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Dirty Bird Blog: All Aboard!!

Posted By Clifford Pine On Aug 22 2011 @ 4:37 pm In Montreal Alouettes | No Comments

Don’t worry folks, the Montreal Alouettes will take to the field again this coming weekend! But before they take on the Calgary Stampeders in Cowtown, there’s still some practices to get through. While our guys ready themselves, I’d like to share my experiences on an annual event that has taken place since 1998: The Alouettes Fan Train.

I’ve participated in 2 of the Fan Trains…the first and last year’s. It’s an event that clearly has grown as time goes by, often selling out. You leave on gameday at the crack of dawn, riding a VIA Rail train from Montreal to either Toronto or Hamilton,  watch the Alouettes play in someone else’s stadium and then after the game ride back to Montreal on the train with the players and cheerleaders! It’s like a rolling fan festival for the Alouettes faithful.

I’m a bit of a night owl, so I’ve always tried to stay up all night the evening before so that I can sleep on the train heading up. It never really works as I can’t sleep in any moving vehicle. But if you’re looking for a way to meet fellow Alouettes fans and see this great land of ours (well, the Quebec-Ontario part of it), what better way than by train? Why drive and be stressed by highway traffic, constantly pulling over for bathroom & coffee breaks when VIA provides all the comforts for you?  It’s really an under-appreciated way to travel.


Right at field level in Hamilton!

As I said in the last blog, it’s neat to see how other fans participate in their stadium’s activities and drum up support for their team.  For example last year, there was a wheel for fans to spin n’ win all sorts of prizes. While in line, I got chatting with a fan who decided he felt brave and asked me if I thought we even had a chance to win since Anthony Calvillo was out with an injury.

I assured him that I had total faith in Adrian McPherson, who was making his season debut after being on the 9 game injury list. After our little repartee, it was my turn to spin the wheel. I spun and landed on a Ti-Cats logo, which meant I’d win a t-shirt with that familiar jumping tiger on it. Having no need myself for such a shirt, I offered it to my newfound Hamilton amigo, proclaiming it an act of good karma for the Alouettes win!


In the trenches, we are waving the victory flag!

Now the game gets played! Going to a foreign stadium alone is one thing, but there is strength in numbers. And it’s more fun to cheer when your team does well and you got others to cheer with! That first fan train game to Hamilton saw the final score ending in a 31-31 tie. But at last year’s game, Montreal got the win!

After the final whistle blows, everyone files out of the stadium and onto buses taking you back to the train station. There was some confusion last year; When we arrived at the stadium, we were told the buses were leaving 30 minutes after the game ended, which would have allowed ample time to hit the many restaurants near the stadium to grab a quick bite before heading for home.


"Hurry, hurry! The train's leaving in 2 hours!! Can't be late!"

But then after the game, the same team officials seemed to want everyone on the buses and back to the train station right away. Which made no sense since the players still had to shower and address the media after the game, which can easily take an hour or two. As a result, the whole lot of us were stuck waiting around the station for the players to arrive for us to all go home. I hope this year the team isn’t so gung-ho to get back to the station, which is in the middle of nowhere in Hamilton. I mean c’mon, obviously the train’s not leaving without the players, cheerleaders & coaching staff on it!

But that all becomes a distant memory when the train gets rolling back to Montreal. Once everyone gets settled, the Alouettes themselves start to make their way from the back of the train to the front, greeting their loyal fans in every car between! Need that special item autographed? Done. Pose for a picture? You bet! Try on an actual Grey Cup ring? It happened last year, could again this year!


Etienne Boulay greets a couple of his fans

If you missed out on training camp and still want to meet the entire team, this is the way to do it. The players are all stoked as they know that fans came all the way to see them play, so the mood is always upbeat. It’s always great to chat with these guys in a relaxed atmosphere and getting the win always makes for a fun ride home.


Anwar Stewart signing autographs for his fans

I really think the Fan Train is a must for all Alouettes fans to do at least once; It’s a long day, but filled with a lot of fun, football and memories that will last a lifetime. It’s a bit pricey, but makes for a day to remember and aside from some minor tweaking that needs to be made, the value for fans cannot be measured.


Sorry Hamilton, we hate to leave you hanging!

That’s all for now. I’ll be back by week’s end for a quick preview of the game Saturday.


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