John Blain, Nanaimo school district superintendent, has fond memories of former B.C. Lion head coach Don Matthews, who passed away June 14. Blain played for Matthews between 1983 and 1987. (KARL YU/News Bulletin)

School superintendent remembers ex-B.C. Lions coach Don Matthews

John Blain, Nanaimo school district superintendent, played under Don Matthews from 1983 to 1987

Nanaimo school district’s superintendent has fond memories of former B.C. Lions head coach Don Matthews.

Matthews, who was 77, passed away Wednesday after a lengthy illness, the Lions announced in a press release. John Blain, whose career spanned from 1977-87, was an offensive lineman when Matthews took the reins in B.C. in 1983.

Blain said he liked Matthews as he related well and was patient with him. Matthews moved Blain from offensive guard to offensive tackle, which enabled Blain to blossom, the school administrator said.

Under Matthews’s leadership, the Lions lost the 1983 Grey Cup 18-17 to the Toronto Argonauts and won the 1985 championship, defeating the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 37-24.

“We had come out of the Vic Rapp era, old school, and Don was very different and not traditional,” said Blain. “He allowed veterans to lead, which was not the case with Vic, and I think that’s where a lot of the Canadians came to life when Don took over. His comment was he liked to live on the edge and we played on the edge a lot and we believed in that.

“That style of football [fans] really appreciated and enjoyed and we really were successful in those years, in ‘83 to 87. I always played in a full house … it was great.”

When asked about his favourite memory with Matthews, it was the Grey Cup appearances.

“I got to say Grey Cup ‘85 when we won,” said Blain. “Grey Cup ‘83 was an unbelievable experience, but losing by a point at the end of the game didn’t help.”

Matthews also won Grey Cups with the Baltimore Stallions, Toronto Argonauts and Montreal Alouettes.

reporter@nanaimobulletin.com