Former B.C. Lions defensive lineman Rick Klassen has died of cancer at the age of 57.
Rick’s youngest son Chad Klassen confirmed his father died early Saturday morning, in his sleep.
“That was a tough moment for everyone,” Klassen said. “[But] I know he’s better off for it, and not suffering anymore. He was in a lot of pain.”
Rick Klassen was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2013, and his son says doctors originally said he could live another 10 or 15 years.
But his health took a turn for the worse earlier this year.
Born in Chilliwack, B.C., Rick Klassen played 10 seasons in the CFL, nine of which were with the B.C. Lions.
He was made a member of the Lions’ All-Time Dream Team in 2003, and added to the Lions’ Wall of Fame in 2012.
He also won the Dick Suderman Trophy for the Grey Cup’s Most Valuable Canadian in 1983.
“My dad touched so many people not only in the community, but with his football career,” Klassen said. “We’ve been getting phone calls off the hook with prayers and support, so that’s been a real blessing for us.”
Chad Klassen says he and his father were close, and fondly remembers calling him to enthuse about their favourite teams — the Lions, the Canucks and the Seattle Seahawks — after big games.
“[Those are] really the moments where I’m going to miss him most, is watching a sporting event and knowing that if a big play happens, and I can’t just pick up the phone and talk to him,” Klassen said.
Rick Klassen was part of a dominant Lions lineup throughout the 1980s, known for its strong defensive line. The team played in the first Grey Cup game held at the then-newly opened B.C. Place in 1983, and won the Cup in 1985.
“I think that’s when my dad was the absolute happiest: being a professional football player,” Klassen said.
“He absolutely loved what he did. He just loved being on the field and competing.”
Klassen said a celebration of his father’s life is being tentatively planned for January or February next year.
With files from Kamil Karamali