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ABOUT
TORONTO
BROWNS
BACKERS

The story of the Toronto Browns Backers actually begins way back in 2008, when Kyle Thorne was in Cleveland with friends for their annual trip and was approached by the Browns Backers Worldwide to bring a club to Toronto. He happily agreed; it was an honour to have his name attached to his favourite team. But within a few years, between a growing family and career, he couldn’t give the club the time and dedication it truly deserved…it needed a new leader. The club fell dormant for some time, until…

 

Flash forward to 2013…two lonely Browns fans wind up connecting on The Toronto Browns Backers Facebook group page, as they were the only two members (of the thirty-odd or so in the group) who were actively responding to posts. Those two fans were Matty Weeks and Bryan Loberg. Over the next few days, the two would chat about The Browns over messenger when Bryan suggested that they meet up to watch an upcoming game at a local bar, Sports Centre Cafe, which ironically, would eventually become the home of the soon-to-be-coined Dawg Pound North…for a short stint anyways. They chose a Browns/Bengals game on the 17th of November, coming off the bye week following their fourth win of the season, sitting with a 4-5 record (typical). The game was forgettable, but the two sat around a table in a rather cavernous SCC that Sunday, watching The Browns with a mutual friend of theirs, and a random Browns fan named Larry (remember his name!) bonding over their love of the team. After the game before going their separate ways, Bryan and Matty agreed to meet up again at some point to watch another game. It mustn’t have even been a week later, when Matty received a message from Bryan, letting him know his plan to take over as President of the dormant The Toronto Browns Backers club, asking for his support, as well for him to be his Vice-President. Bryan connected with Kyle Thorne, the OG TBB President to get his blessing. Kyle was sold as soon as he heard Bryan’s pitch, saying “Bryan was born for this; he lived and breathed the Browns.” After that, Bryan connected with Browns Backers Worldwide leadership to get their approval, and then we were off and running. 

 

The club first set up shop at a little sports bar on College Street in Toronto’s Little Italy neighbourhood, called ‘Gameday’. Their very first meet-up (a preseason game during the 2014 season against Washington) brought in about 8-10 Browns fans. For those first few weeks of the season, Bryan and Matty would show up hours before kickoff to hang up a collection of Browns merch on the walls of the section of the bar they were allotted and would take it down after each Browns game. About midway through that season, bar ownership informed them rather abruptly that they were shutting down to ‘remodel and rebrand’. Needing to find a home yesterday, Bryan and Matty went out on the town to try and find a new home. After checking out a handful of bars, firing blanks…they decided to end their night by heading to Sports Centre Cafe for a drink. While there, after striking up a conversation with one of the bar owners and discussing their situation, the answer was staring them straight in the face…And thus, SCC became the new home of TBB. They set up in the back room for the remainder of the season, with plans on revamping the back ‘pit’ area in the offseason, an area that had been used as a giant dumpster for random bar crap for years. Bryan, Matty, and SCC ownership worked all offseason to create what would later be branded ‘The Dawg Pound North’, by painting the walls orange, building custom bleachers for fans to sit on, and hanging tons of Browns memorabilia all over…The 2015 season was filled with far more lows than highs from a Browns perspective, but TBB continued to grow. However, that offseason, shortly following the success of TBB’s first-ever NFL Draft party, Bryan and Matty were informed that the bar owners were selling, and once again, TBB was left out on the streets. With the help of some good friends (who had just recently become part of TBB’s Board of Directors), the club went out on another research expedition to find a new home. Trying to find a sports bar big enough to house their ever-growing fan club, but also convincing a bar to dedicate a portion of its space to a group of Cleveland Browns fans, was not an easy task. Seemingly out of options, the club decided to check out a bar called Shoxs in The Junction neighbourhood. Despite not knowing much about football other than ‘The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders’, bar owner Gus had just recently renovated a section of the upper area of the restaurant and had no immediate plans for it. Bryan sold him on his vision, promising him huge crowds, lots of sales, and a carnival-like atmosphere in his place of business. Over the course of the club’s first two seasons at Shoxs, The Cleveland Browns provided Gus with only a single win. Despite the wretched stretch of losing…as Bryan promised, he packed the bar every Sunday with Browns fans from all across Toronto and The GTA to take in this other-worldly Browns gameday experience. As Bryan and Gus became closer and trust continued to build, slowly but surely, the bar became more and more orange. The back section of the upper floor at Shoxs is a Cleveland Browns shrine, featuring memorabilia from the good ol’ days and the new ‘days’, donations from club members, photographs of TBB through the years, massive club banners, The Ring of Strength (a hall of fame of TBB’s members who have gone above and beyond the call of duty), anchored by the giant inflatable lineman dubbed ‘Brutus’. Like every other Browns season, 2020 was full of optimism… but the pandemic put a damper on that in a hurry. With indoor dining shut down early in the season, TBB once again was out on the streets, quite literally, as bars were only allowed to host patrons on patios. Gus made the most of it, revamping and expanding the outdoor space, even building a bomb shelter-like structure, stocked with propane heaters to keep the dawgs warm during the winter. And of course, this was the year that The Browns were in the thick of the playoff race…the year that we all couldn’t be together. The Browns ended up beating the Steelers in the final week of the season to clinch the playoffs, doubling down by embarrassing them in the wild-card round to make it to the divisional, where the Cinderella story would come to its conclusion. While the playoff loss was heartbreaking, the most devastating loss of all came just weeks later, when club president, Bryan Loberg, tragically and suddenly passed away. The club held a public memorial for Bryan at The DPN, ‘the house that Bryan built’, to honour his memory and legacy and share stories of the man who truly was one of a kind…without this club would not exist. 

