Canadian soccer icon dead at 56 - Toronto Sun

Brian Budd was a jovial, multi-talented athlete and ex-professional soccer player who wowed the world when he beat America's best in the 1970s-80s World Superstars competitions. He was found dead late Wednesday after collapsing at his Toronto home. No cause of death has been released. Budd, a forward for seven seasons with the now defunct North American Soccer League, later became a soccer sportscaster. Born in Toronto and raised in Delta, B.C., he turned 56 in April. An international celebrity who in later years became a beer salesman for restaurants here - first for Molson Breweries, then InBev, owners of the Labatt Brewing Company - he counted the late SCTV comedian, movie star and football club part-owner John Candy as a golfing buddy. It was just one of many sports Budd played with gusto. Spotted by ABC executives during a major playoff game in Haiti 30 years ago, he was invited to appear on the World Superstars show, to represent Canada. The televised meets had athletes from different countries competing in often off-beat events that included rowing, running an obstacle course and doing chin-ups. Known as "Budgie," he won the Canadian Superstars competitions four times, from 1978 to 1980. Budd considered some of the other soccer players better at the game. But he was an all-round athlete. After dropping out of figure-skating training at age 14, he set two Canadian swim records for the breast stroke as a teen and was offered a university scholarship as a track runner. Soccer became his game at age 19. In 1977, one year after needing 30 stitches on his throat after it was slashed by a stranger at a Vancouver party, he won a Canadian Inter University Sport championship medal as a member of the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds. At the Superstar tryouts in Toronto the following year, Budd won a trip to the Bahamas to play tennis, swim, row, sprint and cycle plus other sports. He was facing the defending champion and other well-known stars of sports that included football and track. To everyone's surprise, the obscure Canadian had beaten the world's best that year, then again in 1979, despite slamming head-first into a wall, leaving him with a permanent scar on his forehead. But after besting many athletes for a third time, ABC-TV announced Budd would not be allowed to compete again. In Canada, critics suggested as a foreigner, he had done too well against America's best. Unofficially, the three-times-your-out decision that became a standard in the games, was dubbed "the Budd rule." The triple crown, however, had netted him $200,000 in prize money. During his career with the NASL and the Major Indoor Soccer League, Budd played soccer for the Vancouver Whitecaps starting in 1974, the Cleveland Force, the Colorado Caribou, the Toronto Metros-Croatia — later renamed the Toronto Blizzard — the Vancouver Whitecaps, Canada's national team, Ayr United reserves in Scotland, and, finally, in 1980, the Houston Hurricane and the Baltimore Blast. Two years later, he signed on as a colour commentator for Toronto Blizzard broadcasts and was the club's public affairs director until 1983, later providing game analysis for The Score network. Budd also wrote, authoring The Executive Guide to Fitness, which sold a respectable 5,000 copies, then as a consultant for a women's fitness magazine 20 years ago. Often accompanied by waving arms and his voice rising, his often outrageous commentaries were wildly different from most laid-back colleagues. Insisting years ago that he didn't missing playing soccer, Budd instead often spoke of “the camaraderie of the players on the planes, buses and in the dressing room along with the five-a-sides on the pitch to end each workout.” One of his fondest memories was bouncing a ball off Brazil soccer legend Edison Arantes do Nasciment — known by the nickname, Pelé — who then gave his game jersey to Budd, whose efforts had helped Canada win a 2-1 upset in an exhibition game against the New York Cosmos in Vancouver. Budd is survived by wife Brenda, a son and daughter.