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Saturday, 10 August 2013

A Brief History Of The Montreal Alouettes And Football In That City

Two things about the following story….#1 this might not be up everyone’s alley as mostly older Montrealers and ex Montrealers might find this interesting but who knows?....#2 Apologies for any names I may have left out. Feel free to submit any of those left out names and I will try and add them to the story. Oh…I might as well throw in a #3….I don’t claim to be football expert.
Montreal has a long history with football. Long before the forward pass became part of the game and when football was more like rugby than it is now there were amateur football teams in Montreal. The McGill University Redmen teams date back to 1974. In the 1920s and 1930s the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association (the MAAA) had a football team called the Montreal Winged Wheelers.
As a kid growing up in the west side of Montreal there were 3 main sports boys were interested in, hockey, football, and baseball. Each sport had a professional team in the city.
Hockey has always been #1 in Montreal and the Montreal Canadiens (The Habs) are one of the most storied professional teams in all sports. They played their home games at the old Montreal Forum at the corner of Atwater and St. Catherine Street on the western side of downtown Montreal.
Before the Montreal Expos turned up in 1969 there were the Montreal Royals who were the triple A farm team for the Brooklyn Dodgers for many years. The Royals were in operation from 1928 to 1960. The team played their home games at a 20,000 seat stadium east of downtown Montreal called Delorimier Stadium. Jackie Robinson started his professional baseball career with the Royals in 1946.
The Montreal Alouettes football team came into existence in 1946. In 1949 they won their first Grey Cup. It was against the Calgary Stampeders. Although the Alouettes would appear in 3 more Grey Cups in the 1950s they lost each time to the Edmonton Eskimos. It wasn’t until 1970 that Montreal would once again hoist the cup as the best professional football team in Canada.
There are two players names that are often associated with the Montreal Alouettes of the 1950s, quarterback Sam Etcheverry and wide receiver Hal Patterson. Next to some Canadiens hockey players like Rocket Richard and Jean Beliveau they were the biggest deal in town in sports for most of the 50s.
More on the Alouettes a little later….
Minor Football In Montreal
I grew up in a community called NDG on the western side of Montreal. Like other places in Canada we played street hockey in the winter. There was a high school close by (West Hill High) that had a huge grass field behind it. From time to time as we grew up we would play unorganized baseball (including Scrub) and unorganized touch football on that field.
There were some organized kid’s hockey teams in the winter that played at the outdoor hockey rink at nearby Terrebonne Park. There was a little shack complete with a stove where kids could warm themselves. I don’t remember any organized little league baseball for kids being available back then.
Sometimes kids would toss a football back and forth on the street. It usually didn’t last very long before some irate father, who had been watching from his window, would run out of his house after seeing his car get pranged.
It may seem odd but I remember more details about kid’s football than I do about great plays that happened at Montreal Alouette games. Maybe I just looked at things differently than some others. Off the top of my head the players on the Alouettes that caught my attention were receivers Terry Evanshan and Ben Cahoon and their ability to cut on passing routes and beat defensive backs to the ball.
I think I was about 12 when I first became aware of kid’s organized football. There were 2 teams in the area. One of the teams played in the same park (Terrebonne) where the hockey rink was and the other team played on the field next to the YMCA building. A kid I hung out with back then, Harvey Biggs, was on the YMCA team. When he got older he was a part of the local junior team, the NDG Maple Leafs, and was a hard hitting defensive back. The NDG Maple Leafs were a powerhouse in junior football in the mid-60s and won the Canadian national junior title in a game against the Edmonton Huskies in 1965. I believe Harvey came home with a separated shoulder.
Another kid I remember as a really good athlete at an early age was a guy named John Hutton. He could run like the wind. He was a pretty decent hockey player too. Back then, for some reason, he had the nickname “Puddsy”. I remember seeing him play at one of those YMCA games and sprinting down the edge of the sidelines with defenders hot on his tail. An adult yelled out “footsteps” and I had no idea what it meant. It was later explained to me that by yelling “footsteps” the adult meant that Hutton should be nervous because he was about to be hit by a hard tackle. Some of those kind of adults can still be found on the sidelines at kid’s sports.
