The BC Lions are a professional Canadian football team competing in the West Division of the Canadian Football League CFL. Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, the Lions play their home games at BC Place. The Lions played their first season in 1954, and have played every season since. As such, they are the oldest professional sports franchise in the city of Vancouver and in the province of British Columbia. They have appeared in the league's Grey Cup championship game 10 times, winning six of those games, with their most recent championship occurring in 2011. The Lions were the first Western Canadian team to have won the Grey Cup at home, having done so in 1994 and 2011, before Saskatchewan won in 2013, while also becoming the only team to beat an American-based franchise in a championship game, a feat accomplished in 1994. The Lions hold the second longest playoff streak in CFL history, making the playoffs every season from the 1997 CFL season to the 2016 CFL season, failing to make the playoffs for the first time in over 20 seasons in 2017.
After nearly four decades of coaching football at multiple levels, Lions special teams coordinator Don Yanowsky still awaits his coaching debut in B.C. Having already worked with head coach Rick Campbell for two seasons in Ottawa, he can’t wait to see some familiar faces and begin to work with new staff. Also known as...
After nearly four decades of coaching football at multiple levels, Lions special teams coordinator Don Yanowsky still awaits his coaching debut in B.C. Having already worked with head coach Rick Campbell for two seasons in Ottawa, he can’t wait to see some familiar faces and begin to work with new staff.
Also known as “Yano”, he started coaching as early as 1981. Through his journey of living in multiple states and associating himself in different industries before finally accept his true calling of being a ball coach, here are 5 Things To Know about our special teams coach from Chicago, Illinois.
Like many players who went through the JUCO system, Yanowsky was told that he wasn’t big or fast enough to play at the division 1 level yet. He would end up at Snow Junior College in Ephraim, Utah. On the other hand, his younger brother turned down multiple division 1 scholarships to go join him in Utah because it was their dream to play together.
Yanowsky then transferred to Toledo and started at offensive guard for the Rockets for two seasons. In 1981, he served as a student assistant at Toledo in pursuit of his passion for coaching.
After earning a degree in education, Yanowsky has coached at all levels from high schools to plenty of big-time colleges that you can name, such as Utah, Memphis, Minnesota, Arkansas State, East Carolina, Duke, Boston College, LSU and UTEP.
While most of us might recognize him from coaching with the RedBlacks and the Stampeders a few seasons ago, he was never afraid of venturing out to work different jobs and bouncing around in between states and across the border and back.
“I’m a ball coach. That’s what I ever cared about. I just love coaching football and I think the true essence of a ball coach is you really don’t care who gets the credit and you don’t care what jobs you have to do. As a high school coach, I taped ankles. As a junior college coach, I painted the field. When you win, you credit the players and the other assistance, that’s what ball coaching is about.”
It only took him a couple of tries to finally realize his passion for coaching. During the process, Yanowsky worked for a trucking company based in Chicago that was running in 48 states across the U.S. Yanowsky was sent to South Carolina for work. At first, he was supervising the dispatchers and the drivers, then he was switched to the human resource department once he had a clear understanding of the business.
Although he was able to make ends meet comfortably at that moment and had a country club’s membership while running the trucking company, it wasn’t money that he was chasing after.
When his time at the University of Memphis was coming to an end, Yanowsky and his wife Janet wanted to have a second child. He told himself that maybe it’s time to be a grown-up. He was about 30 at the time when he got accepted to law school. While he almost bought into the idea of practicing law with his friend and to be able to live comfortably, he was focused on making the best decision for his family.
“I got lucky and coloured the dots the right way on the LSAT,” Yanowsky remembers.
“I got a scholarship into law school, and I did well. But I didn’t like it. I wasn’t happy. If we stayed in this law thing, we were going to make a lot of money and results in one day, but I didn’t think we were ready to have two kids. I had to pay my dues. So we ended up going to the University of Minnesota and just bagged the law school. I’m just going to be a ball coach.”
His wife, Janet told him to stick to what makes him happy. She said, “you’ll be a better husband and father if you just do what you’re supposed to do.” Yanowsky knew he married the right one because he went back to coaching and has been on that ride ever since.
