Walling: Moncton enhances their CFL reputation

Alex J. Walling
9/26/2011 11:39:21 AM
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Another success for Touchdown Atlantic and one wonders if this part of Atlantic Canada is getting ready for a serious CFL application.

This year, it was the Calgary Stampeders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats that played in the Touchdown Atlantic game. Again this year, it was a near capacity crowd.

The game itself produced heroics by Marcus Thigpen as the Tiger-Cats walloped Calgary, 55-36. In his first start for Hamilton, Thigpen scored three touchdowns.

Again, for the second consecutive year, Moncton made a name for themselves and added to the possibility of a CFL expansion team in the way it held the event.

It was an event that lasted four days.

"Moncton put on, for the second year, quite a show.  The festival was amazing," said CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon.

It saw the teams coming to Moncton (Hamilton) and nearby Prince Edward Island (Calgary) holding clinics and visiting hospitals and schools and, of course, eating lobster.

"This is cool," said Calgary's Henry Burris. "This is like Grey Cup week.  This is a big deal here."

It sure is.

Hamilton had Tiger Town and an open house event for Tiger-Cat fans. It featured the Tiger-Cats cheerleaders and Pigskin Pete and music.

Why, even long-time Tiger-Cat Angelo Mosca was in town to promote his new book.

A university game was scheduled for Moncton as Saint Mary's played Mount Allison and many high school football games and events took place.

Calgary had their events lined up with a pancake breakfast and an open house for their fans.

The CFL did reign this weekend in Moncton.

So, after two years of putting on a great football weekend, where does that leave Moncton as a possible CFL expansion site?

CFL commissioner Mark Cohon is always optimistic but non-committal.

"Moncton has done, once again, a great job but it's too early to talk about expansion," said Cohon.  "It may not be too early to start talking about next year or the year after."

One thing that is being looked at and will be discussed soon is the moving of several Hamilton games in 2013 when their stadium construction is underway.

"That is a definite possibility for a game or two," said Cohon.

The CFL is interested in getting Ottawa back in the fold before it tackles expansion.

In fact, expansion is overdue.  Look at all other sports, from the NHL to the NFL, which has added teams over the decades. The CFL has not expanded (other than the short-lived foray into the USA which did not last) since the B.C. Lions joined the league in the mid 1950's.  That is a long time.

One thing is sure and that is Moncton is in the lead for any CFL expansion and by a large margin.

The reason is simple and while their may be talk of the CFL in London, Windsor, Saskatoon, London, Quebec City and Halifax, that's all it is; talk. Only Moncton has a stadium that can be accommodated to CFL standards.

The others simply have little stadiums good for university ball or none.

And, while Halifax is much bigger than Moncton with an area population approaching 400,000, they don't have a stadium.

In Halifax, they are arguing about applying for a 10,000 seat stadium for the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup.  Some councilors are in favor while others are not. A decision on whether to go ahead will take place in December and still it may be in a bad location and not suitable for CFL expansion.

In other words, they can't decode whether they want a stadium or not.  Moncton decided to build one several years ago.

Moncton has a five-year lead on everybody. And in the East Coast race for that elusive CFL franchise, they hold a super lead on Halifax.

A stadium and two successful CFL regular season games under their belt, that's a big deal.

And, while they don't have the same population base as Halifax, Moncton is positioning itself as a central place to go to a football game. They have three cities to draw from in their own province, such as Fredericton, Saint John and Miramichi. Moncton also draws from PEI, Nova Scotia and even from Maine. 

There are some two million fans within 2.5 hours of that city.  That is more than enough to draw for a CFL team.  By the way, some Calgary fans came all the way from Alberta for this tilt.

If there is one thing that Moncton has shown us that Halifax cannot seem to do is that Moncton can and has done it.

For that, Moncton should be congratulated. They started out with a plan for an international track and field event and parlayed that into a new 10,000-seat stadium.  They made sure the stadium had grounds to expand on and did so.

In other words, they've done everything right.

It's one thing to talk about Halifax as the big centre of Atlantic Canada, and yes, it is the ideal place for a CFL franchise, based on population but, right now, population is all Halifax has.  Things such as a leader in the battle to get a CFL-size stadium and a vision to do so are non-existent.

Moncton has everything else.

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