British Columbia Lions

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British Columbia Lions
Division 100px

West Division

Founded 1954
Home field BC Place Stadium
Based in Vancouver, British Columbia
Colours Orange and Black
League Canadian Football League
Head coach Wally Buono
General manager Wally Buono

The British Columbia Lions are a Canadian Football League team based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Helmet design: White background, with a black "BC" and a profile of a mountain lion's head (orange)
Uniform colours: Orange, Black and White.
Stadiums: Empire Stadium (1954-1982), BC Place Stadium (1983-present)
Western regular season championships: 9 -- 1963, 1964, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1999, 2004, 2005
Grey Cup finals appearances: 8 -- 1963 (lost), 1964 (won), 1983 (lost), 1985 (won), 1988 (lost), 1994 (won), 2000 (won), 2004 (lost).
2005 Regular Season Record: 12 wins, 6 losses, 0 ties. (See 2005 CFL season).

Franchise history

The 1950's

In 1951 a group led by Ken Stauffer and Tiny Radar, were inspired by Vancouver Sun columnist Andy Lyle's article to start a football team in Vancouver. To try to get a team in Vancouver, the ownership group sent their representatives to the off-season WlFU meetings to initiate Vancouver’s bid for a team. The representatives (Radar and Orville Burke) were told to return to the meetings the following year with a $25,000 good-faith bond if they could generate sufficient interest in the Vancouver area. The first meetings were held at the Arctic Club in November and a committee headed by Burke and Harry Spring set out to sell memberships at $20 each.

Even though Burke, Vic Spencer and John Davidson offered the good-faith bond to the WIFU in 1952 the idea of having a Vancouver team was rejected, when both Winnipeg and Regina voted against the idea of a fifth team. The group in Vancouver, however, did not give up and continued their efforts to have a franchise in the WIFU.

On January 22, 1953, the first annual meeting of the club was held. In that meeting, Arthur E. Mercer was hired as the first team President of the Vancouver franchise. Later in the year Mercer, Bill Morgan, Bill Ralston and Whit Matthews went back to the WlFU meetings. This time they sold the idea of a fifth team on the West Coast, and Vancouver was granted a conditional franchise, on the requirements that:

  • They would provide a 15,000 seat stadium.
  • Sell at least 6,500 season tickets.
  • And guarantee travel expenses for the visiting teams.

All the pieces began to fall into place when it was announced that Vancouver would host the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, and that it would mean the building of a new stadium – Empire Stadium. By Easter of 1953, Annis Stukus was then lured away from the Toronto Argonauts, to return to the West to become the first Public Relations Manager, General Manager and Head Coach of the franchise.

During the rest of 1953, a fan contest was held by all of the local media to pick the new nickname of the football franchise. In this contest, a new nickname was chosen because it represented a local landmark and legend of the area. The nickname of the team was based on, The Lions, a twin mountain peak that can be seen towards the north of Vancouver, British Columbia. The twin mountain peaks name was based on legend that the mountains looked exactly like two lions and that they were guarding the city. Through this landmark and legend, alone, the "Lions" nickname became the ultimate winner in the fan contest to become the new name of the franchise.

After the fan contest, it was later revealed that the Vancouver label will not be part of the team name. Even though, the franchise is based in Vancouver, and the "Lions" name was based on a local landmark and legend, Annis Stukus decided to reject the idea of naming the team as the Vancouver Lions. Instead, Stukus decided that the team name should be representing and embracing the entire Province of British Columbia. In the end, Stukus introduced the team to the entire Canadian football world as the British Columbia Lions.

File:BC LIONS 50's.jpg
B.C. Lions logo from 1954-1968

In their 1954 inaugural season, Stukus sold football fever on the streets of Vancouver and put together a team that made history when they stepped on the field of Empire Stadium for their first ever home game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Saturday, August 28, 1954. In that game, Byron (By) Bailey scored the first ever touchdown in B.C. Lions history in an 8-6 loss to the Blue Bombers. Throughout the 1954 inaugural season, the B.C. Lions were only able to manage a 1-15-0 regular season record. The team was able to get their first franchise win against the Calgary Stampeders on September 18 at Empire Stadium, with By Bailey scoring the winning touchdown, in a 9-4 B.C. Lions victory. On that night, the win caused the B.C. faithful to start celebrating on the streets, however, celebrations was not common for Lion's fans during the 1950's.