Having the chance to live across the U.S., Yanowsky has learned several different regional dishes like clam chowder when he was living in Boston and crawfish etouffee when he lived in Louisiana.
The passion for cooking came from the family. All the Yanowsky men cook. Don recalled his father hosting potlucks as a kid, and now he has expanded his recipes throughout his coaching career.
“I love to use a blackened skillet but I guess at the end of the day, crawfish etouffee is my signature dish. I cook a mean fillet in a blacked skillet but crawfish etouffee, that’s a labour of love.”
The BC Lions Football Club announced today that Ed Hervey has advised the club that he is stepping down from his position of General Manager for personal reasons. Hervey joined the Lions in December 2017 after a lengthy football career both as a player, and in personnel management, in Edmonton. Lions President Rick LeLacheur thanked...
The BC Lions Football Club announced today that Ed Hervey has advised the club that he is stepping down from his position of General Manager for personal reasons.
Hervey joined the Lions in December 2017 after a lengthy football career both as a player, and in personnel management, in Edmonton.
Lions President Rick LeLacheur thanked Ed for his efforts during his three years with the Lions and wished him well in the future.
“While the CFL is not playing this year and our roster is currently set, Head Coach Rick Campbell and Director, Football Operations Neil McEvoy will work together with the Lions scouting staff to ensure continuity in Football Operations.”
Like many people, Bryan Burnham suddenly found himself with a lot of spare time on his hands. With the CFL season cancelled due to concerns created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the BC Lions sure-handed receiver was looking for ways to put in his day. “I’d rather be playing football right now,” Burnham said from his...
Like many people, Bryan Burnham suddenly found himself with a lot of spare time on his hands.
With the CFL season cancelled due to concerns created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the BC Lions sure-handed receiver was looking for ways to put in his day.
“I’d rather be playing football right now,” Burnham said from his family’s home in New Jersey. “With all this time off, every morning I was waking up thinking ‘man, what am I going to do? ‘
“Then the light bulb went off in my head. Dummy, you’ve been wanting to go back to school for so long, let’s do it.”
Burnham has enrolled in a philosophy and ethics class with Athabasca University, which offers a variety of on-line courses and allows students flexible schedules and timelines.
Burnham will also be working with Athabasca to make sure that others understand the opportunity the university provides to accommodate individuals with obligations that may not cooperate with the timelines and schedule demands of a more traditional post-secondary institution.
“I’m just excited to be a student,” he said. “In terms of what I’ll be doing to (help tell that story), it’s just about showing the guys in the locker room and around the league, you have this opportunity available to you.”
“When you’re young . . . your body feels good, you think that you’ll be able to play until you’re 35, which is just rare,” he said.
– Lions REC Bryan Burnham
Burnham, who has spent six seasons with the Lions, already has a history degree from the University of Tulsa, where he played his college football. Taking the philosophy class allows him to pursue one of his interests.
“I’ve always regretted not taking philosophy courses in college,” said the 30-year-old native of Moorestown, N.J. “Philosophy is fundamental to human beings. It’s realizing we have this ability as humans to sit back and think and understand our existence.
“I enjoy getting into deep conversations with teammates in the locker room and I feel like this will open up my mind to a different way of thinking.”
Burnham understands why young players in the league are focused on their football careers. He also knows an education is important for when the playing days end.
“When you’re young . . . your body feels good, you think that you’ll be able to play until you’re 35, which is just rare,” he said.
“But when you start to get older . . . you see things. You see players come and go. You see the right way to handle things and you see the wrong way to handle things.”
Michael Shouldice, Athabasca University’s manager of partnerships and collaborations, said the school offers over 850 courses in more than 55 undergraduate and graduate programs in a range of arts, science and professional disciplines.
Students are able to learn at their own pace. Once the CFL resumes play, this would allow players to adapt school around training and games.
“Any of the players who were drafted and chose to play pro football before finishing their undergraduate degrees, this gives them an option to fill in those courses to complete their degree and graduate,” said Shouldice.
“For players like Brian . . . he’s got some additional interests he’d like to follow. He able to do that with us taking those courses.”
Seeing professional athletes enroll and graduate from programs sends a message to potential students in other occupations.
“They can see these guys playing pro football can do it (so) I can do it,” said Shouldice.
