Like father, like son

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

MONTREAL -- The man sitting at the table in the window of Picola Casa in Little Italy looked familiar.

"I'm Danny Maciocia's father," he said. "Danny used to be Cosmo Maciocia's son."

All that changed when Danny became the head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos. Cosmo Maciocia, for 20 years a member of the National Assembly in Quebec and now running for another term as city councillor, is quite clearly Danny Maciocia's father.

Same face. Same nose. Same voice. Same height. His son, who comes back to his hometown to play the Alouettes here Friday, even walks like him.

The man, who came here from the little town of Cantallpo, Italy, pop. 800 back in 1964, married Danny's mother Anna in 1966, in the church 300 metres from this restaurant. It's the same church, he says, where Danny, who was born a year later, was baptized.

JUVENTUS FAN

"Danny was about 10 years old when I took him to a soccer game in Rome. I always supported Roma. He was always for Juventus. It was at that moment I realized it about Danny. But he totally understood the game, more than a 10-year-old should understand.

"I knew very early, too, that he wasn't going to be a politician. He didn't like it. I had to force him to 'volunteer' during election campaigns. He was always sport, sport, sport. Especially football."

Friday is going to be very special, says Cosmo, who says his son calls him every single day and calls his nanna Filomiena before every game.

"It's going to be an occasion for a lot of people here. For so many people here, it's like Danny has become their son."

And for Cosmo Maciocia himself?

"For me ... I have shivers."

Cosmo speaks fluent Italian and French but struggles with his English. Danny's mom Anna not only speaks English well, she speaks it fast, which explains her son's post-game interviews when it's almost impossible for an old note-taker to keep up.

"I am so excited about Danny coming home for this game, I have palpitations.

"When he coached his first game in Edmonton against Ottawa, I couldn't stop crying. Hopefully I won't spend all this game crying. I like to be shouting."

Mom Maciocia, who runs the family insurance business, said young Danny was a different kid.

"I have to tell you that we didn't see eye to eye on a lot of things. I tend to think of work as a priority. Danny thought of sport as a priority. He saw sports as his life and what he needed to do.

"Danny has his license as an insurance broker. There's a story about that. I fired him once. He was insulted. There were cold feelings for a time. But he needed the kick in his shins.

ALWAYS HAD A VISION

"He always had a head on his shoulders. He always had a vision. He was a very determined young man. He always looked up to people older than him. He was smart in choosing his friends and they were almost always people older than him.

"He always looked up to people doing good to the community. His dad is his idol. He always looked up to him. I'm so proud of him. He's everything a mother could want in a son. There are so many people who are so proud of him. That's what's going to make this game so special for so many people."

One of those is Jacques Dussault, his mentor as a coach.

"The people who are the most proud are the people in St. Leonard. That's where he's from. That's where he went from coaching bantam football to where he is now,"says Dussault, who was coaching the U19 team in the early '90s when he asked Maciocia, the bantam coach, to be an assistant for the tournament in Calgary.

"The next year he was my offensive co-ordinator ahead of college coaches who had years of experience. I was then given a job coaching football in Cannes, France, and I asked Danny to come as my assistant. We coached with the Alouettes together.

"It may seem remarkable to many people what he's done to become head coach of one of the biggest organizations in Canadian sport, regardless of what sport you're talking about. But he deserves it. He took every step. Every time he was issued a challenge, he came up on top."

Everybody is seeing now what Dussault says he saw way back when.

"He's somebody smart who loves the game. That's a pretty good combination."


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