In their second year as a franchise, the B.C. Lions were not able to make the playoffs, but were still able to show signs of improvement with a 5-11-0 regular season record. Even with the improvements, B.C. Lions fans were surprised at the move of the team directors to ask Annis Stukus to step down as the team's Head Coach in October of 1955. While, fan reaction to his dismissal was loud and divided, Stukus still asked the fans to continue their support of the B.C. Lions. Annis Stukus' assistant Clem Crowe, was later named as the new Head Coach of the B.C. Lions for the upcoming 1956 season.

In 1956, the Lions would finish fourth in the West, posting a 6-10-0 regular season record, with Clem Crowe as their Head Coach. Although this was a one game improvement from the 1955 season, they were still not able to make their first playoff appearance in franchise history.

After the 1956 season, Bill McMahan became the new team President of the B.C. Lions. As the new team President, Bill McMahan was then able to bring back Kelowna native, Herb Capozzi from the Montreal Alouettes, and hire him as the new General Manager. However, the B.C. Lions continued to struggle on the field, finishing the 1957 regular season with a 4-11-1 record, missing the playoffs for the fourth straight year.

A year later, the on-field performance went from bad to worse for the Lions as they opened the 1958 season, with five straight losses. The team's on-field struggles caused Capozzi to fire Clem Crowe as the Head Coach and replace him with interim Head Coach, Danny Edwards, who returned after playing with the club during the 1957 season. The team was only able to manage three wins during the year, causing them to miss the playoffs, once again. Although it was a season to forget, rookies, Tom Hinton and Sonny Homer, showed promising signs of being future football stars.

During the off-season, General Manager, Herb Capozzi was trying to improve the team for the 1959 season. He tried to fulfill those goals by:

  • Hiring Wayne Robinson from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to become the new Head Coach of the B.C. Lions.
  • Bringing in a corps of veteran players to add more experience and success to the team.
  • Signing new rookie Running Back, Willie Fleming to the team, adding more youth along with Tom Hinton and Sonny Homer.

These moves in the end proved to be successful. The Lions managed their first winning season with a 9-7-0 regular season record and were able to make their first playoff appearance with a final game triumph over the Calgary Stampeders at Empire Stadium. The Lions first playoff appearance ended with two straight losses to the Edmonton Eskimos. However, the team's future looks very bright heading towards the 1960's.

2005 Season

In 2005, the Lions came out of the gate roaring (pardon the pun). Led by quarterback Dave Dickenson and an outstanding receiving corps, the team strung together a modern day record of 11 consecutive wins. The record-breaking win came on September 17, when B.C. pulled off a stunning fourth-quarter drive to beat the Montreal Alouettes 27-26. However, their bid for an undefeated season came to a halt the very next week on September 24, when the Edmonton Eskimos defeated the Lions 37-20 at Commonwealth Stadium. Since then, the Lions have won only one of their last five games. Despite these losses, B.C. still remains a strong favourite to win the Grey Cup.

Players and Builders of note

Retired Numbers

  • 5 Lui Passaglia
  • 15 Willie "the Whisp" Fleming
  • 22 Joe Kapp
  • 30 Jim Young
  • 38 By Bailey
  • 52 Al Wilson
  • 60 Jamie Taras
  • 75 Norm Fieldgate

Not to be forgotten

Current Stars

BC Sports Hall of Fame

  • Norm Fieldgate - 1970
  • Byron (BY) Bailey - 1975
  • 1964 BC Lions - 1986
  • Tom Hinton - 1992
  • Jim Young - 1994
  • Jack Farley - 1996
  • Al Wilson - 1997
  • Annis Stukus - 1998
  • Willie "The Whisp" Fleming - 1998
  • Joe Kapp - 1999
  • 1985 BC Lions - 2000
  • Lui Passaglia - 2001
  • Bob Ackles - 2004

BC Lions Wall of Fame at BC Place Stadium

Located at Level 2 Inner Concourse Between Sections 11 and 10.

Canadian Football Hall of Famers

See also

External links