Athabasca University has had a long relationship with major junior hockey leagues across Canada, plus players in the AHL and ECHL, and Olympic athletes.
Burnham’s interest in education is no surprise. His father Lem, a former defensive lineman with the NFL Philadelphia Eagles, is a sports psychologist who worked for the Eagles, Philadelphia 76ers and Baltimore Orioles.
His wife Aubrey went to university as a psychology major and he has a brother-in-law pursuing his doctorate in psychology.
“Our family is full of psychologists,” Burnham laughed. “I think we have enough.”
Burnham was a bright light on a Lions team that struggled to a 5-13 record last year. He had career highs of 100 receptions, 1,492 yards and 11 touchdowns, was selected to his third CFL All-Star team and was the Lions nominee for Most Outstanding Player.
Burnham believes he has several good years of football remaining, but not playing this year has him thinking about the future.
“There’s way more behind me in my football career than there is ahead of me,” he said. “Those questions have always been kind of in the back of my head. With COVID, those question just got accelerated. There’s a small possibility that I never play football again. “
Continuing his education gives Burnham more control over his life after football.
“Hopefully we can hit the ground running next year,” he said. “But if not, you have to be prepared to move on. Life is not going to wait around for you to figure things out.
“We’ve got a long life after football. We have to be able to make that transition. I’m very fortunate to have been able to play this game this long, to kind of (delay) those questions about what I’m going to do. But at some point, you’ve got to confront them, and this is the perfect time to do it.”
You know him best as one of the CFL’s finest athletes. These days, when he isn’t preparing for a return to the field in 2021, Shaq Johnson is busy perfecting his other talent: Rap music. H.I.M. is his stage name. And you can sample his work on Spotify, Apple and pretty much any of the...
You know him best as one of the CFL’s finest athletes. These days, when he isn’t preparing for a return to the field in 2021, Shaq Johnson is busy perfecting his other talent: Rap music. H.I.M. is his stage name. And you can sample his work on Spotify, Apple and pretty much any of the other major music providers. Appearing on episode 37 of 1st and Now, Johnson says the rap name acronym is meant to symbolize what he is all about.
“It stands for Handled It Myself,” explained the Lions’ speedy receiver.
“It’s just signifying basically my road to this date. Whether it’s professional football, or even just choosing to do some of the music or even trying to build my clothing brand, it’s a lot of the things I’m doing myself. I don’t really have that many people in my corner helping, you know what I’m saying? I have certain people that were significant in my life and I appreciate them, but as far as anything else I really had to go out there and still prove it and still do it, you know? So that’s kind of where the Handled It Myself came from.”
Johnson’s main motivation for utilizing his musical talents stems from his father Alvin who was a reggae performer before Shaq and his other seven children were born. After the 2020 season was officially scrapped, Shaq returned home and decided he wanted to devote some of his time away from the gym to an activity different from football. He plans on releasing an E.P. album in the next few months.
“It’s a good stress reliever,” said Johnson.
“You can just go in there, say what you want, say how you feel and be done with it. I’m definitely enjoying it. You guys can definitely look forward to some more music coming out. Hopefully, you guys like it, and that’s what it is.”
The H.I.M. acronym is pure Shaq. Always defying the odds. A fourth-round pick out of the London Beefeaters junior program in 2016, Johnson has developed into one of the CFL’s most productive Canadian receivers. His 39 catches and 597 yards in 2019 were both career highs. Year five with the organization will have to wait, but you get the sense his best is yet to come. H.I.M. also looked back on his first CFL touchdown on a hot night in Hamilton in 2017 in front of family and friends.
“It was kinda surreal,” he remembered.
“I remember Khari (Jones) putting in the play that year, it was like a Z slip-screen but I was off the line. I never even thought of us running a play with me coming from the field side all the way down to the boundary to slip-screen, leak out and get the pass from Lulay. We practiced it that week and I was like ‘if we call this in the game, I’m definitely scoring.'”
Sure enough, they got down into the red zone, and it happened. It was all part of Travis Lulay’s record-setting night of 436 passing yards for a quarterback coming off the bench.
“As soon as I turned my head back, I’d seen the ball in Lulay’s hand and it was like ‘ just don’t drop this thing.'”
