'Gades revival brewing?

Frank D'Angelo, president of D'Angelo Brands and Steelback Breweries. (SUN/Debbie Holloway)

Frank D'Angelo, president of D'Angelo Brands and Steelback Breweries. (SUN/Debbie Holloway)

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:47 AM ET

Right out of the blue like a quarterback blitz, brewer and food distributor Frank D'Angelo has declared an interest in bringing the CFL back to Ottawa.

Just one day after capital football fans were forced to endure a league dispersal draft of former Renegades players -- during which not one representative of the league or its eight teams expressed concern for Ottawa fans -- the entrepreneur pulled out a trick play by stepping forward.

The president/CEO of Steelback Breweries and Ontario-based D' Angelo Brands, who sang O Canada last year at a CFL game in Toronto, is an Argos corporate sponsor and calls himself a fan of the league.

"They've been fantastic partners for the past two years," said Argos president and CEO Keith Pelley, who has spoken to D'Angelo about the CFL in Ottawa.

"We've talked briefly. The bottom line is that our focus is on the 2006 season, and there's certainly a priority for expansion to Ottawa."

D'Angelo became the centre of the Canadian football universe yesterday when he stated in a media release his "intentions to buy the Ottawa Renegades ... saving the beleaguered CFL club from gridiron extinction."

Later, D'Angelo declared he would sing the national anthem at a CFL game at Frank Clair Stadium, but during an interview with the Sun tempered his comments by terming his interest "premature" and saying he won't become involved in a money-losing operation.

However, he also claimed he has the money to make a CFL team work in the capital and explained his willingness to provide relief to Ottawa's anguished football fans, who have endured the death of two league franchises in a decade.

"Without sounding self-serving, I think what's happened in Ottawa is disgusting, and I don't think there's any reason for it," D'Angelo said.

"If we can buy the team, I believe we can make it successful. We only get into things we believe we can handle, and we believe we can do that here. Do we have the money to lose outrageously? Absolutely no way. But we would look at this as a viable business opportunity."

D'Angelo said he became interested after watching news reports about the demise of the Renegades franchise earlier this week and feeling sorry for the fans.

He hadn't spoken directly to CFL commissioner Tom Wright before yesterday's release, but said a business colleague had contacted the league on his behalf.

The CFL issued a brief statement early yesterday afternoon, confirming D'Angelo's interest.

In part, it read, "League officials will meet with (D'Angelo) as part of the ongoing effort to secure new and fully qualified ownership for the CFL franchise in Ottawa."

Known for his brash style, D'Angelo and his companies are famous for their unique TV commercials -- most of which he stars in himself. One is shot in a locker room with D'Angelo in goalie gear, joking and kibbitzing with former NHL greats, including the Esposito and Hull brothers.

In another, he's on location in Shanghai and does "streeter" interviews with locals who promote Steelback products.

In a more recent spot, D'Angelo plays a bartender who serves one of his beers to an attractive woman.

"Wow! That's really big!" she exclaims.

"Thank you," D'Angelo responds before an announcer proclaims the product slogan: "Size does matter."

In perhaps the most infamous ad of all, promoting his food company's Cheetah Power Sports Drink, D'Angelo plays host of a mock TV program and interviews former Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson.

D'Angelo asks, "Ben, when you run, do you Cheetah?" to which Johnson replies while holding the product, "Absolutely. I Cheetah all the time."

D'Angelo is also the lead singer of Steelback 2-4, which raises money through concert and CD sales for various charities.

It's unlikely D'Angelo would be able to use football games in Ottawa to sell his beer products.

Aramark has the contract with the city for food and beverage services at Lansdowne Park and serves Molson products.

A source said it would be next to impossible for D'Angelo to sell his own beer at Frank Clair Stadium, even if he owned the club, and his exposure would be limited to a few advertisements.

Nonetheless, D'Angelo seemed bent on finishing his blitz.

"We as a company are interested in making this a reality," he said. "Life's all about timing. Hopefully, we can be good for Ottawa and Ottawa can be good for us."

barre.campbell@ott.sunpub.com 


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