This article was first published in the July 2nd edition of Main Street Week and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by www.mainstreetweeknews.com to have a look at a great community newspaper or sign up and have Main Street Week delivered right to your inbox every Friday.
The off-season workouts are done, the practise scrimmages have ended, and the roster decisions have been made. After weeks of lining up against their teammates, all the offensive players are ready to dazzle the fans and the defensive players are ready to make an impact on their opponents. The quest for an appearance in the 98th Grey Cup championship game is officially underway. It is that time of year again and the football fans in our nation celebrated Canada Day with the start of another exciting season of CFL football.
Once again, the Montreal Alouettes are the team to beat in the East Division, and as the defending Grey Cup champs, they will be the measuring stick for all the teams in the league. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats emerged as a legitimate playoff team last season, but they are not quite at the elite level of the Alouettes. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers enter the season with a new General Manager, a new Head Coach and new QB’s; while they are heading in the right direction, they lack the overall depth to challenge in the East. Then there is Toronto... The Argonauts finished last season with a 3-15 win/loss record and while the team will put up a good fight each week, their record will be similar this year. Until another team can prove that they are as talented and have as much depth as the Alouettes, you will find them in their usual spot at the end of the season - first place.
In the CFL’s West Division, the race for first place will be a heated affair all season long. The Saskatchewan Roughriders won the West last year, but the Calgary Stampeders and the improving Edmonton Eskimos will be in the mix for the division title. All three teams have tremendous depth on offence and defence and have All-Stars at several positions. The fate of the fourth team in the West Division, the BC Lions, is in the hands of QB Casey Printers. An MVP in the CFL with the Lions before leaving for the NFL in 2006, Printers returned to the league after one season, but struggled at the helm of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats during the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Last year, he returned to the Lions and demonstrated he can still be an elite QB in the league. It is not an easy task to pick a winner in the West, but look for the Calgary Stampeders to be at the top when the playoffs begin in November.
In a recent interview with Bryan Chiu, the long-time centre on the Alouettes offensive line, I asked for his thoughts on the upcoming season in Montreal. Chiu recently retired, but as a seven-time All-Star in the CFL and the man that organized the O-line and snapped the ball to Anthony Calvillo for much of his thirteen year career, is their a better man to ask?
“I feel this year’s team will be very competitive,” Chiu told Main Street. “Coach Trestman will not allow his team to be complacent and rest on their laurels. The CFL will definitely have more parity among the teams but I believe the Als have to be favoured to win the East. There is a great mix of older veterans and young guys with the hunger to succeed. Anytime you have a great quarterback like Calvillo, you will always have a chance to win. Go Als!!!”
The next chance to see the Alouettes at Montreal’s Percival Molson Stadium is Thursday, July 22 against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and look for the full interview with Bryan Chiu in the July edition of Main Street. Have a great sports day everyone - and enjoy the season!