 

“Bryan took this club to heights I could never imagine; his passion and energy were unmatched. The club and the world miss him every day. This is truly the house that Bryan built” said Kyle Thorne when asked about his memories of Bryan. 

 

Matty Weeks was voted in to take over the club leadership, and his first order of business was to fulfill one of Bryan’s wishes for the club…to become Browns Backers Worldwide club of the year. With the help of the Board of Directors, loyal club members, hard work and determination, TBB was indeed named 2021 Browns Backers Worldwide Chapter of the Year. An extraordinary feat given that there are over 370 clubs across the world. While Bryan wasn’t there to take part in the victory, he was our inspiration and is the reason behind everything this club has accomplished to date.

 

The club is now entering its seventh season at Shoxs, continuing to grow its membership base, expand its community reach, and cheer on its beloved Brownies…win or lose. 

 

FIRST DOWN BROWNS!!!

CHARITABLE CAUSES

CHARITABLE
CAUSES

THE BRYAN AND LENNIE FUND

Being an official chapter of The Browns Backers worldwide is about more than just connecting with local Browns fans and watching the team lose every Sunday… It's about family and more importantly, the community.

 

The Toronto Browns Backers are involved with a number of charitable causes, starting with our very own club charity that was formed back in 2018, The Bryan and Lennie Fund. Lennie-Jones Pinault and Jeff Jones, two of our stalwart members, had just gotten married (at a tailgate party in Cleveland) when, tragically, Lennie suddenly passed away from a heart condition.

 

Up to that point… the club had been trying to decide what charity we wanted to attach ourselves to, which suddenly and sadly became clear; The Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada. ‘The Lennie Fund’ as it was then named, raised over $1,000 in its first year, thanks to the generosity of our club, and it’s continued to grow since.

 

In 2021, The Toronto Browns Backers were struck by tragedy again, when our club president, Bryan Loberg, suddenly passed away from a heart condition, after a years-long battle with neuropathy. Bryan was more than just our president, he was the reason behind all of the club’s success. He brought hundreds of stray Browns fans together from all across The GTA, fans that would soon become like family to him.

 

It was his undying passion for The Browns, his brilliant entrepreneurial skills, and his innate ability to make everyone feel like the most important person in the room that turned this club into the force it has become today. After his passing, the club decided to rebrand our charity ‘The Bryan and Lennie Fund’ to honour both of our late members.

 

That year we participated in our first Ride For Heart campaign, raising over $5,000, and that season’s Bryan and Lennie Fund raised over $4,000. Since partnering up with The Heart & Stroke Foundation, The Toronto Browns Backers have raised over $25,000 for life-saving heart and stroke research. 

THANKSGIVING FOOD DRIVE

The week after the season opener, Toronto Browns Backers get down to business with their first charitable cause of the season, The Thanksgiving Food Drive (the Canadian edition, that is). Members are encouraged to bring in non-perishable food items to The DPN, which we then haul over to The Daily Bread Food Bank in Etobicoke to help those struggling to put food on the table.

CHRISTMAS TOY DRIVE

Once the calendar flips to December, we bring out that same box and stuff it full of toys instead! We are proud supporters of The Toronto Firefighters Toy Drive, who have been giving to less-fortunate kids and teens across the city for years. We encourage our members to bring in not only toys, but items for older kids (pre-teen and teens) who are often less thought of when it comes to toy drives. 

The Toronto Browns Backers thank you for your ongoing support of our charitable causes!

THE KENNEL CLUB

THE KENNEL CLUB

The Dawgs that make it happen

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Jim Nicholson

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Lynne Roblin

Game Day Operations

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Mike Smolcic

Social / Instagram

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Art Farrugia

Advisor

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Maja Mazur

Vice President

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Trish Bunnett

Events Coordinator

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Emily Kerr

Social / X

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Eva Klein

Advisor

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Daryl McEachern

Treasurer

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Harp Athwal

Advisor

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Michael Kennedy

Advisor

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Steve Knoch

Advisor

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BRYAN LOBERG

1964-2021

Bryan took over a dormant club in 2014, and the TBB soon grew from a quartet of diehards sitting around a table to the Dawg Pound North, a year-round shrine to the Browns that today takes up most of the main floor at Shoxs, a bar in Toronto’s hip Junction neighbourhood. Clevelanders who happen to stop in react with “shock and awe,” said Matty Weeks, the club’s vice president. “They think they’re in Cleveland.”

Bryan’s reach was global. When he died, members of Browns Backers clubs from around the U.S. -- and around the world -- reached out to the TBB with condolences.

We are forever grateful to Bryan, this club is a testament to him.

GO BROWNS GO!

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