Some quick thoughts after 12 days of Alouettes training camp in Sherbrooke:
Attending both opening day and the scrimmage game last weekend, I was pleasantly surprised by the turnout of fans. It helped that both weekends had fantastic weather and it made for a great showing. Opening day had some more of the trademark events that made previous Alouettes camps so incredible, such as actual player introductions after the drills, a mobile merchandise kiosk on site and other events for all kinds of fans.
No doubt the addition of former NFL star Chad Johnson piqued a lot of people’s curiosity and it showed in the heightened attendance. Everyone wanted a piece of the man formerly known as Ocho Cinco and he did not disappoint. Not only was Johnson spectacular on the field of Bishop’s University, he was an absolute gem off of it as well.
Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE who met Chad was greeted with a big hug, an “I love you” and several minutes of his time. No request was too demanding for this gentleman, be it interviews, autographs or photos. His twitter feed speaks of showing love to everyone and Johnson practices what he preaches.
This of course just speaks yet again to the overall approachability to the players of this league. These fellas are superstars on the field and class acts off of it. And the goal for this year’s Montreal squad remains the same as ever: A trip out to Vancouver in late November and returning with the Alouettes’ eighth Grey Cup.
It was also refreshing to speak with head coach Tom Higgins, whose passion for the game shines brightly. It was also refreshing to see a professional head coach treating his players like professionals as well, which wasn’t always the case this time last year. Higgins has been given a veritable war chest of weapons by general manager Jim Popp and he will make great use out of every single one.
Higgins has also proven himself to be accountable when he makes mistakes, dismissing offensive coordinator Rick Worman earlier this week amid reports that he was not 100% involved in the coaching process and that there was considerable distance with the players he was expected to work with. Worman was shown the door before the Alouettes even played a pre-season game and now QB coach Ryan Dinwiddie will be calling the offensive plays.
This move was done to clearly show the players that Higgins is taking this job very seriously. And after these past few weeks, anything you can do to strengthen the players’ resolve is certainly a good thing.
Casting a slight pall over every team’s training camp was the expiring collective bargaining agreement between the CFL and its players association. Strike votes were held and the players overwhelmingly approved the notion of going on strike if a deal could not be reached. Then all of a sudden, a tentative deal was reached and many of the players were not very happy with the terms negotiated by their appointed braintrust. So what happened next?
After much gnashing of teeth on social media, cooler heads prevailed and a ratification vote was taken. Content or not, players grudgingly accepted this new 5 year agreement. It was evident that in order to make a difference, the players would have to strike and the cost of doing that was simply too much for them to bear. At the end of the day, these players have bills to pay and mouths to feed.
I certainly don’t begrudge them for ultimately doing what’s best for their wallets right now. It wasn’t the kindest deal for them, but the league clearly isn’t as sunshiny and rosy as the commissioner painted it to be last November. It’s a lot better off than in years previous, but the CFL still has a ways to go. This CBA is a huge win for the owners and hopefully they will take full advantage of it to continue to strengthen and grow this league even more.
The players association now has five years to get their ducks in a row. All week there were stories of disorganization and misinformation being strewn about on who was eligible to participate in the voting process. Players were not given important news and info on a consistent basis and this scenario could not have played out any better for the league. I’m a huge believer in the players association and the work that they do; hopefully this will serve as an example to be ready for 2019.
So now the stage is set for Montreal’s first pre-season game tomorrow versus the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. A rematch of sorts versus the two teams that met in the Eastern Semi-Final last November. Hamilton has also gone through some major upheaval, signing a slew of free agents and a new quarterback to lead them into the future.
The game will be played at McMaster University’s Ron Joyce Stadium, as the new Tim Hortons Field is not quite finished its construction. Yours truly will be there for this match, so be sure to follow me on twitter for live game tweets (This game will NOT be televised).
This weekend, summer truly kicks off!
GO ALS GO!!!
About the Author
Written by Clifford Pine
Montreal born & bred, lover of sports. Passionate about the Montreal Alouettes. Also a great cook & not too bad a dancer.