Monday, July 07, 2008

CFL mourns the passing of an icon

“I look back on my life and my career and feel like the luckiest man in the world. Few people get to spend their days doing something they love with those they love.” - Bob Ackles (1938-2008), a quote posted on the BC Lions website Sunday, following the news of the passing of Bob Ackles..

The news is still shocking to hear as the day comes to a close, that after learning that Bob Ackles, the President and CEO of the BC Lions and an unabashed defender of Canadian football passed away on Sunday morning of an apparent heart attack.

The story of Bob Ackles is one of the great stories of Canadian football, rising from the ranks of water boy in the debut season of the BC Lions, he went on to run the Lions through different eras of development, in the successful years and the lean ones, struggling to rebuild a tarnished and damaged brand.

With his passing his mission in part was complete; the Lions have once again become one of the flagships of Canadian football and the BC Sports scene. Yet it is perhaps a larger mission that now must be handed off to other hands, that of continuing to trumpet the special place that Canadian football has in this nation and how important the CFL has been and continues to be to the fabric of the land. Ackles had become the point man to stem the potential NFL invasion of Canadian territory, a position that now requires some reinforcements.

His accomplishments in football stretched far beyond the CFL, he moved on to the NFL with stops with the legendary Dallas Cowboys and stints with the Phoenix Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins, he also spent some time with a rather mercurial little experiment the XFL, a league which was fronted by Wrestling’s Vince McMahon, providing for surely one of the most diverse of executives when compared with the not quite so bombastic Ackles.

Thankfully for the CFL, the XFL days were short and Ackles responded to David Braley’s request to return to BC and help to rebuild the Lions, who had fallen into troubled times, potentially taking the entire league down with them.

Braley to his credit knew when to step back a bit when he brought Ackles back to the Lions Den, leaving it to him to rebuild the relationships that had been damaged, reconnecting with a lost segment of formerly faithful Lions fans who had grown disillusioned with the gong show atmosphere of Lions football before Braley took over.

It was with Bob Ackles at the helm that the Lions once again returned to success on the field, at the gate and in the consciousness of an entire province. It’s to those contributions that his loss is being felt across the province and indeed across the CFL family today.

CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon summed up the numbness across the league with his statement on Sunday, "It was our league that virtually adopted him when he was just a boy, and it's our league that has looked to him as a man for counsel, inspiration and leadership by example," Cohon said. "As much as the CFL has meant to Bob, he has meant so much more to us."

To get just a small understanding of that importance to both Canadian football and Canada, give a listen to the CKNW sports talk programming of Sunday night, a three hour tribute to the life and times of a great Canadian sports figure. Check out the CKNW audio vault and select the 9 pm to Midnight hours from Sunday, it was a very emotional and informative three hours saluting the Ackles eras in British Columbia.

Mr. Ackles leaves behind a wife Kay, who he made quite famous from his book “The Water Boy”, two sons, Steve and Scott, Scott a CFL success story in his own right with as the team President of the Calgary Stampeders.
His passing will also be mourned by the Ackles grandchildren, as well as his many friends, co workers and fans.

He was enshrined in both the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and the BC Sports Hall of Fame, worthy achievements for the dedicated football man and devoted Lions executive.

Bob Ackles went from carrying water onto the field for the BC Lions, to carrying an entire league on his shoulders, seeking to continue to stake its place on the Canadian sports scene.

His passing is an untimely one, leaving the league shy one valuable resource when it is most needed.

Many will be needed to take his torch, but few will be able to hold it as high, as effectively and as proudly as “The Water Boy” did over these many years.

There’s a variety of material on the net tonight, outlining Bob Ackle’s contribution to Canadian football, here are a few of them:

BC Lions website--Lions mourn loss of Bob Ackles
Vancouver Sun-- B.C. Lions CEO dead at 69
Vancouver Sun-- Lions mourn 'Mr. Football'
Vancouver Sun-- Ackles an inspiration 'in every way'
Vancouver Sun-- Province lost 'great British Columbian': Premier
Vancouver Sun-- Photo gallery
Vancouver Province-- B.C. Lions president Bob Ackles dead at 69
Vancouver Province-- Remembering Bob Ackles
Georgia Straight-- BC Lions president Bob Ackles dies aged 69 of a heart attack
CBC News-- B.C. football icon Bob Ackles passes away
Globe and Mail-- Ackles was the consummate CFL success story
Globe and Mail-- CFL stunned by death of a giant
Canwest News-- Lions legend dead at 69
National Post-- Lions legend Ackles dead at 69
Edmonton Sun-- "Water Boy" will be missed
Winnipeg Sun-- Lions prez will be missed CANADIAN FOOTBALL BUILDER ACKLES PASSES AWAY
Canadian Press-- B.C. Lions president and CEO Bob Ackles dies at age 69 of heart attack
Dallas Morning News-- Former Dallas Cowboys executive Bob Ackles dies
AZ Central-- Former Cardinals, CFL executive dies
Canadian Football website-- CFL Mourns the Passing of Bobby Ackles
Vancouver Whitecaps soccer club salutes Bob Ackles
Vancouver Canadians baseball club salutes Bob Ackles

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