Wednesday 1 May 2013

Making Impact: A soccer game at Saputo Stadium is excellent entertainment

Via my job as communications and marketing specialist at the English Montreal School Board, I have been part of a terrific partnership we have enjoyed with the Montreal Impact soccer team for the past eight years now. During the off season, players visit schools and share with students the opportunity of playing an elite level of sport while maintaining the importance of a strong educational background. Then, in May or June, we have our annual Impact Night in which students, staff and their families buy tickets at a discounted price. We at the EMSB are recognized on the scoreboard and two students are awarded $500 scholarships.

In past years we have ran into poor weather conditions which affected the final turnout. Well this was definitely not the case on May 1, 2013, a date we chose many months ago not knowing the weather forecast or whether the Canadiens would be playing an important playoff game.  We selected a game pitting Montreal against Toronto FC. This was part of the Amway Canadian Championship, which involves the four top professional clubs in Canada, in the race to qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League. That is an international competition between professional clubs from North America, Central America and the Caribbean. Last week Montreal lost to Toronto 2-0. The way this tournament works, the Impact would have had to score three more goals than their opponent to advance to the next round. The final score was 6-0 Montreal. It was an absolutely spectacular game to watch, with tremendous excitement in the crowd (thanks in great part to the boisterous fan club known as the Ultras); the weather could not have been more beautiful; the stadium is a work of art; and thanks to a Rihanna Concert, the first Canadiens playoff game was scheduled for the following evening.

A view from up top

I was a soccer fan dating back to the days when the Montreal Manic packed Olympic Stadium back in the 1980s. Over the years I warmed up to the Impact, which thanks to team president Joey Saputo's tenacity were accepted to Major League Soccer and not only had this magnificent open air stadium built - but last year it was expanded. Folks, it is worth coming to a game just to experience the stadium. The Saputos need to be saluted for not asking the taxpayers to contribute a dime.

Personally,  I do not expect the Canadiens to go past the first round this year.  Check the Impact schedule out online and consider going to a game.

There are just over 20,000 seats, about one-third of which are covered in the event of rain. There is plenty of paid parking, the Viau Metro station on site and restaurants galore in the area.

A photo from field level.

Saputo has assembled a great staff, many of whom I have had the pleasure to get to know over the years. I must credit my good friend Mario Bentrovato for initiating this entire  EMSB-Impact venture. At the EMSB office, my colleague Daniel Smajovits worked overtime with his Impact group sales contact Fern Da Silva in selling more than 2,600 tickets. Sporting Director Nick De Santis is an EMSB grad (John F. Kennedy High School) as is assistant coach Mauro Biello (St. Monica and Marymount).  Director of Ticket Sales and Services Brian Weightman (whose brother Mark is COO of the Alouettes), Executive Vice-President Richard Legendre, Communications Director Patrick Vallée and Communications Coordinator Eric Forest are consummate professionals,

Matt Jordan
Director of Soccer Operations Matt Jordan is one impressive individual whom I got to meet for the first time.  Jordan had a 13 year professional soccer career as a goalkeeper the last four with the Impact. He is a native of Denver, Colorado who graduated from Clemson University with a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing and a minor in Sports Marketing. So it was a stroke of genius by Saputo to move him into the head office, where he oversees the day to day operations of the club, manages the salary and technical operation budget and serves as a liaison between the team and the league.

Jordan told me how he and his wife, along with their two young children, settled in St. Léonard. The kids now attend the EMSB's Honoré Mercier Elementary School and have picked up the French language nicely. His wife even spends time there as a volunteer librarian. 

Here is my video interview with Jordan,  in which he describes his job, his career and what it has been like settling in Montreal with his family.

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