Back in the day pretty well every high school in Montreal had football teams. For a number of years there were junior and senior high school teams. High school coaches often had no experience in playing football themselves back then. Usually cockier kids with a lot of self-confidence tried out for the position of quarterback. Extra big kids with hardly any knowledge about football were often recruited to play linemen.
I went to West Hill High School and Westmount High in Montreal for part of the 1960s. Two Westmount boys, Doug Leadbetter and Bruce Moreland later played for the NDG Maple Leafs. For a brief period, a later roommate in Toronto, Don Moore, was the high school quarterback at West Hill. I tried out for the team one year as a receiver but was cut. All 135 lbs. of me. I remember at one practice some coaches from the Alouettes came in to help out and after the session one J5V football was missing. If you are thinking I was the culprit you are wrong. It was a red haired guy who swiped the ball. Out of all those high school games I remember one specific play. A guy from the opposing team, having caught a pass, was on his way to the end zone with only daylight in front of him. A guy from West Hill named Ian McIntosh sprinted after the guy with the ball, laid himself out in the air, and made a shoestring tackle. Ian must have laid stretched out on the ground for at least 5 minutes after that. He had the wind knocked out of him but what a play!
West Hill High playing field.
I remember one afternoon in my high school years tossing a football around with 2 other guys at the YMCA field. We took turns with one guy throwing the ball, one guy trying to catch the pass, and the other guy covering the receiver. It was supposed to be “touch football”. An asshole named MacFarlane hit me with a tackle and had a smirk on his face as I lay writhing on the ground. Did I say he was an asshole?
From 1959 to 1979 there was a juvenile football league in Montreal with teams like the Cote St. Luc Jets, the Lachine Lakers, the Dorval Dukes, the Point St. Charles Leo’s Boys, the South Shore Colts, the St. Laurent Raiders, and the Chateauguay Ramblers.
The NDG Maple Leafs junior football team was formed in 1946 and played in a league with teams like the Verdun Shamcats and the Rosemount Bombers. Both the Bombers and Maple Leafs won national junior championships.
Junior football was very competitive. Behind the scenes it wasn’t uncommon for team scouts to try and lure an exceptional player away from high school football even though the kid might not live in the same area the junior team was located.
I had a friend in high school whose brother, John Elliott, played for the Verdun Shamcats and I went to a few of his games. The brothers actually lived in NDG and I wasn’t quite sure why he was playing for another district.  I remember after one game the away team was sitting on their bus (in Verdun) waiting to leave and a few of them were taunting the home team who had lost as they were walking by the bus. One of the home team players picked up some dirt and threw it in one of the taunter’s eyes. I guess handshakes were out of the question. This was no longer just a kid’s game but serious business.
Because there is and was a rule in the professional CFL (Canadian Football League) that there had to so many Canadian players on the rosters, junior football was a source for Canadian CFL players throughout Canada. The rest of the Canadian players usually came from universities and colleges including ones in Montreal like Loyola, Concordia, McGill, Laval University in Quebec City and Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
Bob Geary of the Montreal Alouettes (more on him later) and Tony Pajaczkowski  of the Calgary Stampeders were both linemen who had careers in the CFL and got their start playing for the Verdun Shamcats junior football team in the 1950s.
Pierre Desjardins, Larry Fairholm, and place kicker George Springate all played for the Rosemount Bombers junior team before going on to CFL careers.
The NDG Maple Leafs junior football team had a number of players who had mostly brief careers in the CFL including Jim McKean (he later became an American League baseball umpire) Barclay Allen, Ken Galoway, Gino Berretta, Pierre Dumont, Ron Maddocks, Stan Smith, and Dave Bowen. Offensive lineman Basil Bark probably had the longest CFL career splitting 12 years between the Calgary Stampeders and the Montreal Alouettes. In 1974 the Verdun team and the NDG team merged into the Verdun Maple Leafs.
1961 NDG Maple Leafs Jr. Team-Courtesy of Bruce Barnes
I went to a few of the McGill Redmen football games at Molson Stadium in the mid-1960s but I was too drunk to remember much of what went on.
In the summer of 69’ (they should write a song with this name) I was living in a frat house on University Street in Montreal. One of the other roomers was a guy named Nick Popenk who was an offensive end for the University of Toronto football team. Nick wanted to work out a bit for the coming season and the closest patch of grass we could find nearby was above the old Montreal aqueduct. We spent hours tossing bullets at one another in the early evening.
