Noel Thorpe thought about coming to Edmonton last season, but he's an honourable guy. He had another year left on his deal in Montreal.
"The Eskimos are a first-class organization and this was a place I always wanted to be. They have so much tradition and history - they are the Green Bay Packers of the CFL," said Thorpe yesterday after being introduced as the Edmonton Eskimos new special teams and defensive back coach, taking over for Scott Squires.
"I wanted to make sure I obliged my contract with Montreal because you never know what can happen down the road. I made sure I did a good job and if this chance came up in Edmonton I would pursue it."
Thorpe grew up in Vancouver and has family in both B.C. and in Calgary. The chance to move back closer to home played a big part in him joining the Eskimos.
"I am a Westerner boy at heart, it's in my blood. I love being out West," said Thorpe.
Thorpe coached in Montreal for six years and for most of it was part of the coaching staff of the legendary Don Matthews. The Alouettes special teams and defensive secondary units during his tenure have always been very strong.
Something Esks head coach Danny Maciocia is familiar with.
"He is one of the best special teams and defensive secondary coaches in the business," said Maciocia. "This was an area of our football team that I wanted to have someone with experience and Noel has a lot of experience at this level. We have had our battles over the years."
The Eskimos special teams struggled miserably last season. They had arguably the most vulnerable special teams defence in the CFL, giving up six touchdowns in '07 - four on punt returns, two on blocked punts.
On the other side of the ball, Edmonton didn't return a single TD from either their punt or kickoff return units.
"It's all about creating opportunities for the returners," said Thorpe. "At times a lot of heat can be put on the returner, but it's twofold. We have to look at the guys blocking and see where the problem lies."
The Eskimos are going through a transition period with their special teams, keyed by the retirement of long-time kicker Sean Fleming, who hung up the cleats after 15 seasons. 2007 rookie Warren Kean will be looked upon to fill Fleming's shoes.
"He's got a strong leg and I really like him," said Thorpe.
"I was in Montreal when he was at Concordia and I got to see what he did there and I was impressed."
Thorpe is the first hire after the Esks chose not to renew the contracts of offensive co-ordinator Jacques Chapdelaine, offensive line coach Carl Brennan and Squires. After two straight seasons of missing the playoffs, Thorpe hopes he is the missing piece.
"I left a pretty good organization in Montreal and I wouldn't have come here if I didn't feel we had something here to get us back into the playoffs and in the Grey Cup."