Grey Cup comes and goes

By Herman Chan
Without a team to call their own and NFL games ruling Sunday night television, the Grey Cup has become meaningless for a majority of Centretown football fans.

Centretown bar patrons were more interested in beer and Buffalo wings on Grey Cup night Nov. 26 than the CFL championship game.

However, the quiet atmosphere is nothing out of the ordinary. It’s been four years since the Rough Riders entertained Ottawa football fans at Frank Clair Stadium.

There was a bid to resurrect the franchise this past September under businessman Grant White’s direction, but it fell through.

CFL spokesperson Jim Neish says it has always been the league’s goal to bring football back to Ottawa despite the city’s wavering support for the game.

“With a new incoming commissioner (Michael Lysko), it is definitely something he’ll be interested to do,” says Neish.“The Grey Cup is annually the one event that brings Canadians together on one common day.”
This wasn’t the case for Centretown resident Daniel Michaud, who watched the pre-game show for the match between the B.C. Lions and the Montreal Alouettes in front of a muted 20-inch television set hanging from the ceiling of Gilmour’s Sports Bar and Grill.

The diehard Alouettes supporter says he believes Ottawa fans are still hurt by the loss of the team.
He says this is the sole reason for the low turnout to watch the Grey Cup game.

“I remember when the Rough Riders were here and it was great,” says Michaud, who lives three blocks from the bar at the corner of Bank and Gilmour streets. “It’s a tradition, but the people miss football here and that’s why there is no interest.”

Only Michaud and two of his friends sat facing the television at a table littered with ashtrays and chocolate bar wrappers, while other patrons chatted away in the opposite corner.

Contrary to Michaud’s comments and the local bar scene, Neish believes the CFL is a Canadian institution and can still work in the city of Ottawa.

“It has always been our goal to attempt to bring football back in Ottawa,” he says, stressing that it’s in the league’s best interest to have a team in the nation’s capital.

Sue Brazeau, general manager of the Ottawa Junior Riders, thinks Ottawa might not be ready for a team.
The Quebec Major Junior Football League team, which plays at Lansdowne Park, won its third straight league championship last month, but Frank Clair Stadium suffered from poor attendance all season.

“When they talk about bringing the (CFL) back, I wonder how it’s going to work,” says Brazeau.
“Ottawa is not very supportive of football.”

Riders coach and ex-CFL player Dan Murphy hopes to see a team back in Ottawa. He notes that many of his players say Canadian football is more exciting to play than its American counterpart and that they enjoy the speed of the game.

The extra down and smaller field can reduce the pressure on NFL offences to make big plays in the air, giving Canadian football a niche as a passing league.

Neish says it’s premature to put a timeline on the return of the Rough Riders.

“I hope they (Rough Riders) come back,” Murphy says.

“I really want my players to see them live.”