Dirty Bird Blog: It’s Underway

The first week of the CFL season is done and the Montreal Alouettes are 1-0 thanks to a thrilling 30-26 win over the B.C. Lions. The Als came out flying with touchdowns by S.J. Green & Jamel Richardson while Sean Whyte overcame a blown field goal opportunity & made his next three attempts count.

Anyone who had doubts about Brandon Whitaker can put them to rest, as he had a great game with over 100 rushing yards, not to mentions some razzle-dazzle as he caught the Lions defense napping more than a couple times. He’s got explosive speed and he also did a great job blocking for Anthony Calvillo, which was the main concern for the pass-driven offence of the Als.

Defensively, the Alouettes took a major hit when Jerald Brown was lost for the season due to a major fracture to his ankle.  The video of the injury itself is pretty gruesome, but I am optimistic that he can recover & the team rallies themselves for one of their star players. Dwight Anderson made his presence felt during the game, even busting out the Dirty Bird taunt after a terrific hit to Lions RB Jamel Robertson. His ear-to-ear smile after the game told me that this guy is ready to help Montreal win & win often.

B.C. struggled in the first half, but QB Travis Lulay took command of his team and made some very clutch plays to get the Lions back into the game. But this was not their night as Montreal held off the Lions and started this first game of the season off with a win, a feat that escaped them in double overtime last year when they played in Saskatchewan.

As I’ve said numerous times before, there is nothing like a game live at Molson Stadium. The atmosphere is like no other; everyone is firmly entrenched in football mode & the weather is usually fantastic. Last Thursday had rain but thankfully the football gods held off the inclement weather to not only allow the game to be played, but for the Alouettes brass to present the new championship banners at Percival Molson Stadium.

As you look beside the scoreboard, you’ll see 6 new banners representing the previous Grey Cup wins along with the team’s logo at each particular time, which I thought was a great touch to honour the team’s history. And before the game got underway, banner #7 was unveiled to commemorate the 2010 Grey Cup victory. Clearly, new team president Ray Lalonde’s “Canadiens-ization” of the Alouettes has begun.

Also new this year is the renaming of the souvenir stands now called, “The Red Zone”. The Alouettes will be handling the distribution of their own merchandise instead of L’Equipeur. There was a great new selection of gear for everyone; Most notably, they now sell t-shirts of specific players. So if you’re not quite comfortable forking $100+ over for a Anthony Calvillo game jersey, you can still give AC his props by buying a beautiful t-shirt with his iconic #13 on the back. Jamel Richardson & Etienne Boulay also have their own tees being sold, hopefully the team will follow up with other players as well.

But the big disappointment to some was that the 105 game long streak of sellouts at Molson Stadium had come to an end. This was the first time in recent memory that a game was played on Canada Day weekend in Montreal, so that had to be a major conflict for those who usually go to the cottage and whatnot. The team still drew over 22,000 and while it’s unfortunate that the streak is over, the chance to start a new streak with an even more impressive number has arrived.

It’s a new era for the Alouettes both on and off the field and with that will come some growing pains, but one has to feel confident that it will all be worked out and that the fans will be the true beneficiaries of all the changes. I’m keeping positive that the minor glitches will be dealt with and the fans’ overall enjoyment will continue for years to come. I truly think there’s no reason we Alouettes fans can’t give the rest of the CFL a run for their money as far as passionate fandom goes.

By the way, I reported some time ago that L’Equipeur stores in Quebec were deeply discounting their remaining Alouettes merchandise.  Last Thursday, the flagship store in Laval had restocked new items at full price, but as of today the other stores have not followed suit. So it may just be Laval that’s carrying new merchandise for the entire chain.

At stores in the Montreal & Gatineau areas, I’ve found a lot of Alouettes stuff still available at deep discounts so take advantage of it while you can. Jerseys are hard to come by, but I’ve found golf shirts, sweaters, t-shirts & hats for as low as $10 and once it’s gone, it’s gone. To find the closest store nearest you, click here.

This weekend’s match will see the team head to the prairies to battle their latest Grey Cup rivals.  The last 2 games in Regina were instant classics and this Saturday should prove no different despite the Roughriders losing their opener to Edmonton. The Alouettes & Riders bring out the best in each other and it’s a shame that they only play each other twice & that this year both games are in July. But there’s always a chance for a rubber match in November, held at a neutral site in Vancouver!

Looking forward to seeing what others who were at the game thought as well as those watching on TV…feel free to post your comments below or hit me up on Twitter.  I love hearing everyone’s perspective, can make for some great discussions.