What a way to clutch up for the first time playing in front of both of his parents. Also in episode 37, Shaq talks about what it’s like playing on the same squad as his younger brother Hakeem and how the duo motivates one another during their offseason training sessions. Shaq recalls when younger brother actually reached out to him on social media while in high school to tell him he wanted to follow in his footsteps.
He also speaks on his track background and how that helped him develop as a receiver. It was quite a well-rounded conversation with Shaq AKA H.I.M. He truly is one of the team’s most interesting figures. Take a listen to the entire episode in the link above!
As Thanksgiving Monday approaches- and boy, where has the time gone lately?- we are reminded that the annual turkey and stuffing binge (or ham if you prefer that method) with our loved ones is just the latest tradition that might not feel the same in 2020. At any rate, we all have plenty to be...
As Thanksgiving Monday approaches- and boy, where has the time gone lately?- we are reminded that the annual turkey and stuffing binge (or ham if you prefer that method) with our loved ones is just the latest tradition that might not feel the same in 2020. At any rate, we all have plenty to be thankful for. Whether you are still indulging in Thanksgiving celebrations with a smaller bubble or simply catching up with loved ones and friends on Zoom, we can all agree times like these make us appreciate the better ones. And it will be extra special once we have the green light to abolish social distancing and spend more time out in public with larger groups.
From a CFL and Lions perspective, Turkey Day usually means the weather is getting colder (or in our case, wetter) and the intensity week by week is ramping up as teams make a push for the playoffs. All of that is on hold for 2021. But as you prepare for your annual early October feast, here is a list of things we can all agree we are thankful for!
Who else was intrigued to see just how many more tricks Bryan Burnham had up his sleeve this year? The human-highlight reel only elevated his game in year one with Mike Reilly, giving both his teammates and fans plenty of excitement. Simply put, he has lived up to his last name. Always on fire with seemingly no ball ever uncatchable. Yeah, we’re definitely thankful to have number 16 wearing orange and can’t wait for him to start making up for a season’s worth of lost circus catches!
Recently, a list of his opponents voted unanimously that he has the best hands in the CFL. Was there ever a doubt?
Yes, despite a disappointing 5-13 record in 2019, Reilly proved he is still the CFL’s best at the quarterback position. Sure, we’re biased but we also believe it to be true. If not for his wrist injury suffered early in game 16, he would have easily eclipsed 4,000 passing yards for the fourth straight season and fifth time in his brilliant career. His 20 touchdown passes were the third-highest total he ever it and he played even better with the improvement of the offensive line in the second half of the season.
But we are also thankful for the humourous nature in which Reilly conducts himself in one on one interviews. Let’s face it. Last season being what it was in the wins and losses columns, we all needed a little levity in our day. And the quarterback saved his for the Lions TV camera and microphone!
We are truly thankful to have Reilly for his play on the field and his funny antics off of it. Bring it on in 2021!
Adult movies? Where did ‘get off the schneid’ originate? You never know how the conversation is going to go….@Rikester13 also talks serious football matter with @BakesTakes84 ahead of big rematch with the RedBlacks. pic.twitter.com/bLRONftQtO
— BC LIONS (@BCLions) September 19, 2019
And as you can see below, Reilly’s hassling of yours truly is usually a pretty big hit with the fans and followers on social media.
We’ve given the offence some love, now we have to salute how thankful we are for big defensive plays and a few of the veteran studs we have on that side of the ball. Who can forget the amazing goal-line stand where TJ Lee stopped Eugene Lewis short on third down to help beat Montreal at home last year? Lee and Aaron Grymes still have plenty of football left in the tank and will give the squad a nice veteran presence in the secondary.
Free agency will answer plenty of questions at all position groups. It will also be intriguing to see where first overall pick Jordan Williams fits in with the linebackers.
Any way you slice it, we hope to see more big stops in our future!
Confession: Throughout the pandemic, I have spent a lot of non-working hours falling down YouTube rabbit holes of classic Lions and CFL highlights. The platform has become somewhat of a library archive for classic CFL games and kudos to those who have uploaded full game highlights. I recently watched the entire 1994 Western Final victory in Calgary.