Another memory I have is playing touch football out on the Lake Shore when I was about 20. It turned out that one of the guys playing that day was one of my first friends in life when I was about 5 years old. He played QB for one of the universities in the Maritimes. I think it was Acadia, His name is Jimmy Durrell. He later became mayor of Ottawa and still later was one of the founders of the Ottawa Senators hockey team. In the past year Jim was awarded the Order of Canada. Back in 1970 his sister Nancy was Miss Grey Cup.
As a kid, my son Dean played a lot of sports including hockey, baseball, and soccer. I never could get him interested in football. I took him to a BC lion’s game once when he was about 12 but I don’t think he knew what was going on. Ah well.
The Alouettes
As a kid growing up, the Alouettes were always the team I followed. That changed somewhat when I moved out to the west coast of Canada and became a BC lions fan in the late 1970s. Still, if BC wasn’t in contention Montreal was always my second team to cheer for.
Like all other teams in professional sports, the “Als” or “Larks” as English sportswriters at the Montreal Star or Montreal Gazette used to refer to the Alouettes as, have had their ups and downs over the years. The different eras of the Alouettes can be identified by some as to who the quarterback was at the time.
There were the Sam Etcheverry years from 1952-1960, the Sonny Wade years from 1969-1978, the Joe Barnes years from 1976-1980 and 1985, and the Anthony Calvillo years from 1998- to the present.
Along the way the Alouettes had a number of hopefuls that didn’t pan out or had brief success at the QB position. Among them would be players like Sandy Stephens, the skinny George Bork, Vince Ferragamo, Carroll Williams, Gerry Datillio (Canadian), Bernie Faloney, Joe Franicis, Wes Gideon, Turner Gill, Jimmy Jones, Tracy Ham, George Mira, Warren Rabb, Jerry Rhome, Gerry Tompkins, John Rogan, Bruce Coulter, and others.
The 1940s.
In 1943 a team was put together of navy servicemen who were stationed near Montreal at St. Hyacinthe. They were named the St. Hyacinthe-Donnacona Navy Team. With a lot of former football players overseas at the time the team managed to win the 1944 Grey Cup.
In 1945 there was a football team in Montreal called the Hornets. They lasted one season and competed against the Hamilton Tigers, the Ottawa Rough Riders, and the Toronto Argonauts. The team was hastily put together and was comprised mostly of Montreal high school players. Some of those players went on to join the new Montreal Alouettes team in 1946. One of the players back then was future hall of fame NHLer defenceman Doug Harvey.
Herb Trawick was the first African American to play in the CFL. He joined the Montreal Alouettes in 1946 as a lineman and remained with the team until 1957. Although university educated he had trouble finding work in Montreal in the off season and sometimes had to resort to working as a doorman. Montreal has had a long history of accepting racial minorities but at one point two CFL teams threatened to boycott games if a black player was on the playing field. Fortunately cooler heads prevailed. Trawick lived the rest of his life in Montreal. A city park is named after him.
Herb Trawick
In the late 1940s the Montreal Alouettes had a quarterback named Frankie Filchock. Filchock had a 15 year career in professional football as a player both in the US and Canada. After he retired he coached for close to another 10 years. In 1949 he led the Alouettes to their first Grey Cup win. How he arrived in a Canada is a story in itself. In 1946 while quarterbacking the New York Giants to the NFL championship he was accused of being involved in attempting to fix the championship game against the Chicago Bears and accepting a bribe. He denied all of the charges and was allowed to play. He was booed when he went out onto the playing field. By all accounts he gave it his best effort and suffered a broken nose in the game. After the game, Filchock, although still not proven to have been involved in the scandal was suspended by the league commissioner. The CFL was his only alternative. In 1950 Filchock was accompanied to New York by Alouette’s general manager, Leo Dandurand, who attested to Filchock’s character before the NFL commissioner Bert Bell and Fichock was reinstated. He played one more year for the Alouettes before returning to the NFL and then came back to Canada to finish his playing career with Edmonton and Saskatchewan.
Frankie Filchock-New York Giants-1946.
