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THE MOJ: Phantom now ghosting Lions, but there was a time when he was the spirit of camp

Remembering the shadowy figure that kept CFL training camps honest for a generation
The B.C. Lions unveiled their 60th anniversary logo in Vancouver, on Thursday May 16, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

There are no photos or documented stories of his actions.

Yet he played a major role in shaping the team’s chemistry and culture for many years.

Ask a current Lions player about the legendary Phantom and you’d get a quizzical look.

That’s what happened last year when myself and Lions colour analyst Guilio Caravatta asked linebacker Jordan Williams if he had heard of The Phantom.

When told of The Phantom and what he had done at Lions training camps over several decades, Williams was even more surprised.

“You’re joking right?” Williams replied.

Players today have no clue.

“Strange things would happen,” noted Lions legend Lui Passaglia, who handled the kicking duties for the team from 1976 to 2000. “And of course, all of a sudden nobody knew where The Phantom came from. And who was The Phantom? And why was there a Phantom?

“Individuals were caught off guard by situations that would happen to them and wondering why and who did it. And, of course, the veterans that had been around a while knew that The Phantom was lurking around the corner during training camp or sometimes even during the season. You never knew when he would pop up.”

Bill Reichelt joined the organization in 1978 and was with Lions as their trainer until his retirement in 2018.

He saw The Phantom make his presence felt at training camp no matter where it was located – Kelowna, Abbotsford, Courtenay or Kamloops – somehow The Phantom would find a way to get there.

“Oh, where do we start. Personal items would be put in a bag and then filled with water and thrown into the freezer. Equipment would be taped and bound and then hung up from the rafters in a gym or the facility. There would also be times that heat balm would be rubbed into a jock. He’d be busy during some camps,” remembers Reichelt.

Rookies who were disrespectful to veterans or the training staff usually would be the targets, but as Passaglia explained, it only took one message to be delivered for someone to ‘see the light’ and fall in line.

During his entire tenure with the Lions, The Phantom was a ghost-like character. Sometimes he would strike at night while on other occasions he would do his work while the players practiced.

There are stories, passed down by the elders, that say that The Phantom had a close rapport with the trainers and the equipment staff while others say that there were a group of veterans who had The Phantom’s ear and would give him direction in terms of who to target.

“No one ever caught or even got a glimpse of him in action,” Passaglia says.

Given all the free time kickers have at training camp, some believe that Passaglia himself was The Phantom – an accusation he vehemently denies.

“It wasn’t me,” he states, “but putting things together I had a real good idea of who he was.”

“Are we on the record?” he asked.

When informed that he was, Passaglia put a halt to the interview.

Rumors abound when it comes to what The Phantom is doing these days. Unfortunately, none of these reports could be verified.

Wherever The Phantom is, he has a lifetime full of memories – and victims - he can look back on.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media. And check out his weekly podcast every Monday at Today in B.C. or your local Black Press Media website.

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