OTD: BC Lions franchise overtaken by CFL as ‘kooky owner’ files for bankruptcy

On today’s date in 1992, BC Lions owner Murray Pezim, a flamboyant stockbroker from Vancouver, filed for bankruptcy before the Canadian Football League (CFL) assumed ownership of the faltering team.

Earlier that year, the Lions lost future National Football League star Doug Flutie to free agency, setting the stage for what was arguably the lowest point in the team’s history. That season’s 0-8 start was the worst in franchise history, and only a mid-season three-game winning streak brought a modicum of success on the field. The Lions finished with a league-worst 3-15 record that season.

That year, Flutie was signed by and played with the Calgary Stampeders, for whom he won the Grey Cup before being named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player for the second straight year—only the third player to do so.

‘KOOKY OWNER’

A year earlier, Pezim’s future with the BC Lions was foreshadowed in a story published by Sports Illustrated.

“Up in the owner’s box at Vancouver’s B.C. Place stadium, during a Canadian Football League game involving the British Columbia Lions, an old fat guy is on his feet. On his hands are huge orange mittens that look like lion paws. He is waving them and growling like a lion in support of the Lions. Fans look up at him with a mixture of amusement, amazement, bewilderment and contempt. He is Murray Pezim, 70. He owns the Lions. He knows nothing about football. Never mind, says Pezim. ‘I’m a natural, kooky owner.'”

Was Pezim “a driving force in sports and finance in Canada and beyond,” asked the 1991 story, “or is he just a buffoon? Or both?”

“Depends. One high-level football source, who insists on anonymity because he fears Pezim’s power, says, ‘The man is a promoter, so all he has are his words—and none of them can be believed.’ On the other paw, Bill Reid, a member of the British Columbia legislature, says, ‘If Murray hadn’t stepped in and bought this team before last season, the Lions would have failed, and without Vancouver, there is no CFL. So all he did was save the league. He came to the party, became the messiah, and very few know.'”

By the following August, Pezim filed for bankruptcy and lost the franchise to new ownership.

He eventually died in 1998.

Later that year, Canada Post featured Lion's legend Geroy Simon alongside a photo of 'Lui's Kick' on this Permanent-rate stamp (SC #2569).

Later that year, Canada Post featured Lions’ legend Geroy Simon alongside a photo of ‘Lui’s Kick’ on another Permanent stamp.

NEW OWNER, NEW ERA

By September 1992, Bill Comrie purchased the BC Lions franchise from the CFL, beginning a new era in BC Lions history.

Since the 1992 season, in which they placed dead last, the Lions have won the Grey Cup four times (1994, 2000, 2006 and 2011).

In 2012, to mark the 100th Grey Cup, the BC Lions were featured on two Permanent stamps issued by Canada Post.

Issued June 29, 2012, the first stamp (Scott #2559) depicts the team logo. Printed by Lowe-Martin on Tullis Russell paper using three-colour lithography, the stamp measures 24 millimetres by 20 millimetres and has general tagging along each side.

The second stamp (SC #2569), issued Aug. 12, 2012, depicts BC Lions’ legend Geroy Simon alongside a photo of “Lui’s Kick,” which won the 1994 Grey Cup and is arguably the greatest play in Lions’ franchise history.

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