When Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz clicked her ruby slippers and chanted the famous words -- 'There's no place like home' -- I'm betting she did not have to go back to Kansas and play the Chiefs at Arrowhead.
Well, every year I have been playing in the CFL, I get to go back to my hometown of Montreal and step into that rapidly rising hotbed of football and face the team I used to cheer for. If you are wondering, I lost my love for the Als a long time ago when I lost a Grey Cup to them in 2002 and won one against them in 2003 with Edmonton. There is no question where my loyalties lie these days.
However, there is always a sense of nostalgia that accompanies me on the road when I am in Montreal. Montreal is my hometown and both my wife's family and mine are from there. My first date with my wife was the playoff game when the Als returned to Molson Stadium in 1997. The game was moved from the Olympic Stadium because of a scheduling conflict with a U2 concert. Lastly, my fondest memories as a football player were played on the Molson Stadium turf when I suited up for the McGill Redmen.
As a rookie in my first pro year, I remember the mad scramble for tickets. I really used to go crazy trying to please everyone.
Now, as a savvy vet, I get whatever tickets I can for my immediate family and in-laws and that's about it. I usually let everyone else know when the schedule is released when I'll be in town and let them figure out if I am worth the price of admission.
Alouettes games are always sold out. I used to have to work deals with players in training camp for their tickets if I wanted them for the Montreal game. I don't play that game anymore.
When I travel home to Montreal, I try to make it as close to any other road trip that I would play. I don't go to any of the hotspots -- Lord knows there are many to choose from. I don't even go home for Mom's cooking! I pick a spot to meet the family for a few hours and that's it. My only indulgence is authentic Montreal-style smoked meat. The rest is business ... it has to be.
Meeting the Als in Molson Stadium is like fighting a Shark in the ocean. When you get them in their element, they are that much deadlier. The catalyst for the resurgence of football in Quebec has a lot to do with the little stadium nestled atop Mount Royal and the atmosphere it has created. Fans go to cheer and party. The Als have had sold out crowds since 1997. Some might argue the stadium only holds 20,000, but those 20,000 fans are as loud as some 40,000-fan stadiums.
As was the case when we played them Thursday. The Alouettes fed off their masses. They beat us handily, and at the end of the game the crowd was happily chanting the: 'Nah, Nah, Nah ... Hey, Hey, Good-bye," song as they paraded down University Street on their way to the various watering holes Montreal has to offer.
I hate losing to the Als. I do not know what it is but losing in that stadium irks me the most and I feel like a personal failure when I cannot beat those guys. I guess I will have to wait for our rematch in October for my revenge. As we lost that game Thursday, I wanted to click my cleats and chant, 'There's no place like Calgary.'
HITS TO THE HEAD
- If I were A.J. Gass I would have sat out the Hamilton game this week. Everyone and his mom knew the league would not revoke his suspension for throwing John Comisky's helmet in our game two weeks ago. The Esks will need his services more next week against the Riders. I wonder what the strategy is in that move?
- Yes, we did know Montreal was going to run a fake when Marcus Brady came in to punt on third down. We just didn't know which one. As we tried to cover the receiver on the play, our guy got picked just like in basketball. Which gave the Als enough time to get the first down.
- I spoke to Eskimos DE Rahim Abdullah after their game Saturday. He told me that he hit Jason Maas harder than he had hit any QB in his career and landing on him equally as hard. Rahim said, "If you would have heard the noises he made after the hit you would have thought he was dying. He not only came back but he played better. As if the hit woke him up. I told him that he was my hero!"