That amazing day in Lions history is best-remembered for the game-winning drive in blizzard-like conditions engineered by quarterback Danny McManus who hit Darren Flutie for the winning touchdown with no time left in the clock. But you forget a couple of things about that win. For one, the snow didn’t really start falling at all until early the fourth quarter. You wouldn’t know it had you simply started watching when Ray Alexander’s blocked field goal attempt to keep it a five-point Calgary lead set the Lions up with good field position with under two minutes to play.
Another thing that may have slipped your mind was the Lions trailed 34-21 at one point in the second half. It seemed no matter what Kent Austin or Danny McManus did, Doug Flutie and the Stampeders always provided a counterpunch. The visitors simply refused to lay down and die.
Fans of a younger vintage would probably point to the 2016 Western Semi-Final victory as their favourite playoff comeback. Jonathon Jennings and the upstart Lions rallied from 12 points down in the 4th quarter to stun the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 32-31 at BC Place in the most recent Lions playoff victory to date.
They may provide some nervous moments, but comeback victories in November are yet another example of things we are thankful for.
We should have mentioned off the top that this list wasn’t designed for any particular order. As someone who interacts with you great ones every day at practice or on game day, I can say with some conviction that the Lions organization is super thankful to all of our great fans.
They truly are what this league is all about. I was purchasing some new running shoes on Thursday, and in the store was lucky to meet two great Lions fans-one who said he has had season tickets dating back to Empire Stadium- who can’t wait to be back in the stands cheering us on, hopefully as early as 2021 depending on what a return to play might look like. We’re always confident.
So cheers and Happy Thanksgiving to all the great Lions fans who help make our jobs with the team all that more enjoyable.
Centre of the Universe. The Big Smoke. Many sports fans not from there might just simply consider it the Evil Empire. Some use any opportunity to point out the Maple Leafs’ last Stanley Cup win took place before the first moon landing. Yet others latch onto the Blue Jays’ and Raptors’ respective bandwagons like it’s...
Centre of the Universe. The Big Smoke. Many sports fans not from there might just simply consider it the Evil Empire. Some use any opportunity to point out the Maple Leafs’ last Stanley Cup win took place before the first moon landing. Yet others latch onto the Blue Jays’ and Raptors’ respective bandwagons like it’s a symbol of their Canadian patriotism. Yes, the overall views on Toronto are a bit complicated. But when it comes to the Lions and Argonauts, there isn’t much hate or love. The Boatmen have been on the other end of some memorable games over the last 67 years.
Lion diehards will remember two heartbreaking Grey Cup results. There was an epic meeting at BC Place in 1991 that fans of a certain vintage will never forget. Overall, the Lions have dominated the regular season series. So it’s definitely not all that bad. Under normal circumstances, we would be preparing for a Friday night tilt against the Boatmen at BMO Field. On a short week after hosting Saskatchewan last Saturday, game 15 of the 2020 season and the first in October likely would have carried some significance in the team’s quest to return to the playoffs. Instead, we will take this opportunity to re-hash some of the key battles against the double blue in our history.
Okay, let’s get this one out of the way. The Lions are 0-2 all-time in Grey Cup games against the Boatmen, losing in both 1983 and 2004. The ’83 loss at brand new BC Place is probably best remembered for the drop by Jacques Chapdelaine that at the worst, would have set them up for a Lui Passaglia winning field goal and a two-point win. Instead, the Argonauts prevailed 18-17 on the strength of a defence that shut out Roy Dewalt and company for the entire second half. It was Toronto’s first Grey Cup win since 1952.
2004 was a disappointing end to an otherwise remarkable turnaround season for the orange and black. Less than two years after the Lions cut him loose, Damon Allen exacted his revenge by leading the Argos to a 27-19 win in Ottawa. From a Lions perspective, this one is probably best remembered for Casey Printers being left on the bench in favour of Dave Dickenson despite Printers winning the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player Award earlier that week. Wally Buono ultimately went with the guy who had led the comeback victory over Saskatchewan in the Western Final. Also of note was a teary-eyed Jason Clermont being named Grey Cup Most Valuable Canadian in the losing effort.
