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There are few things Randy Ambrosie wants people to know about him more than his love for football and family. In a 20-minute interview with reporters Wednesday, Ambrosie, following his official announcement as the 14th commissioner of the Canadian Football League, made clear his devotion to the game through anecdotes featuring his loved ones.

"You’ll get used to the fact that I talk about my family a lot," said Ambrosie.

"And you’ll find with the Ambrosie family we cry a lot, quite easily."

The 54-year-old appeared to get misty-eyed when sharing a number of stories from his past, a humbling beginning that first began in Winnipeg before expanding into careers as a football player and business leader in Toronto. During a separate interview with the Free Press, which was the first news outlet to report Ambrosie’s hiring last week, he dove further into his connection to Winnipeg.

It’s a journey that first began with his late mother and father, who shortly after getting married packed up and moved to the city from Edmonton. Once in Winnipeg, they had four children — all boys — with Randy being the third child. All four boys were active in sports — mainly hockey and football — in what Ambrosie called the "classic Canadian family."

The family lived off their father’s company — Ambrosie Lighting and Electrical Services — which has since been taken over by two of the brothers. Ambrosie lives in Oakville, Ont., but said he remains close with family members and his roots back home.

"My oldest brother Brad, he called me and he heard on the news they announced that I was going to be the next commissioner, and he said he had to pull over because he had tears in his eyes thinking about what Mom and Dad would have been thinking at that moment, how they would have felt," Ambrosie said, admitting the sentiment brought him to tears as well.

Ambrosie met his wife, Barb, when they were kids. They started dating while attending Kildonan-East Collegiate. To see how far they’ve gone, from youth running around Winnipeg to Ambrosie earning the job as top boss of the CFL and has wife earning a law degree from Osgoode Hall, has made this moment all the more special, he said.

"It’s been so exciting to have my wife Barb and our three daughters be part of this journey, through this process, and my brothers as well."

The CFL has been in search of a new commissioner since news broke in April of a mutual breakup between the league and Jeffrey Orridge, who lasted just more than two years on the job and officially stepped down as commissioner June 15. Jim Lawson, chairman of the CFL’s board of governors, had been serving as interim commissioner.

One of the biggest factors that led to the hiring of Ambrosie, the runner-up to Orridge the last time around, was his connection to football. Ambrosie grew up playing football in Winnipeg: he played bantam football with the East Side Eagles, midget with the Kildonan Lions and junior with the St. Vital Mustangs, where he was eventually recruited to play for Dennis Hrycaiko at the University of Manitoba.

"Football was a launch pad for me," Ambrosie said. "It was actually the reason I went to university, because of football. I wasn’t thinking about it, and then football created an opportunity for me to get more serious about school, which I’m proud to say I did, and a lot of wonderful things have happened since then."

Ambrosie went on to have a stellar collegiate career and was picked second overall in the 1985 CFL Draft. He played nine seasons in the CFL, splitting time between the Calgary Stampeders, Toronto Argonauts and Edmonton Eskimos. He won a Grey Cup with the Eskimos in 1993. Later in his career, he served two years as secretary of the CFL players’ association.

"When you have that depth of experience I think it’s impossible to separate yourself from it, and I would very much like to bring that nuanced understanding to this role and use it to make the game bigger and stronger," Ambrosie said.

After his playing days, Ambrosie pursued a career in the financial field. He was president of AGF Management Limited (2004-09), president and CEO of Accretive 360 Inc. (2010-12), and president and CEO of 3Macs, a full-service investment dealer with a large presence across North America.

"I’ve got a pretty broad and constantly evolving understanding of what it takes to be successful in business," he said. "I have a strategy for how I work and manage my relationships with people, and I think all of those things are a part of the reason I am here today."

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

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