Former CFL commissioner Doug Mitchell dies at age 83

Doug Mitchell, a former CFL player who later served as league commissioner, has died. He was 83.

The Calgary Stampeders confirmed his death Thursday.

Mitchell, a Calgary native, attended Colorado College on a hockey scholarship and completed a bachelor of arts degree in business administration. He then attended the University of British Columbia, where he played football while earning a bachelor of law degree in 1962.

Mitchell played both offence and defence at UBC and played briefly in the CFL with the B.C. Lions and Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

He served as CFL commissioner from 1984 to ’88. He also spent time on the league’s board of governors, as a representative of the Calgary Stampeders.

Mitchell made several significant contributions to athletics, including the creation of the U Sports athlete of the year awards honouring the top Canadian collegiate performers. The honour — formerly known as the Howard Mackie, BLG and Lieutenant Governor Athletic Awards — were recently renamed The Honourable Lois Mitchell and Doug Mitchell U Sports athlete of the year awards.

U Sports named one of its national semifinal football games, the Mitchell Bowl, in his honour.

Lois Mitchell recently completed her term as Lieutenant Governor of Alberta (2015-20). Their son, Scott, is the managing partner/CEO of Hamilton Sports Group Partnership, which owns and operates the Ticats and Forge FC of the Canadian Premier League.

Mitchell is a member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. He has also been named to the Alberta Order of Excellence and Order of Canada.

Mitchell was named for induction into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2021 as a builder. Also in that class was former Montreal Alouettes head coach Marv Levy (in builder category) and former players Will Johnson and Mike Walker (defensive linemen), Nik Lewis (receiver) and Orlondo Steinauer and Don Wilson (both defensive backs).

The 2020 and ’21 classes were enshrined together last month in Hamilton, a delay created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mitchell was also named Sportsman of the Year in 2007 by the Calgary Booster Club, and three years later was listed by the Globe and Mail as one of the Power 50 of Canadian sports.

Mitchell served as a member of the National Hockey League board of governors from 1980-84 and was also chairman of the ’05 Winter Goodwill Games.

He began his legal career with the firm of Howard, Mackie, specializing in corporate and commercial law. When the firm merged to become Borden Ladner Gervais, Mitchell served as national co-chair.

And sport wasn’t Mitchell’s only passion. He also served with a wide range of organizations outside of the athletic arena, including chairman of the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, United Way of Calgary, the Campbell McLaurin Foundation for the Hearing Handicapped, Theatre Calgary and the Calgary Zoo, to name but a few.

In 2004, Mitchell was named one of the most influential Albertans in the province’s first 100 years. That same year, he became a member of the Order of Canada.

Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.

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