Tom Wright

A thousand times over the past five years, I have wanted to break free on my keyboard to share a few views on some of the topics debated here in this forum. Day-in and day-out you pour out your passion for the Canadian game and more than once in a while you let fly with your frustration on how our product is led and managed. I would have liked to provide an insider’s perspective, but in my former role, that type of candor might not have always resonated well with the group of nine, not that they weren’t prone to a little ‘unofficial slippage’ from time-to-time. There is one subject, right now, that I will weigh-in on.

In a few weeks from now ‘Commissioner Tom’ will share that one and only smile with the fans in Winnipeg for one last time and will leave his post at the CFL. That will not be a good day for this game. To be fair, like all Commissioners his tenure was not perfect and like all before him, his time was marked by the occasional controversy. But, unlike many before him who were hamstrung by the inability to climb over the hurdles of history and conflicting visions, this CFL Commissioner, charged-on. His record is one of fundamental achievements that have transported our League to a better place. If the Tom Wright story needs a headline, it would be “Wright changed the CFL to make it a better product for the fans?. Full stop. This Commissioner not only understands the game on the field, he understands the game’s fans and was single-focused in that regard, even if it resulted in uncomfortable change for some. He respects the fans inside and outside of our stadiums and spent many a chilly night sitting with the best of CFL fans on frosty aluminum bleachers, just to show as much of the rest of the country as he could, in prime time, what Canadian football was all about.

Tom Wright was the Commissioner that understood that the business of sports was changing and that to grow, in fact to survive, the CFL would have to lead the shift from simply a stadium producer to a multi-dimensional content provider. Lots of people talked about it. He acted on it. He was and is savvy enough to respect the importance of an emerging, but not yet committed audience, who were being introduced to the game through television, internet, satellite radio, wireless devices, fantasy pools, blogs, podcasts and the myriad of technologies coming down the pipe. During his time, more games were broadcast than ever before, in new mediums, with much better production, and at times when most Canadians would be home to watch. He did it confidently knowing that even the best electronic production could not and would not detract from a well-staged stadium experience.

Tom Wright’s leadership of the CFL was by no means perfect. Perhaps if he had a firmer hand with a historically well-intentioned, but cantankerous board, shifting influence from the few to the hands of the many, at the outset of his time at the helm, the story would be a different one. Perhaps if his faith in the human spirit to work together to build something bigger and better was not so strong, we might be in a different place.

Before he heads off to his next adventure, all of us need to reflect on the ‘Fans Commissioner’ and what he was able to achieve for the game and for us. This Commissioner will deliver to his successor an organization that is arguably at its most successful point in its long and storied history. This Commissioner presided over the transformation of the CFL from a game to a brand. This Commissioner reconnected the brand with its fans by building the largest and most successful broadcast footprint ever for the Canadian game. This Commissioner understood and valued the Canadian corporate community and brought them back to the game at levels of investment previously unattainable. This Commissioner brought forward and saw passed, at his own peril, a salary management system that just about every Commissioner prior, attempted to and failed. This Commissioner placed principles in front of longevity of office.

In any event, Tom Wright’s time as the 11th Commissioner will soon be history. This flag-waving Canadian will go home to his fabulous family deservedly proud of what he has achieved for all of us. We are all part of a great League, with great owners, great coaches, great athletes and great fans. On November 19th, when the Grey Cup is passed to the winning captain in Winnipeg, I hope all CFL fans will join together in raising a toast to Commissioner Tom. He deserves our thanks.

Brent Scrimshaw
Huge Tom Wright Fan and
Former Chief Marketing Officer, CFL
Riverview, New Brunswick

well said!

Tom Wright will be missed by those who care about the league more than thier favorite team.

Tom Wright did a great job, and was definately more in tune with the passion of CFL fans than some of the so-called business people who own/run the teams.
I had many an opportunity to talk to Mr. Wright at Grey Cups or other functions and he always gave freely of his time and showed respect for the fans, the league and the game.

The short sightedness of some of the people running this league is astonishing, and we will be very hardpressed to find as talented an individual as Tom Wright to assume his duties.

I will definately toast to this man and he will be missed.

Here, here!!!

And Godspeed!!

That is an absolutely outstanding post! Kind of sad how I forgot that he'll be gone after the GC.

I will miss Wright. He has done a lot for this league in the short time he's been here. Maybe not like a commish like Tagliabue but considering who he has to work around it's a miracle he did what he did.

And just to say it again: outstanding post.

To Wright is the best thing that the CFL had going for them. To bad a minority of owners (including our) could push out a man who has been good for the league. There is not justice. He will be sorely missed.

Tom Wright is an amazingly good commih. HE is great for the fans, and he cares equally for all teams

TSN has an interview with Tom Wright and several of his predecessors available for viewing.

Great post! Agree with all of it. It's gonna be sad seing Tom leave because he's been great for the league. The on-field product has been very good but what he's done off-field has been wonderful for our game.

Tom Wright was an exceptional commissioner who will really be missed. Personally, I especially admired his commitment to bring the game to the maritime region. It was amazing that something like Touchdown Atlantic ever happened. It only ever came to be because of Wright, Argos' president Keith Pelley, and the Argos' ownership. I doubt Halifax will see another game unless we win the 2014 Commonwealth Games bid and get a team. Tom Wright also included the Atlanic region in Grey Cup week by giving maritimers an official site at the Grey Cup. Wright is a good guy who is very competent at his job, and I wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavours.

Congratulations Mr. Tom Wright

for the outstanding job you did for the CFL
in spite of the lack of real power

that the office of Commission has
with the CFL Board of Governors.


It is great to hear your words
of high praise for Mr. Tom Wright
from a former insider of the CFL office.

Obviously, Mr. Scrimshaw, you are
much more aware than us regular fans

of what obstacles Mr. Wright went through
to accomplish everything that he has.

Very fine post Scrimshaw - well said! It is bittersweet to read this thread because I'm very sad to see Mr. Wright go, and I think it is a mistake to let this happen, but at the same time it is very nice to take a moment to recognize all of the great things the commish has done for this league.

I am saddened and dissapointed that Mr. Wright won't be back but I'm lifted by seeing how much his contributions are noticed and appreciated.

Good luck, Tom, in where ever your life takes you. You will be greatly missed by the fans of the CFL!

Outstanding post..and thank you! for addressing us...the fans. You didn't have to, but you see and understand how much the game means to all of us.

I have always supported Mr. Wright in all he did during his tenure and I agree he will be missed by many. He achieved so much for this league in such a short time that he might actually have made things a little bit difficult for his replacement.

But...if you're going to fill his shoes you need to be able to step up and stand up to the B.O.G.'s and continue this league on the path that Mr. Wright started.

Again Mr. Scrimshaw, thank you for addressing us and for a touching tribute to a great man.

Mr. Wright....Best of luck in whatever you do and thank you for all you've done for the CFL and it's fans. :thup:

I'd still like to know what he did wrong. To me the pluses would out weigh the minuses.
I'm not surprised that Dave Braley would be against him and Wettenall was never in his corner...but Bob Young seems like a common sense guy but won't come out and say why he doesn't support Tom Wright.
Maybe Mr. Scrimshaw should write a tell all book.
However if by some stroke of luck the league manages to find a good dynamic leader things will gets smoothed over but if we get a dud a lot of people are going to be more turned off then they are already.

Well said.
An excellent Commish and he will be sadly missed.
Maybe just maybe and since I have heard how a replacement has not been found.......could Tom return?