TORONTO — The CFL could prove to be a pivotal figure in the potential sale of the Montreal Alouettes.
The prevailing sentiment Sunday at the CFL combine was the existence of a scenario where the league could assume operating the Alouettes while it looks to find a new owner for the troubled franchise.
The idea isn't a new one. Former Alouettes running back Eric Lapointe, who has stated publicly he could quickly put together a local ownership group for the CFL team, suggested last week to The Canadian Press that "it seems like" owner Robert Wetenhall would be selling the franchise to the league.
There were reports last week the Alouettes were close to being sold. But club president Patrick Boivin denied the franchise was up for sale.
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie reiterated Sunday the league continues to work with the Alouettes for the best possible scenario for the franchise.
"What I can say is this," Ambrosie said. "We've had a several months-long conversation with the Wetenhall family that's focused on one thing: How do we get the Alouettes back to where everyone wants them to be?
"Successful on and off the field and that's where we are. Exactly how that plays out and what the steps we take are all still being discussed and talked about."
On Sunday, Lapointe said in a text he has yet to be contacted about putting together a group to buy the Alouettes. The 44-year-old Montreal native, a two-time Hec Crighton Trophy winner, played six seasons with the CFL club through the 2006 campaign.
Lapointe, who was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2012, is currently a managing director with Stonegate Private Counsel in Montreal. His offices assist high net-worth entrepreneurs with sustaining, growing and transitioning their wealth.
Wetenhall has owned the Alouettes for more than 20 years. He resurrected the franchise in '97 after it was revoked from Michael Gelfand and declared bankruptcy. Wetenhall also assumed the organization’s debts despite not legally being obligated to do so.
Early in Wetenhall’s tenure, the Alouettes were a CFL powerhouse. From 1999 to 2012, the Alouettes finished atop the East Division nine times and advanced to the Grey Cup on eight occasions, winning three.
But Montreal hasn’t been to the Grey Cup since winning it in 2010 and has posted a record of .500 or better in just three seasons since. The Alouettes haven't reached the playoffs since 2014.
Montreal has amassed a dismal 21-51 record over the last four seasons.
Wetenhall was a former part-owner of the Boston Patriots (AFL) and New England Patriots (NFL). In 2011, he received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from McGill University for his work with the Alouettes and expansion of Percival Molson Stadium.
Wetenhall was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2015.