The 1950s
Most of the 1950s and the Alouettes were about quarterback Sam Etcheverry and wide receiver Hal Patterson. The team lost to the Edmonton Eskimos 3 straight years in the mid-1950s. One year they lost the game in the last minute on a fumble. (See other story on the CFL).

Sam Etcheverry

Hal Patterson #75.
Tex Coulter
There were other great players on the team in the 1950s. Red O’Quinn was an outstanding receiver in his own right and made it difficult for opposing defenses to just concentrate on Hal Patterson. Bruce Coulter, a Canadian, was the back–up quarterback for much of the 50s. Alex Webster was a running back for the Als in 1953 and 1954 before joining the New York Giants where he played for 9 years. Pat Abruzzi, another running back, joined the team in 1955 and stayed with the team through 1958. Eagle Keys, who later went on to coach the Saskatchewan Roughriders, was a center for Montreal from 1949- 1951. Jerry Hogan who had played at McGill was a lineman from 1954-1957. One of the players who had a long career with the Alouettes was Ted Elsby whose career lasted from 1954-1966. Tex Coulter was a lineman who played for the team from 1953-1956. After his playing days Tex continued to live in Montreal for a number of years. He was well known locally as an artist and for his drawings of a variety of athletes in different sports. Other notables were Ray Cicia, Joey Pal, Bill Hudson, Virgil Wagner, Tom Hugo. Ivan Livingstone was one of Montreal’s better defensive backs. One of the most complete players of that era was Ed Learn who played at the defensive back position, ran back kick-offs, and did some of the punting. Learn had a 15 year career in the CFL, most of those of them with Montreal. For most of the 1950s the team was coached by Douglas “Peahead” Walker

The 1960s
The 1960s were kind of a lost decade as far as the Alouettes were concerned. In those 10 years the team finished 3rd or 4th out of 4 teams in their division each year.
The decade started off badly with team owner Ted Workman trading Sam Etcheverry and Hal Patterson to Hamilton. Unbeknownst to Workman, Etctheverry had a no trade contract and after some legal actions he became a free agent and took off to the NFL. To top it off Workman made the trade before consulting his head coach at the time, Perry Moss.
My understanding was that Ted Workman became wealthy during WW2 manufacturing uniforms for the Canadian Army. He was deeply involved with a Christian religious group for a number of years and it has been said that his views extended into the player’s locker room.
I met Ted Workman once in the late 1960s. I needed some cash and worked for the Alouettes for a short time selling tickets on commission over the phone in a hotel room at the Berkley Hotel in downtown Montreal. My pay wasn’t forthcoming and a few weeks later I confronted the ticket sales organizer. A bit of a scrap broke out when he tried to manhandle me and my sports jacket was ripped. I decided to up the ante and marched into Workman’s Office in the Place Ville-Marie. Workman made a call to the manhandling guy and was told that I had used some curse words. Workman started to give me a lecture about using the lord’s name in vain. I was having none of it (I’m an atheist for starters) and demanded my money. The end result was that I was told to go down to the mall below I get myself a new jacket that Workman would pay for. The offer caught me by surprise and in a panic I bought a jacket I never liked.
Two of the bright spots for the Alouettes in the early 60s were running backs George Dixon and Don Clark. They played in the same backfield for a number of years.
George Dixon
With Etcheverry gone the quarterback position was kind of a revolving door for the next 10 years. Quarterback Sandy Stephens had an outstanding US college career but no professional team in the US wanted him playing at that position. Black quarterbacks were few and far between back then when Stephens joined the Alouettes in 1962. Other players at the QB position who came and went in that era were Bernie Faloney, who was supposed to be part of the Etcheverry trade, Joe Francis, Francis Marriott, Warren Rabb and George Bork.
Sandy Stephens
After coach Peahead Walker left Perry Moss took over the reigns. In his 2 years his record was 13W-25L. Jim Trimble came over from Hamilton and his record was 17W-25L. I once heard a story about Jim Trimble and Bernie Faloney having dinner with their wives somewhere in the Laurentians. They were seated at the restaurant front window. A couple of young guys spotted them and one of them dropped his drawers and pressed his bum against the window. (This used to be known as a “pressed ham”.)  Faloney was getting on in years and didn’t have the speed to catch the culprit. Other Al’s coaches in the 60s were Darrell Mudra 7W-7L and Kay Dalton 7W-31L.
