Mac, Laval meet in 'perfect storm' Vanier Cup
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
|The Vanier Cup will be awarded to McMaster or Laval on Nov. 23, 2012. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/QMI Agency)
It is the perfect storm for university football in this country.
On Friday night, the McMaster Marauders and Laval Rouge et Or will play what has become the most-anticipated football game perhaps ever in Canadian university football.
While the Marauders and the Rouge et Or are looking at it as their ultimate game, a championship game that will make history for whoever wins it, it is turning into something more.
Last year, when the Marauders and the Rouge et Or played in the Vanier Cup game in Vancouver, no one could have anticipated what was to come.
By the time the Marauders defeated the Rouge et Or 41-38 in double overtime, the climate had already been established for this Vanier Cup. A look at the rosters showed there was a strong possibility that 12 months later, a rematch was a very real possibility.
That rematch, now a reality, is a watershed moment for university football. All the stars have aligned to make this game a springboard for university football in this country.
Laval is looking for revenge. A six-time winner of the Vanier Cup, their only loss in the championship game was that night in Vancouver.
Should the Rouge et Or find revenge, they would become the first team to have won the Vanier Cup seven times.
McMaster is looking to become the fifth school to win the Vanier Cup in consecutive years. They are riding a CIS-record 21-game winning streak.
These are the legitimate No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country. They have lineups stuffed with Canadian Football League draft picks and all-Canadians.
The game will be played before a crowd that will likely shatter the Vanier Cup attendance record, currently sitting at just under 33,000.
It will be in the climate-controlled Rogers Centre, a venue perfect for television, in a city where everything is done to excess, including media coverage, not something the CIS sees in Toronto on a regular basis. Canadian players such as McMaster quarterback Kyle Quinlan and Laval's Arnaud Gascon-Nadeau and Frederic Plesius are becoming known to Canada.
It is a Friday night of Grey Cup week, with no NHL hockey to distract anyone.
Those who have spent any time watching Canadian university football understand the entertainment value. Programs like Laval, McMaster, Western and Calgary have all represented the brand with success. But this game provides the chance to sell it to a bigger market.
"I had so many people come up to me and say, 'It was the first game I ever watched and it as the most exciting thing I've every seen,'" said Chris Pickard, an offensive lineman for the Marauders.
It isn't quite like 'build it and they will come,' it's more like 'watch it and you'll like it.'
Both coach Stefan Ptaszek of the Marauders and Glen Constantin of Laval recognize the opportunity that has presented itself.
"We can promote this event to be one of the biggest in the history of the CIS," Ptaszek said. "Hockey-starved Southern Ontario sports fans need to come to the Rogers Centre Friday night. There's no reason why 32 (32,000) needs to be the ceiling. Why not 40 (40,000)? This is Canadian kids spilling their guts at the highest level. It's got to be worth coming down to the stadium and seeing a great product."
Constantin talked about what it meant for Canadian university football.
"It would be good for recruiting because we can show someone who wants to go to the States what the brand of football can be here," he said.
Ptaszek looked even further down the line.
"Maybe 10 years from now when they ask the two quarterbacks ... who they look up to, they'll talk about Canadian kids playing in the CFL as opposed to NFL kids," Ptaszek said. "We have developed this game to the highest level in its history. We will continue to do so. I hope 40,000 people get an eye-opening experience about the quality of play."
It is indeed a perfect storm.
What they need is a repeat of last year, as close to a perfect game for this situation as anyone can ask for.