2005 Howard Sokolowski & David Cynamon

by Peter Worthington


It’s not exactly a Hollywood script, but it could be.

And the story is far from over.

Sokolowski, Michael (Pinball) Clemons and Cynamon

Sokolowski, Michael (Pinball) Clemons and Cynamon

How do a couple of rich guys — very rich guys — become toast of the athletic world and get to be named Magna International’s Sports Executives of the Year — an honour previously bestowed on John Furlong and Jack Poole for leading the charge that won Vancouver the 2010 Winter Olympics, and to Darryl Sutter, the rejuvenator of the Calgary Flames?

How come Howie Sokolowski, boyish CEO of home-building Tribute Communities and David Cynamon, who turned no-name bleach into a cash-cow, become the executive toasts of the sporting world?

Not only did the unlikely pair (with looks good enough to star in a movie about themselves) buy the moribund Toronto Argos, but they turned the team into the Grey Cup winners.

Some may say Coach Pinball Clemons had something to do with the Argo success. Not me. I say it is the dynamic energy and contagious enthusiasm of Howie and Dave which made the Argos the surprise winners last year and a box-office draw this year.

Of course, some once thought they were nuts to get involved with the Argos – including me, at first.

The pair have had an electric effect in the Argo dressing room and box office. The players are their pals. Injured ones watch home games in their boss’ private box.

Howie and Dave say their big plus is that they are fans. That’s too simple. John Bassett was a fan when he owned the team, as was Harry Ornest, and the threesome of Bruce McNall, Wayne Gretzky and John Candy. They all failed to stop the plunge into bankruptcy and league custody.

Until Howie and Dave, about ten thousand spectators was the norm at the cavernous Rogers Centre (nee SkyDome). This year the attendance for Argo games has, at times, approached 30,000, because the team has re-discovered pride and Howie has made the Rogers Centre more intimate and fun for football.

I liken Howie and Dave to locker room inspirations like Mookie Wilson, Dave Winfield and Paul Molitor when the Blue Jays were World Series winners.

Cynamon is a tri-athlete who in 1984 caught the winning touchdown when York University Yeoman beat U of T for the first time.

Both Howie and Dave understand leadership is by example, not decree. Their faith and wisdom have already revived the Argo spirit of old, and may even make the Argos profitable.

In their own way they may even have saved the CFL.