One of the toughest players ever to play for the Alouettes was guard Bob Geary (1958-1963) who was a local Montreal boy. He was only 5’9” and weighed 215 lbs. I once heard a rumour that he had punched out fullback Nat Craddock at a practice. Geary was Alouettes general manager from 1975-1981 and then became head of football operations for the team. He died in 2001.
Other notable Alouettes in the 60s were Bill Bewley, Milt Crain, Doug Daigneault, Gino Berretta, Garland Boyette, Marv Luster, Billy Ray Locklin, Bobby Jack Oliver, Pierre Desjardins, Al Ecuyer, Larry Fairholm, Ralph Goldston, Dave Hoppman, Dennis Duncan, Jim Andreotti, Billy Wayte, Don Lisbon, Ed Nickla, Joe Stracina, Dick Walton, and Don Paquette.
For one brief year (1964) Montreal had a team in the upstart UFL, the Quebec Rifles, named after Sam Etcheverry’s nickname “The Rifle”. Etcheverry coached that team that year. They moved to Toronto and the league folded a few years later.
The 1970s.
The 1970s started off as if the stars were aligned. Fan favourite Sam Etcheverry came back to coach the team and there was an exciting young quarterback named Sonny Wade. In 1970 the team won its first Grey Cup in 21 years.
Sonny Wade #14
Peter Dalla Riva
The 1970s teams had some exceptional players, a number of who stayed with the team for most of the decade including tight end and wide receiver Peter Dalla Riva who played for the Als from 1968-1981. During his career Dalla Riva was part of 3 Grey Cup winning teams. Local Montreal boy Terry Evanshen started his career with Montreal in 1965 and spent 4 years playing pitch and catch with Calgary quarterback Pete Liske before returning to Montreal in 1970 where he would stay for 4 more years. He was possibly the best Canadian receiver ever to play the game. Unfortunately Evanshen was involved in a car accident in 1988. He awoke from a coma with total memory loss of his life up until then. Somehow he managed to overcome some of his problems and became a successful motivational speaker. Another really good pass receiver back then was Gary Lefevre.
Terry Evanshen
Although Etcheverry coached the Als to a Grey Cup in 1970, overall he had a losing record 17W-34L. In 1973 he was replaced by Marv Levy. Levy would coach the team for 4 years winning 2 Grey Cups in that time. He then moved on to the Buffalo Bills in the NFL. The Buffalo Bills under Levy made it to the Super Bowl 3 times but lost each game. Levy’s career in coaching and management started in 1951 and ended in 1997.
Coach Marv Levy
Throughout the 1970s Montreal was known for their strong defence. They also had some pretty decent offensive linemen. Among the notable players who played these positions during the decade were Gene Gaines, Dickie Harris, Ed George, Wally Highsmith, Gordon Judges, Marv Luster, Wayne Conrad, Carl Crennel, Pat Bonnett, Dave Braggins, Wally Buono, Carl Brazely, Gabriel Gregoire, Justin Canale, Junior Ah You, Mike Widger, Randy Rhino, Larry Uteck, Dan Yoakum, Barry Randall, Doug Smith, Tony Proudfoot, Steve Booros, Jim Burrow, Al Butler, Gary Chown, Merl Code, Lewis Cook, Joe Critchlow, Mark Kosmos, Marvin Davis, Glen Leach, Al Phaneuf, Phil Price, Steve Smear,  Larry Smith,and Rod Woodward.
Dickie Harris
Rod Woodward was a hell of a defensive back and one year had 7 interceptions while playing for the Ottawa Rough Riders. His wife and my later to be ex-wife were friends and one day in the early 80s in Vancouver, BC I got a call from Rod asking me if I would go to lunch with him. He was trying to decide what career path to take after football. I was in sales and got him a job interview where I worked. The company turned him down and he went into the investment business. He was later sentenced to a year in jail for swindling a couple of clients. I hope he managed to turn his life around after he got out of the clink.
The decade started off with Moses Denson in the backfield. From 1972-1980 Canadian born Larry Smith played halfback for the Alouettes. After retiring he became the CFL commissioner and still later president of the Als. As commissioner, he was responsible for the CFL’s short-lived expansion into the US. Other notable offensive backs in this era were Rudy Florio, Steve Ferugelli, Andy Hopkins, David Green, Chuck McMann, and John O’Leary.