Said the late Lions president Bobby Ackles in his 2007 autobiography The Waterboy, with Ian Mulgrew: “The Argos, our arch rivals-our nemesis- had defeated us again. I had been certain this was our year. We were a good team.”
We’ll say this: losses like these two certainly make you appreciate the years you won it even more. In each of those Grey Cup losses to the Argos, Ackles and the squad would sip from the Grey Cup two years later.
Overall, the Lions have had their way with the Boatmen in regular season play with an all-time record of 59-37-2. The most memorable meeting between the clubs before November was no doubt back in 1991 in front of over 50,000 raucous fans at BC Place. A quick scene setter. The 1991 Argonauts can probably lay claim to being one of the best single-season teams in modern CFL history.
Led by the speedster Raghib “Rocket” Ismail, who had turned down the NFL for bigger bucks up north, the Argonauts cruised to a 13-5 record before crushing Winnipeg 43-1 in the Eastern Final. The Grey Cup game with Calgary was anyone’s to win before the Rocket returned a kickoff 87 yards to the house- despite having a full beer can thrown his way from the crowd- to help secure the title.
But one of Toronto’s losses that year came to Doug Flutie and the Lions on August 1st of that season. The Boatmen were 3-0 entering that contest and looked to be in control after jumping out to a 21-3 lead through one quarter. The Rocket had contributed to the cause with a 13-yard touchdown run- his first CFL major- while Michael “Pinball” Clemons scored on a 94-yard punt return to stun the Lions spectators early. It was 14-0 before the game was even five minutes old.
But Flutie would rally the troops and connect with Ray Alexander and Jay Christensen for touchdowns, while Jon Volpe rushed for another. The home team was on top 38-28 with under seven minutes to go before Toronto rallied late to force overtime. Back in those days, the overtime format consisted of two five-minute halves that were played in full, regardless if a team scored on their first possession.
After the Argos opened the first extra session with a field goal, Ray Etheridge returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown. You thought the old marshmallow roof might blow off BC Place. Volpe added another touchdown on a Flutie shovel pass for some much-needed icing on the cake and the final was 52-41 Lions. It was also the first of six overtime games the Lions would play in that season.
Flutie finished the night 31 of 46 for 361 yards and those three touchdown strikes. Even with his touchdown, Ismail was held to just 25 yards from scrimmage and returned three kickoffs for 106 yards. When he joined 1st and Now Chat earlier this year, the thing Flutie was most excited about when asked to recall this game was the overtime heroics from Etheridge.
“Honestly, he was not a great receiver but he could flat out fly,” Flutie remembered.
“The Missile, Etheridge. He returned a big kickoff for us in the overtime and he had a couple of big plays for us in that game. The guys on that team, we had a blast. Like you said, six overtime games. We threw for over 6,600 yards that year and the fact we played six overtime games kind of led to the extra yardage.”
A few more great statistical nuggets from that night, courtest Lions team historian Steve Daniel:
The Flutie era may not have produced a Grey Cup for the franchise, but nights like this one are still talked about today. Daniel also provided us a handwritten scoring summary of the contest. The paper was put to good use!
A couple more interesting tidbits from the all-time series with the Argonauts. The two ties both took place in Vancouver. The first came on September 29th, 1974 at Empire Field and the second on October 6th, 1984 at BC Place.
Toronto was on the receiving end of the second-highest margin of victory in Lions history. Twice, in fact. The Lions beat crushed them 51-4 at Skydome on August 24th, 2000, and repeated the 47-point blowout last season at BC Place when Mike Reilly, Bryan Burnham and company cruised to a 55-8 victory. A late Toronto touchdown is all that prevented the Lions from breaking the record for the largest blowout in club history: that remains a 67-15 win over the now-defunct Shreveport Pirates in 1994.
The two teams have faced each other in a season opener just three times: 1983 in the first regular season game at BC Place followed by 2005 and 2007 at Skydome/Rogers Centre. The Lions lost in ’83 but were victorious the other two times.
The Lions have a record of 3-1-0 in trips to BMO Field since the Boatmen returned to the CNE Grounds at the start of 2016. Last season’s win came in bizarre fashion when Sergio Castilo’s single off a winning field goal attempt with no time left secured an 18-17 victory. Video highlight above. Man, we love this league.
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