Time for Hunt's club

67's owner Jeff Hunt is poised to lead a group that is looking to bring back the CFL in Ottawa....

67's owner Jeff Hunt is poised to lead a group that is looking to bring back the CFL in Ottawa. (Sun Media File Photo)

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

The average sports fan may not be familiar with their names. He knows them only as the answer.

The question?

What would it take to make the Canadian Football League work in the nation's capital, once and for all?

"Easy," say all the experts, igniting what's become a common chorus. "Local, committed owners with deep pockets."

Well, Ottawa, guess who's finally coming around the corner. And what do you know, look who's escorting them as an integral piece of the puzzle.

Yes, you should expect to officially hear soon enough that 67's owner Jeff Hunt will be frontman for the group of three real estate kingpins who are interested in making massive changes at Lansdowne Park.

They want to do something very different with the jewel along the canal. They want to develop the hallowed grounds, construct a world-class sports facility and build a CFL franchise, all to be displayed proudly in the middle of the city.

This bit of news can only be greeted with one word: Hallelujah.

Roger Greenberg (chairman/CEO, Minto Developments), John Ruddy (president, Trinity Development Group) and William Shenkman (chairman, Shenkman Corp.) have mountains of money to go along with their Ottawa upbringings and impeccable reputations in the business community, but none has ever owned or operated a sports franchise.

Enter Hunt, who is highly respected in the sports world after turning the 67's into Canada's pre-eminent major junior hockey franchise and has the infrastructure to support a CFL franchise.

It would be a Dream Team.

"I can't confirm or deny (involvement) at this time," Hunt said yesterday.

His position is understandable. Last time it appeared as though the CFL was coming back, Hunt was the quarterback of a Toronto-based group that looked impressive primarily because Hunt was its quarterback. The moneyman behind the bid fell ill and withdrew his interest, however, and the hope of football fans turned into disappointment.

Hunt doesn't want to burst their bubble again, which is why he told the Sun his "advice to a group would be to only make an announcement when a team has officially been granted."

But this new consortium will have significant political hurdles to clear, and it would seem to be in their favour to lay their cards on the public table. If their new plans fit nicely in their portfolios, they should win waves of support.

Hunt has been a friend and business partner of these would-be CFL owners.

Greenberg, a sponsor of the 67's, is as philanthropic an individual as you will find. His company helped prop up Rod Bryden when the former Senators owner had trouble keeping the team afloat. His charitable donations are great, including the $2.3 million he put toward the construction of a new theatre company and millions more to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.

Shenkman, who owns huge chunks of land in the city, lives in Monaco, but has never let go of his roots. He has a history of sponsoring worthy causes, and recently donated $1 million to an arts centre being constructed in Orleans.

Ruddy, who played football at Carleton, is another sponsor of the 67's who has forged a relationship with Hunt, whom he brought as his guest to the Stanley Cup finals last spring in Anaheim.

Trinity Development Group is also the title sponsor of Hunt's annual golf tournament, which has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Heart Institute.

The CFL must be drooling over the prospects of having a Greenberg-Ruddy-Shenkman-Hunt foursome in possession of a franchise here. In his brief time as commissioner, Mark Cohon has certainly heard enough about Hunt and his management skills to know he is the only man for the job of rebuilding the franchise. And in the last few weeks, the commish has surely learned enough about these investors to realize it is an opportunity the league has been waiting for.

From the thought that the CFL was gone forever comes hope that Ottawa is going to be back in the league for the 2009 season. This team will be different than those in the past, unlike the Horn Chens and Bernie Gliebermans and Bruce Firestones and Brad Watters-run ownership groups of yesteryear.

This team will be in the hands of your Dream Team.

Looks like it could be a winner.


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