share our deepest condolences with his family, friends and admirers.”
This reporter recalls a man who was always accessible. He often answered his own phone and if he wasn’t available for a call, he was quick to call people back, whether they were great or small.
Numerous institutions across Hamilton, Ontario are named in his honour, including the David Braley Athletic Centre and the David Braley Health Sciences Centre at McMaster University, the David Braley Athletic and Recreation Centre at Mohawk College, and the David Braley Research Institute at the Hamilton General Hospital. In 2012, Braley was elected into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. He was also a major contributor to the reconstruction of the Rock Garden at the Royal Botanical Gardens