Thursday 8 August 2013

A tough loss for the Als, but memorable experience for one young fan and his parents

The August 8, 2013 game at Percival Molson Stadium pitting the host Montreal Alouettes against the defending Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts had so many things going in its favor.

-An original forecast of rain and thundershowers turned out to be one of the nicest evenings we have seen all summer;
-Als general manager Jim Popp was the new head coach, taking over from the over matched Dan Hawkins;
-The Als did win their last  game and with a 2-3 record a win would place them in a tie with the 3-2 Argos.

Well the Als lost 38-13, falling behind   28-0 at one point. Nonetheless,   family members who saw the game with me from the 10 yard line behind the visitors bench (their first visit ever to the refurbished stadium) had only good things to say. Of course the final score was a disappointment, but there is such  a warm ambiance in this place it is fun to be there. It is fitting that just before the opening kickoff they play the song  Beautiful Day by U2. As I explained to my family, if it were not for a U2 concert at Olympic Stadium many years ago, forcing the Als to switch a game to Percival Molson, we probably would not even have a CFL team now.
Mark Weightman

The Big O  was not working for the Als, a team which had already folded once before. They were brought back to life when the Baltimore Stallions needed a new home. The U2 fix showed that a smaller stadium in the downtown area was just what they needed. After countless years with capacity crowds, the  provincial and municipal governments teamed up with Als owner Robert Wetenhall to invest nearly $30-million in the stadium on the McGill campus. This  included 19 new luxury boxes and 5,000 additional permanent seats, including an upper deck on the south side of the stadium, bringing capacity to 25,012. There is a diamond vision scoreboard, proper concession stands and bathrooms, a good sound system and plenty of in-between the whistle promotions.

Chief Operating Officer Mark Weightman is doing all of the right things, with staffers like community relations manager Denburk Reid making sure the Alouettes branding is strong year-round. Weightman is responsible for the business side of things. Popp must deal with the on field product. The season is only six games old; there are 12 regular season matches to go. Give Popp some time and the Als will be back in the playoffs.
Bernie Lebovits, Natalie Castiel, Daniel Lebovits and Charles-André  Marchand.

When I visited the Als press box at half time, the happiest people in the stadium were probably the father and son team of Bernie and Daniel Lebovits. At the Cummings Centre for Seniors Foundation Sports Celebrity Breakfast last April, Bernie outbid everyone in the room for a chance to sit in the French language radio broadcast booth of 98.5 FM with Charles-André Marchand and Bruno Heppell for a  regular season game.  This was the game. Bernie's wife and Daniel's mom Natalie took in the experience as well. Daniel, wearing a set of earphones and wearing the shirt of his favorite Al ever - the now retired Etienne Boulay - was leaning over the ledge of the broadcast booth breathing in the entire experience.

"Even though the Als lost, Daniel, Nat and myself had a great time being in the booth of 98.5," Bernie told me after the game. "Our wonderful hosts Charles-André Marchand and former Al  Bruno Heppell made it a night to remember. Seeing how a game is called, was thrilling. Along the way, we also met former Al, Anwar Stewart and Danny Deriveaux. These are memories that Daniel will remember for a long time. Most importantly, the donation we made to enjoy this football evening went to help the seniors at the Cummings Centre."

Don't despair Als fans! Suport your team and win or lose you will enjoy the experience of attending a home game.

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