The COVID-19 pandemic robbed the Montreal Alouettes of a 2020 season and co-owner Sidney Spiegel the chance to see his franchise play.
Spiegel died Wednesday in Toronto. Both the Alouettes and CFL confirmed Siegel’s passing in separate statements Friday.
Spiegel’s age wasn’t divulged. But he was listed as being 89 when he and Gary Stern purchased the Alouettes from the CFL in January 2020.
Stern was not only Spiegel’s business partner but also his son-in-law.
The CFL purchased the Alouettes in May 2019. The club had been previously owned by American businessman Robert Wetenhall from 1997 to the time of its sale to the league.
Wetenhall was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2015.
But Spiegel never had the chance to see his club play. The CFL cancelled the 2020 campaign due to the global pandemic and is scheduled to kick off a 14-game ‘21 regular season Aug. 5.
Montreal will play its opening contest Aug. 14 in Edmonton.
“It’s unfortunate, it really is,” Alouettes head coach Khari Jones told reporters during a video conference Friday. “I really feel for him and his family.
“I’m really grateful they took this on with the challenge of owning a football team. It makes me want to work that much harder to make sure they see the fruits of their labour, they see this team do what they’re supposed to do. I know his family will still be there and be watching along and I feel like he’ll be watching as well.”
Stern had emerged as the face of the Alouettes franchise as Spiegel remained in the background.
Spiegel began his company, Crawford Steel, in 1944 originally as a small scrap yard that dealt in discarded metal and other materials. The company website says Stern came aboard in 1977 and the operation now consists of one scrap yard and 17 distribution centres.
“The Canadian Football League is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Montreal Alouettes co-owner Sid Spiegel,” the league said in its statement. “Sid and his son-in-law Gary Stern made a strong commitment to one of our great franchises at an important time in its history and have tackled the challenge and opportunity before them with passion and enthusiasm.
“We regret we did not have the time to know Sid better, this giant of a man and true entrepreneur who built a business empire with legendary drive and intelligence, and a family that now includes children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Our condolences go out to those who knew him best and loved him deeply, and to everyone positively touched by his remarkable life, which certainly includes all of us in the CFL family.”
Added the Alouettes: “He will be in our hearts every game.”
Jones guided Montreal to a 10-8 record in 2019, his first year as head coach. He said he had a closer association with Stern but always knew of Spiegel’s presence within the organization.
“I didn’t have a major relationship with (Spiegel) but we always knew he was there, we always knew what his thoughts were through Gary,” Jones said.
Spiegel is survived by his wife, Naomi, four children, seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.