Lyle Bauer, former Winnipeg Blue Bombers player and CEO, dies at 65

Bauer won 3 Grey Cups, founded Never Alone Cancer Foundation following diagnosis in 2004

A Winnipeg Blue Bombers Hall of Famer and founder of a charity that supports cancer patients and families has died.

Lyle Bauer, who was an offensive lineman with the Bombers from 1982 to 1991 and served as the team’s president and CEO from 2000 to 2009, died at age 65, his family announced Tuesday.

“Throughout his life, he brought joy, comfort, and a drive to make change in his community,” his daughter, Danni Bauer, wrote in a statement released by the Never Alone Cancer Foundation, which he founded after he was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2004.

Bauer, who played collegiately at Weber State in Utah, won three Grey Cups while playing with the Bombers — one in 1984, another in 1988 and a third in 1990 — and was inducted into the football club’s Hall of Fame in 1998. He was also named Winnipeg’s top offensive lineman in 1988.

He also served three seasons as Winnipeg’s assistant general manager, starting in 1992.

The Bombers reached the Grey Cup twice while Bauer was CEO (in 2001 and 2007).

Lyle Bauer was inducted into the Winnipeg Football Club Hall of Fame in 1998. (Never Alone Cancer Foundation)

Born in Saskatoon, he left the Bombers to work as president for the Calgary Stampeders, where he stayed until 2013.

The Never Alone Cancer Foundation, which supports people living with cancer, says “thousands of Manitoban cancer patients found solace and support” through Bauer’s efforts.

“While his loss is deeply felt, Lyle’s memory will endure through the countless lives he touched and his unwavering commitment to community service,” the foundation said in a statement.

A celebration of Bauer’s life is expected at a later date.

During his time as Bombers CEO, Bauer carried the team through financial uncertainty, current Bombers president Wade Miller told CBC News.

In 2009, Bauer told CBC that a debt of $5.5 million had been replaced by a positive balance of approximately $5 million while he held the role.

“He made a huge impact,” Miller said, adding that Bauer battled cancer with the same persistence he had on the football field.

“He wanted to win, wanted to make a difference on and off the field.”

Lyle Bauer won three Grey Cups while playing with the Bombers — one in 1984, another in 1988 and a third in 1990. (Never Alone Cancer Foundation)

John Hufnagel, a special adviser for the Calgary Stampeders, was a teammate of Bauer’s in Winnipeg, and served as the Stamps’ general manager and head coach while Bauer was the franchise’s president.

“I greatly enjoyed working with Lyle, both as a teammate and in management,” Hufnagel said in a statement. “He was excellent in both roles and he was a great friend.

“On behalf of the Stampeders organization, I offer condolences to Lyle’s wife Heidi and their children as well as to all other members of his family and his many friends.”

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie called Bauer a “warrior.”

“He grappled with opponents as a Winnipeg Blue Bomber O-lineman and fought for the franchise’s future as its president and CEO,” Ambrosie posted on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

“He worked in a similar role with the Calgary Stampeders and mounted his most courageous battle against cancer, as founder of the Never Alone [Cancer] Foundation.

“He was a deeply passionate man, who loved his community, his team, and, most of all, his family and friends, including many in the CFL. May he rest in peace.”

With files from CBC’s Chloe Friesen and The Canadian Press