Herb Capozzi

Pioneer | 2014

Herb Capozzi’s long, bright, and illustrious career, one that spanned over 45 years, began in Vancouver, at UBC on a sports scholarship, where he played football and basketball and earned a bachelor of arts and commerce degree. Born to Cap Capozzi, an already established vineyard proprietor and owner of Calona Wines, on April 24, 1925 in Kelowna, BC, Capozzi understood hard work. He was named Athlete of the year in 1948. He was immediately offered a $4,000 contract to play for the New York Giants after graduating from UBC but turned it down for a scholarship to the University of Italy. He returned to Canada in 1952, working for Shell Oil and played defensive tackle for the Calgary Stampeders. In 1953, Capozzi continued double-dipping on the career front when he became program director for the CBC in Montreal and played tackle for the Alouettes.

BC called his name though, and he made another return in 1957 to become the general manager of his home-town BC Lions until 1966, guiding the team to their first Grey Cup win in 1964. He made a foray into politics in 1963, winning a seat in Vancouver Centre in 1966 with his charismatic personality. He was re-elected in 1969. During this time, his personal holdings were increasing. His family acquired the Elks Building that Capozzi quickly turned into the Men’s Athletic and Recreation Centre. He opened Sneaky Pete’s and held investments in Charlie Brown’s Restaurant, 12 Caesars Restaurant, Harry C’s night club and Sugar Daddy’s disco.

Among his vast and seemingly unending positions, his most notable business ventures include starting the Vancouver Whitecaps, BC’s first professional soccer team where he served as owner president and board chairman, and purchasing the Vancouver Canucks in 1971, helping keep the team in Canada. He co-founded the Keg Restaurants and was instrumental in bringing McDonald’s restaurants to Canada. From his co-ownership of his family’s wine company, he was able to open Dabbers, Kelowna’s first professional bingo parlour, through which he donated millions to charities. He also served as a director of Food, Entertainment and Housing in the highly successful Expo 86.

Capozzi was inducted into the UBC Sports Hall of Fame, the Vancouver College Sports Hall of Fame, the Italian Cultural Society Hall of Fame, the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame, and the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame. In 2008, Capozzi received the Order of British Columbia, the highest of distinctions, for his dedication to the city’s economic infrastructure and his notable charitable endeavours. Herb passed away November 21, 2011 at the age of 86 at his home in Kelowna after suffering from tongue cancer.

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