Eskimos conquer P.E.I.

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:22 AM ET

CORNWALL, P.E.I. -- It was over on the other side of Prince Edward Island, near Anne Of Green Gables, where the Edmonton Eskimos entourage poured out of a pair of buses and entered the massive Fisherman's Wharf lobster establishment in North Rustico.

"This is an experience," said manager Troy Howatt as six-foot- six, 315-pound offensive lineman Patrick Kabongo and his friends from the first professional football team ever to visit Prince Edward Island entered his establishment.

"We've been looking forward to this all year," he said.

When they left they'd consumed 148 pounds of lobster.

They also ate 254 pounds of mussels.

"I've had those things at every meal and even when we went out for a few beers at a pub," said defensive lineman Adam Braidwood.

When they were done and CEO Rick LeLacheur paid the $4,477 tab, the team posed with the staff in front of the place.

For a while there it looked like all those lobsters were going to live a little longer. The Eskimos great day on Spud Island was challenged in the morning when the buses were not allowed on the 13-kilometre Confederation Bridge.

Nothing to do with their 2-9 record!

Winds from 70 km/h gusting to 140 had shut down all truck and bus traffic.

Arrangements were made to take the players across the bridge in cars and have P.E.I. buses waiting on the other side when the winds died down to let the island experience begin.

After the dinner they proceeded to this Charlottetown suburb where the city sign on the outskirts read: "Welcome Edmonton Eskimos!"

Head scout Ed Hervey and the players conducted three hours of clinics for the small football program on the island, and then signed special posters featuring Eskimos' former Acadia star Elliott Richardson along with Chris Thompson and Ricky Ray in fisherman gear -- with Ray posing with a couple of dead fish around his neck -- and lobster cages placed in front of them.

Several hundred people from the community showed up for the autograph session and barbecue before the Eskimos headed back to Moncton, where first practices for Touchdown Atlantic were scheduled for Wednesday.

"What you're looking at here is a once-in-a lifetime thing," said Brian Tancowny, the born-in-Edmonton president of P.E.I. Football, who moved here in 2002.

"We're such a small province. We don't have many teams."

Carl Adams, the past president, who spent from 1981 to 1987 living in Edmonton, said there are probably more teams in Sherwood Park than throughout the island with a population of just under 140,000.

"We have four teams aged 15-18, one senior team of 19 and over, the Privateers who play in a league with Halifax, Dartmouth, Moncton, St. John and Fredericton. We have a bantam-age program we're just starting this year. This is a big deal for all of them. We've never had a CFL team visit here."

Gary Mancuso, P.E.I. representative of Football Canada, said it all came to be when he attended a board meeting in Toronto and found out the game was being planned and that Edmonton was going to be the team to play against the Toronto Argonauts.

"We knew we had a chance to create a special day. At first we wanted to see if we could get them for a practice out here. But that grew into this day instead.

"Then we got the Grey Cup over here for this, too, and it just turned out to be such a special, special day," he said.

"And if you want my two-bits worth, I am 100% convinced a CFL team would work in Moncton. I sold 200 tickets through Football P.E.I. for Sunday's game."

The Eskimos left the coaching staff back in Moncton to do their film work and game preparation, and had Hervey and the players handle the clinics and be the focus of it all.

"We came here to represent our club and the CFL, with the idea we were chosen for a reason," said Hervey.

"Doing things like this is something we cherish. To see the excitement of the players was something, too.

"They're grownups but they're kids at heart. They had fun.

"I told them that it doesn't matter to these kids what our record is. They're here because they can spend an afternoon with the Edmonton Eskimos.

"They could see in the faces of these kids that they'll remember this for a long, long time. And you know what, our players are going to remember this for a long, long time, too."

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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