For most of the decade Sonny Wade was the #1 quarterback. He had an over 50% passing record in completions but also threw 169 interceptions in his career. Wade holds the record with the Als in the number of punts kicked, with 852. For 2 years George Mira 1972-1973 was mostly the back-up quarterback. Jimmy Jones played in a number of games in 1973-1975. In 1976 Joe Barnes joined the team and took over the reigns shortly after at QB. He was to remain with the team for 4 years before playing in other cities in Canada. He ended up back with the newly named Montreal Concorde in 1985.
For most of the 1970s Don Sweet was the place kicker for the team. He spent 13 years with the Als.  The first 2 years of the 70s the placekicking chores were handled by Montreal policeman George Springate.
Other notable receivers for the Alouettes during the decade aside from Dalla Riva and Evanshen were the very opinionated but sensational Johnny Rogers, Joe Petty, Ian Mofford, and Brock Aynseley.
Johnny Rogers
The team played in 3 different venues in the 70s, tiny Molson Stadium, the Autostade which was built for Montreal’s Expo 67, and the Olympic Stadium.
Molson Stadium
Football in Montreal was at its best in the 1970s. The club made it to the Grey Cup 6 times in those years.
To be honest, my interest in the Allouettes started to wain around 1980. I had been living on the west coast of Canada for some time and had become a BC lions fan. Montreal became my #2 team.
The 1980s
In some ways the 1980s were like the lost decade of the 1960s in that the team never made it to the Grey Cup in those years. The team performance and attendance started to slide compared to the 70s and finally in 1987 the Alouettes folded. From 1982-1985 the team was coached by Joe Galat. His record was 19W-41L. Gary Durchik took over as coach and his record was 6W-14L. The writing was on the wall as they say.
In 1981 business huckster Nelson Skalbania bought the Allouettes from long-time owner Sam Berger  and in 1982 renamed the team The Concordes. Skalbania was convicted of theft and sentenced to a jail term in 1998. Why he decided to change the team name is beyond me. In his brief time in Montreal he brought in high priced players like QB Vince Ferragamo, RB David Overstreet, and WR Billy “Whiteshoes” Johnson, none of whom changed the team’s fortunes.
One bright spot in the early 80s was home grown quarterback (Verdun and Chomedy junior teams) Gerry Dattilio who had starred at U. of Northern Colorado. Dattilio has the 2nd best record in passing yards all time for a Canadian quarterback after Ottawa Rough Rider Russ Jackson. For a period of time Dattilio had to take a back seat to import QB Vince Feragamo who was a flop in the CFL. Montreal was paying Fergamo 600K per season at the time, close to 5 times what CFL starting quarterbacks are paid today.
Gerry Datillio #9
Turner Gill Joined the team as QB in 1984 and showed a lot of promise. Unfortunately a number of concussions led to his early retirement at the age of 23.
Notable defensive players from 1980-1986 were Doug Scott, Harry Skipper, Mark Hopkins, Phil Jones, Frank Kosec, Pete Lavoretto, Gerry McGrath, Paul Gray, Willy Hampton, Doug Payton, Carl Brazely, Ken Ciancone, Tom Cousineau, Al Dosant, Dave Dumars, Andre Francis, Eugene Beliveau, and Vince Phason.
Notable offensive players in the same era were Glen Keeble, Marc Lacelle, Roland Mangold, Chuck McMann, Mike Washburn, Nick Arakgi, Denny Ferdinand, Jacques Chapdelaine, Lloyd Fairbanks, Shaefer Suggs, Luc Tousignant (the only French Canadian born player to start at QB in CFL history), Lester Brown, and Miles Gorrell.
With the team folding in 1987, a number of the Alouettes joined the expansion Baltimore Stallions team. Others either quit the game or joined other CFL teams.
1990s Until Now
In 1996 the Alouettes once again became a CFL team. It had been 9 long years that Montreal was without a pro team in the CFL. Before folding in 1995, the Baltimore Stallions had become the only American based CFL team to win the Grey Cup. Jim Popp who had been the director of player personnel in Baltimore came over to Montreal to perform the same duties. Two of his star former players, long time CFL quarterback Tracy Ham and running back Mike Pringle followed Popp to Montreal.
