On Wednesday night, Vancouver Whitecaps FC honoured former club owner, long-time season ticket holder, and upstanding member of the community, Milan Ilich, by wearing black armbands. Mr. Ilich, who passed away on June 29 after a 14-month battle with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), was 76 years old.
Often credited with keeping professional soccer alive in British Columbia after his purchase of Vancouver 86ers (now Whitecaps FC) in 1988, Mr. Ilich was a noted entrepreneur, philanthropist, and an Order of British Columbia recipient, who always sought out opportunities to help out his community and the people within it.
Ilich's venture into the world of professional sports saw him purchase the 86ers in 1989, rescuing the club from tough financial times by putting forth two million dollars to help secure the club on Canada’s west coast. Ilich’s commitment to 'The Beautiful Game' allowed the 86ers to continue providing Vancouver with professional soccer and allowing the club to become the longest running professional soccer franchise in United States and Canadian history.
Ilich’s efforts to help the 86ers find financial security made him a face of the franchise. In eight years as owner, Ilich's efforts are a testament to his commitment to the sport, the team, and the city that supported both.
As well as his involvement with the 86ers, Ilich was also involved in the original ownership group that helped form the WHL's Vancouver Giants - one of the most successful junior hockey franchises in Canada.
Besides his stake in the sporting world, Ilich was a tireless philanthropist who saw no cause as too small or too large. In one instance, he provided financial support to a newly widowed woman and her family for a year. More recently, he and his wife, Maureen, were able to donate one million dollars towards bringing an MRI machine to Richmond Hospital through their charitable foundation.
Last fall, Ilich was recognized for his entrepreneurial and philanthropic efforts when the provincial government bestowed its highest honour upon him - the Order of British Columbia.
A dedicated family man, Ilich is survived by his wife Maureen, daughter Laurie, son Rick, their spouses, as well as their five grandchildren and seven siblings.