Wednesday 6 May 2015

Time for sports fans to really get behind the Impact

While the Montreal Canadiens were on their way to a third straight loss in their best of seven division final series with the Tampa Bay Lightning, I was at Saputo Stadium to watch the hometown Impact soccer team defeat Toronto FC 1-0 in the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship, which involves the five top professional clubs in Canada, in the race to qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League. This is an international competition between professional clubs from North America, Central America and the Caribbean.  Montrealers are quite familiar with it all now since the Impact went all the way to the finals against Club America of Mexico, with more than 61,000 people pouring into Olympic Stadium last  week.

Saputo Stadium, which is a work of art, was hardly filled to capacity on this night as many fans no doubt stayed home to watch the Habs self destruct. Sorry folks, but it is curtains for the Canadiens. They will not win four straight. Hats off to them for a terrific 2014-15 season. It is now time to get behind the Impact and the Alouettes.

On  a warm and sunny evening as it was Wednesday, there is  no better place to be than an open air stadium the likes of Saputo. It kind of brings to mind all of the talk about how the Expos would have survived if that downtown outdoor stadium had been built near the Bell Centre.

There was great end to end action and  Jack McInerney's goal at the 68th minute was a thing of beauty, bringing the crowd to its feet.

O Canada is sung at Saputo Stadium

I was delighted to see an Impact first on this night - a first at least in some time. A young lady was brought on to the field to sing the national anthem. What a breath of fresh air! For years the Impact have either completely ignored  the anthem or just played the instrumental version. "This was just a test," a senior staffer told me. Let's hope owner Joey Saputo gave this test a thumbs up!
Adam Braz

Adam Braz
Before the game I chatted with Adam Braz, a former star defender with the team. When he retired a few years ago, he was appointed club manager. The role mostly dealt with logistical matters and support for players getting settled in the city. He left two seasons ago to join the family real estate business, but when the team's technical director Matt Jordan was hired by Houston last fall to become their general manager, Joey Saputo wisely repatriated Braz. A well spoken and educated young man, I have always considered Braz to one of the franchise's best ambassadors. While he has a heavy load to carry in his new job, somehow the team must find a way to get him out on the speaking circuit. He can sell tickets! See my video interview with him below.