The newly formed team started off by losing its first 3 games but turned the season around and had a winning record. Oddly enough, the only losing coach the Als had from 1996 until this year was when they were coached by Jim Popp. (He has won 4 Grey Cups as director of personnel.) Dave Ritchie was brought in as coach in 1998 and in his 2 years had a very respectable 25W-10L record.
With Montreal’s return to the CFL they found themselves playing in the cavernous Olympic Stadium which seats about 60,000 people. In 1999 they returned to playing their games as they had back in the 1950s to a newly renovated Molson Stadium that now seats about 22,000.
In 1998 the Alouettes signed quarterback Anthony Calvillo and receiver Ben Calhoon. In 1999 Calvillo and Tracy Ham alternated at quarterback before Calvillo became the #1 QB. 14 years later he still has that role although the 1913 version of the team is stumbling. Since 2002 Montreal has been in 7 Grey Cups and won 3 of them.
Anthony Calvillo #13
Ben Calhoon retired after the 2010 season. He is 6th in overall in receiving all-time in the CFL and holds the record for catching the most passes in Grey Cup games at a total of 47. He played for the Als for 12 years.
Ben Calhoon
Mike Pringle had a 15 year pro career, some of it in the NFL. 15 years is an amazingly long time for a running back to last in professional football. He spent 8 of those years with the Alouettes. Along with Johnny Bright and George Reed, Pringle is often picked as one of the 3 best rushers in CFL history.
Mike Pringle
Outstanding players on offense for the Als in the 1990s include Alphonso Browning, Brian Chiu, Jock Climie, Aaron Fiaconni, Scott Flory, Neal Fort, Michael Soles, Pierre Verchevel, Tracy Ham, and Thomas Haskins.
Outstanding defensive players in the same era include Tory Hunter, Tracey Gravely, Baron Miles, Harold Nash, Stephan Reid, Mark Washington, Swift Burch, Steve Charboneau, Anthony Drawhorn, Davis Sanchez, Elfrid Peyton, and Tom Europe.
I watched last night’s game between Montreal and Toronto (August 8, 2013). I think Anthony Calvillo is getting close to the end of his career. The Als look like they are lacking on either side of the ball. My guess is sooner than later the QB position will again be up for grabs. Maybe another Calvillo type of leader will turn up? Calviillo holds all kinds of Alouettes records and lead the Als to 3 Grey Cups. He is a guaranteed future CFL Hall of Famer when he retires.
It looks like the loss of head coach Marc Trestman and his record of 59W-31L to the Chicago Bears is going to take some time to recover from.
The following are some of the more notable players who played on the Als while Calvillo was at the helm over the past 13 years.
Defensive players: Chip Cox, Reggie Durdon, Luke Fritz, Adriano (The Kissing Bandit) Belli, Etienne Boulay, Anwar Stewart, and Mat Petz.
Offensive players: Brian Bratton, Kwame Cavil, Avon Cobourne, Jermaine Copeland, Kerry Watkins, Paul Lambert, Eric Lapointe, Brian Chiu, Steve Lumbala, Dave Stala, Tavares Bolden, and Jamal Richardson.

Football has changed a lot in the last 60 years or so. Teams don’t play in mud anymore. 250 lb. guys can run like the wind these days. You no longer see ass crack when linemen get in their stance. 8mm film is no longer used by the coaches. Great players sometimes still have really short careers and there is often some house cleaning at the end of every year. Messiahs are few and far between.
As the line goes in the movie The Maltese Falcon…”This is the stuff that dreams are made of.”  You are only young once and if you are an exceptional athlete and make it to junior, college, or pro football, you will have a lifetime of memories including perhaps the year your team went all the way or that big game you felt you should have won.
 “He’s at the 45, the 40, the 35, the 20….it looks like he is going to go all the way. Nobody’s going to catch him!”


  1. Thank you for this! As a native Montrealer in his 30's, I thoroughly enjoy your trips down memory lane (and may I say your memory is impressive) and all the information you diligently share with everyone about Montreal's past. As I have never seen the Montreal of the 50's, 60's, 70's and some of the 80's, your posts are often priceless accounts of times that will never come again. Thanks again!

  2. Could you contact me....i have this unbelievable story about this Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Royals blog you did....