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Dirty Bird Blog: My CFL Bucket List

Posted By Clifford Pine On Aug 18 2011 @ 5:38 pm In Montreal Alouettes | 6 Comments

How’s your bye week going, Alouettes fans? I understand the need for it, but it really sucks when you enjoy watching Montreal football as much as I do. No offense to the teams playing this week, but I’m not really concerned about their outcomes. Especially since I can’t seem to pick very well in my CFL pools  (From this point forward, I’m using the eenie-meeny-miney-mo method!).

So while our guys are resting and spending time with their family & friends, I’m gonna talk to you about a small goal I’ve had in being an Alouettes fan; to visit every CFL stadium to see the Alouettes play. So far I’ve been able to attend every stadium except for B.C, Calgary & Saskatchewan. Today I’ll give you a brief breakdown of my experience in each stadium since the Alouettes return in 1996:

Skydome/Rogers Centre (Toronto): Attended the Eastern final in 1996 thanks to an Alouettes road trip by bus organized by the team itself. Having been inside Olympic Stadium for Als games all throughout the season, I wasn’t expecting much difference between one cavernous stadium and another. Sure enough, the only real difference is announcements in English versus announcements in French. I’m sure it’s fine for big games like the Grey Cup but if you’re looking for intimacy, forget it.

I recently attended my first soccer game at Toronto’s BMO Field and I know a study was done to see if they could reconfigure it for CFL football. I think they need to take another look, because that is a golden opportunity and any money they have to spend to retro-fit the stadium will be made back in no time.


Argos fans, this could be your future...

I’m not a soccer fan but I really enjoyed the open-air experience there and the Argos would be wise to look into the viability of this venue again. Keep the dome for playoffs/Grey Cups.

Ivor Wynne Stadium (Hamilton): First attended when I was on the first ever Fan Train put on yearly by the Alouettes. I remember the game ending in a  tie, the smog being a dense cloud over the stadium and meeting the players on the train ride back home.  Last attended in 2010 for another Fan Train game (BTW, my next bye week blog will expand on the Fan Train experience). Ivor Wynne itself is not a terrible stadium, but come 2015 the improvements that will be made to it for the upcoming Pan Am games are going to be sorely needed.


Watching the Alouettes in TigerTown!

Fans there are friendly and certainly passionate about their team. Any sort of jaw-jacking was done all in good fun, which is how it should be. I’ve found the best rule when going into someone else’s barn is this: Act like you’ve been there before. Cheer if your team does well and don’t act like a jackass if they are losing. Truthfully, this can apply to you at home games as well.

Canad Inns Stadium (Winnipeg): There’s a reason this place is called Swaggerville. These fans live and die with their Blue Bombers, good bad or other. I went 2 years ago during the Alouettes’ impressive 15-3 season. Sure enough, one of their losses came against the Bombers and it was this game. The Alouettes had the division sewed up in September and elected to give Adrian McPherson the start. Sadly, he was less than spectacular and the Bomber faithful made sure to remind me many times over. The walk of shame after the game was a very bitter pill to swallow. But at the end of the day, the Bombers needed that win more than the Alouettes did.


Safest place to be in WPG...behind the Alouettes bench!

The fans I sat with were pretty impressed I came all the way there to see the Alouettes play. One fan even said and I quote, “You flew all the way here to see the Als?! I’d never fly to Montreal to see these losers (the Bombers) play!” Harsh words, but it WAS during the Mike Kelly era. Another fun fact: fans in Winnipeg LOVE rum and coke. So much so, fans will get Bombers jerseys with RUMANDCOKE stitched on the back. Really wish I had taken a picture of that.

Commonwealth Stadium (Edmonton): Not sure if this really counts, since it was the 2010 Grey Cup game and it actually felt more like a Riders home game.  But I’ll count it for now. I remember it being -10 and being outdoors in that weather for 3 hours plus was pretty brutal. But the Alouettes won, so that made it all worthwhile.


The City of (Grey Cup) Champions indeed!

I’m actually hoping to get back to Edmonton later this year to see my brother and his family . While there, we’ll take in the Alouettes game so I can report to you all on the Eskimos experience.

Frank Clair Stadium (Ottawa): No longer technically a CFL stadium as of today, but I did see Alouettes games versus both the Rough Riders (note the space between) and the ill-fated Renegades. To this day, some dopey fans STILL want the Rough Riders name to be applied to any future team this city receives. I think the CFL has a hard enough time being taken seriously without having two teams named the Rough Riders. But thanks anyways.

The last time the CFL played there, the stadium was becoming decrepit and little has changed. Right now there’s a political struggle to renovate the stadium and the area around it. If it can get done, the CFL will have a team waiting for Ottawa. Hopefully the ownership group that will get the team has learned the lessons of Horn Chen and the Glieberman family of how NOT to run a football team in this city.

And last but not least, my review on the 2 stadiums of the Montreal Alouettes:

Olympic Stadium (East End): So many jokes have been made of the billion dollar eyesore referred to as the Big Owe by many Montrealers. For the first 2 years of their return, the Alouettes played to paltry crowds as people simply didn’t want to go all the way to the barren wasteland that is the East End of Montreal. But then fate came in the form of a U2 concert on the same day of their 1997 playoff game versus the B.C. Lions. The unwillingness of the band to reschedule led to an impromptu move to….

Percival Molson Stadium (Downtown): That first game at Molson Stadium is the stuff legends are made of. The prevailing idea of, “Football outdoors is awesome!” rang so true and after that playoff game which Montreal won, there really was no going back to a domed stadium. Over time, it became a home away from home, where Alouettes fans of all ages gather towards the common goal of cheering our team to victory. The move to McGill’s stadium was a life-altering decision; many people believe that had the Alouettes decided to go back to the Big O full-time, that you could kiss the team goodbye. I’d have to concur.

Biased as I may be, there really is no place like home. And no other place to watch a football game like Molson Stadium. So much history has happened in that stadium and with last year’s refreshing of the building, it will be the place to see football for years to come. It’s not the biggest stadium and may not always be the loudest, but it offers up an experience like no other.


Still a great view from way up high!

And the Alouettes have never forgotten that crisp November day; as a tribute to U2′s role in shaping sports history in Montreal, the team plays u2′s anthem of rebellion and uprising, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” before kickoff at every home game that falls on a Sunday.  Je me souviens, indeed.

I am hoping to one day experience not only the 3 stadiums I am missing, but also remain hopeful that the Alouettes will one day participate in the annual Touchdown Atlantic that takes place in Moncton, NB so I can say that I’ve gone to literally every CFL stadium that one can go to.  This year it’s Calgary vs. Hamilton, maybe next year it’ll be Montreal vs. Saskatchewan! (Although I can’t see either of those teams wanting to give up a home game to participate in this event.)

That’s all for now. Next time: The Alouettes Fan Train and why everyone should go at least once in their lifetime.


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