The bye week is over and now the time has come to start thinking about the Grey Cup.
It’s been nearly two weeks since the Montreal Alouettes last took the field, winning their first road game of the season in Ottawa. With a share of second place and five games to go, the Birds of Prey will welcome the Saskatchewan Roughriders this Thanksgiving Monday at Percival Molson Stadium.
The energy for the game will be at a peak level as not only will Rider Nation be there to support their team in Montreal, but the Alouettes themselves will be paying tribute to an extraordinary man by giving him the highest honour a sports team can bestow upon a player. More on that later.
After all the initial talk of the CFL’s Eastern division being weak and subject to a crossover in the playoffs, all four teams have suddenly come alive and a dogfight has begun that could very well go until the final weekend of the regular season. Even the 2-11 Ottawa RedBlacks are still mathematically alive for a playoff spot, but they’ll need some help if they want to reach the CFL’s second season.
For the most part the Alouettes control their own destiny; if they win all five of their remaining games, they will actually finish the season with a positive record, which seemed unfathomable a mere 6 weeks ago. Montreal has been playing some good football as of late but so have the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Toronto Argonauts, both whom the Alouettes will play three of their final five games against.
It all starts this Monday versus the Riders, who themselves have played extremely well but have also had their share of injury woes. Most notable is the loss of Darian Durant, who quarterbacked this team to its fourth Grey Cup championship last season. Their backup QB Tino Sunseri has played acceptable football, but there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of confidence as the Riders have coaxed Kerry Joseph out of retirement.
Joseph led the Green Riders to the Grey Cup in 2007 and at 41 years of age, there’s a question of his durability. I find it amusing that many CFL fans would laugh at Anthony Calvillo playing past his 40th birthday and now we see Saskatchewan going down a similar road. Calvillo was still playing great football when his career was abruptly halted last August and the hope is that Joseph can possibly have the same magic that he did in 2007, despite being out of football for some time.
Regardless of who the QB is for Saskatchewan, the Alouettes defense will be ready and waiting this Monday. This group has taken a beating this season and hopefully the bye week has allowed them to recharge their batteries so as to continue playing at an elite level. Once again, this is still Jonathan Crompton’s team even though Troy Smith has been cleared medically and is back to taking reps at practice.
Barring injury, I have my doubts as to whether Smith will take another snap for the Alouettes. If the Alouettes continue to use Crompton and Tanner Marsh the way they did versus Calgary a few weeks ago, I can only see positive outcomes in that. Smith did come in late last year and play some great football, but the players seem to have bought into Crompton as their leader. This upcoming short week and Crompton’s play on Monday will tell the tale on whether Troy Smith will get one last shot at redemption with the Montreal Alouettes in 2014.
Monday’s game will be extremely memorable for at least one good reason; In case you’ve been living under a rock these past few weeks, the legendary Anthony Calvillo will have his #13 retired by the Montreal Alouettes during the Thanksgiving game. A truly great honour for a truly great man.
When AC announced this past winter that he would no longer continue his playing career, it was only a matter of time until the Alouettes would decide when his jersey was being retired. No one can deny that Anthony is the greatest quarterback this Alouettes team (and possibly this league!) has ever seen.
His record speaks for itself and while the Alouettes have retired several numbers already, there is no question that the #13 Calvillo wore from 1998-2013 belongs in that storied group. This Monday, that will happen.
Anthony Calvillo’s number will take residence with several other Alouettes greats such as Sam Etcheverry, Hal Patterson, Junior Ah You and most recently Mike Pringle. There is one glaring omission to that list which many feel would be perfect to add right next to Calvillo’s #13; the number 86 that Ben Cahoon wore so proudly for Montreal.
There was simply no better tandem for the Montreal Alouettes than AC/BC. Like peanut butter and jelly, these two simply went hand in hand. Despite Cahoon being retired since 2011 and his induction most recently into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, the #86 is still not yet officially retired. Though it has never been used extensively outside of Alouettes training camp.
Ask any Alouettes fan who watched these two play together and they’ll agree that Cahoon’s number should be retired alongside of Calvillo’s. Will this ever happen? I sincerely hope so. I still see so many Cahoon jerseys in the stands and the last home game where Cahoon’s HOF achievement was celebrated showed that this city still has a lot of love for the little guy from Utah who’s somehow Canadian.
In a perfect world, BOTH jerseys would be retired on Monday. But alas, it may be better off to leave this day as AC’s. After all, what could be a more fitting time and date (The 13th hour of the 13th day of October) on a holiday that Calvillo has accomplished so much on (football’s all-time passing yards record) versus a team he had so much success against (back-to-back Grey Cup wins against the “13th Man”!)?
This Monday, we shall give thanks to a true legend and with his number being immortalized we will say one more time: Merci Anthony.
If you are planning to be in Montreal for the game this Monday, be sure to swing by the Les Gars Qui Vivent tailgate located at the East side of the stadium entrance. They will be doing their annual Thanksgiving deep-fried turkey and all fans are welcome; just be sure to bring your own beverages and any contributions to the feast will be appreciated as well.
And last but not least…. when the Riders have the ball, BE LOUD!! Last year we got the decibel level up to 100 db, the near equivalent of a jackhammer at work. I know that we can do better and remind Rider Nation whose house they are in. If the Ottawa RedBlacks can register 125 db with their fans last week, I know that Alouettes Nation can top that!
So when Tino Sunseri and his group have the ball on offense, make as much noise as possible and help your defense shut down Saskatchewan’s arsenal of weapons. Your Alouettes will thank you!
Be sure to follow me on Twitter for any last minute news and notes. See you all at the tailgate and enjoy the game, regardless of where you watch it.