Laval eager for chance at revenge
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
|Laval players show off new haircuts at practice on Tuesday at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. Laval plays McMaster in the Vanier Cup on Friday. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/QMI AGENCY)
It was a mere hours after the 2011 Vanier Cup.
Two key members of the Laval Rouge et Or sat in their hotel room in Vancouver trying to get over a heartbreaking, emotionally draining 41-38 double overtime loss to the McMaster Marauders.
Defensive end Arnaud Gascon-Nadon and linebacker Frederic Plesius both had bright professional futures if they wanted it.
But even just hours after their loss in what is being called the greatest Canadian university football game ever, they were itching for revenge.
“In the hotel room with my good friend Frederic Plesius, we were already having this conversation,” Gascon-Nadon said. “For us it was good motivation at that time. Time passed, we were training for all the combines and we sort of forgot about it but to me it was always in the back of my mind.”
Plesius recalls it the same way. He too passed on the pro ranks to come back.
“We knew they had a good team and that all their starters were returning. We expected them to get to the Vanier Cup,” Plesius said. “We had to do our part to get back to the Big Show. It’s special because we get to face them in the big stage. For sure, revenge was a part of it on a big stage.”
Even Laval coach Glen Constantin used the word “revenge” during his introductory comments at a press conference.
While no one wants to put too strong an emphasis on revenge, it is the sentiment that is driving Friday’s Vanier Cup into the category of being perhaps the most anticipated rematch in university football history.
It isn’t a fabricated anticipation. This Vanier Cup will set a record for attendance. Three days before the teams play, ticket sales are approaching 30,000. The Rogers Centre will open the 500 section for additional seating. The highest attendance at a Vanier Cup was 32,847 at what was then the SkyDome. Western defeated Saskatchewan 35-10 in that game.
University football is not an easy sell except when people expect something extraordinary to happen. It is obvious, fans expect something extraordinary to happen.
Not only is it anticipated because of the remarkable game in Vancouver, but it is also anticipated because there is no doubt that the two best teams in Canada, and by a considerable margin, are going to meet Friday.
Losing at Laval is not something that’s accepted. In the relatively short history of the program, Laval has been to seven Vanier Cups and won six of them.
The program is driven by sponsorship money and excellence. It is viewed as Quebec City’s professional football franchise and has been the evolutionary model for university football excellence.
As much as it is admired for its success, it also wears a sizeable target on its chest
“It is a lot of pressure playing in games like this,” Plesius said. “If you don’t win the Vanier Cup at Laval then it feels like the season has been a failure.”
Constantin simply said “for us, if it is realistic, our goal every year is to win the Vanier Cup.”
It is also anticipated because only once before, when Western played Acadia, did the same two teams meet in the Vanier Cup the very next year.
McMaster is operating on a 21-game unbeaten streak and one more win would put them among the historic elite programs in the country. Only Western, Manitoba, Saint Mary’s and Laval have won back-to-back Vanier Cups.
As it stands, McMaster has stolen what used to be Laval’s spotlight in these games. The Marauders might as well be the home team playing in Toronto. They probably should be considered favourites to repeat as Canadian university football champions when you look at their record.
McMaster has been the talk of CIS football all year and you can bet that deep down inside the Rouge et Or, they are seething to get back what they feel is theirs.
Now that would make revenge taste all that much sweeter.
Vanier Cup Top Attendance
With the Vanier Cup expected to break an attendance record Friday, here is a list of the top five crowds to attend a Vanier Cup game.
1. 1989, (32,847), Western 35, Saskatchewan 10, (Toronto SkyDome)
2. 1991, (30,191), Laurier 25, Mt. Allison 18, (Toronto SkyDome)
3. 1995, (29,178), Calgary 54, Western 24, (Toronto SkyDome)
4. 1994, (28,652), Western 50, Saskatchewan 40 OT, (Toronto SkyDome)
5. 1992, (28,645), Queen’s 31. Saint Mary’s 0, (Toronto SkyDome)