Vancouver Whitecaps FC are mourning the passing of former owner Herb Capozzi on Monday. He was 86.
Known as an “Ambassador for British Columbia” for his substantial contributions to sport, tourism, business, and government, Capozzi was the driving force in establishing Whitecaps FC when he purchased a franchise in the old North American Soccer League (NASL) in 1973. From 1974 to 1984, the native of Kelowna, BC, served as the club’s owner, president, and board chairman. His efforts led Whitecaps FC to becoming Vancouver's first professional sports team to win a major North American championship when they won the NASL Soccer Bowl title in 1979.
“Herb was an integral part of starting up the club back in 1974. He was also instrumental in the building of the club through to the 1979 championship season,” said Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi. “Herb was a very charismatic man. I remember being at many functions when he spoke and he was probably one of the best speakers I’ve ever heard. With Herb, when he was in a room, you knew he was there. He had an unbelievable presence.”
Capozzi’s contributions to professional sports in Vancouver and British Columbia did not end with Whitecaps FC. In professional football, he served as general manager of the CFL’s BC Lions for nine seasons between 1957 and 1966. In that time, Capozzi’s Lions made two Grey Cup appearances, with BC winning their first-ever Grey Cup championship title in 1964. He was also instrumental in keeping the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks in BC when he purchased the hockey club from its American owners in 1971.
A multi-sports star at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Capozzi played in the CFL with Calgary Stampeders and Montreal Alouettes, having made two Grey Cup appearances with Montreal in 1954 and 1955. He was also involved in the development of racquetball in Canada, opening the country’s first racquetball-dedicated facility in 1966. He also played racquetball, winning the Canadian Masters and Canadian Golden Masters championship titles in 1974 and 1981 respectively.
His contribution to sport earned him inductions into the Vancouver College Sports Hall of Fame, the UBC Sports Hall of Fame, the BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, and the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame and Museum. Capozzi was also inducted into the Italian Cultural Society Hall of Fame.
Off the field, Capozzi served two terms as an elected Member of the British Columbia Legislature during the 1960’s. As a businessman, he was instrumental in bringing McDonalds Restaurants to Canada and being a co-founder of the Keg Restaurants. From 1981 to 1986, Capozzi served as a director of the highly successful Expo 86, having been responsible for food, entertainment, and housing. For his many efforts, Capozzi received the Order of British Columbia in 2008.
Capozzi is survived by his wife Alex. Whitecaps FC wish to offer our condolences to the Capozzi family at this difficult time.