It was the annual dinner between Alouettes coaches and journalists, Thursday at the Olympic Stadium. An appointment that had not taken place for a few years due to the pandemic.
The microphones are closed during this meeting when it’s time to discuss something other than football. For example, Luc Brodeur-Jourdain recounted how he had transformed a dusty room at the Olympic Stadium that was no longer used into a bedroom for him and his offensive linemen.
“There was stock in there! Furniture that hadn’t been used for a long time, old equipment. I emptied everything, cleaned the room and even fixed an old hot tub, which may not have been used since Expos days. »
The group of coaches of the Birds devoted a good part of the day Thursday to packing the things which will be transported to Trois-Rivières, where the training camp of the club will begin, Sunday morning. Most of the members of the organization, including the players, will go to the campus of the University of Quebec in Trois-Rivières, where they will stay, on Saturday.
Since May 1, the Alouettes’ coaches have held numerous meetings and done preparation work for camp and the next season, which will begin on June 9 with a matchup with the Stampeders in Calgary.
“We’ve hardly been out for several days. This is what is difficult about working in the Olympic Stadium, we have no windows in our offices. It will be good to get outside a bit,” noted André Bolduc, running backs manager and assistant to Khari Jones.
As the CFL and Players’ Association continue to negotiate to renew a contract that will expire at midnight Saturday night, Als coaches didn’t seem particularly nervous that training camp isn’t going as planned. foreseen. Can the CFL really afford a labor dispute after the lost 2020 season and the shortened 2021 season?
“I agree, but if it’s true that the CFL is proposing a 10-year salary freeze, the players may have no choice but to strike,” replied one of the Alouettes’ coaches. .
For the first time since Barron Miles became the club’s defensive coordinator, the author of these lines has met him in the flesh. We talked about his stay with the Pittsburgh Steelers, his years in Nebraska with the Cornhuskers in the NCAA and his arrival in Montreal and with the Alouettes. He spent eight seasons with the organization as a defensive back in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Then the conversation turned to the new CFL rules. In the opinion of the Alouettes coaches, it is the change in the hash marks, which will be closer to the center of the field, which will have the greatest impact. But unlike his colleagues on offense, Miles doesn’t believe this will significantly change things from a strategic standpoint.
“Not early in the season, at least. In the end, it will remain football. There will be new games, but all the teams will adjust. »
Still, it fell to receivers coach Michael Lionello to update the drawings of all of the team’s offensive plays. He had to work hard to get there, we can guess. The CFL officially adopted its new rules only a few weeks ago, which obviously didn’t help…
The lines at the Cégep de Trois-Rivières Diablos stadium, where the team will train over the next few weeks, should normally be repainted with the new location of the hash marks.
Khari Jones visited the Diablos home ground last week and liked what he saw. “The playing surface is in very good condition and it’s a good place to hold a camp. »
Especially when the other option is Montreal and its nightlife.
Diablos coach Francois Dussault also made a very good impression on Jones. Son of Jacques Dussault, the godfather of Quebec football if there is one, he will be the host of the Alouettes in Trois-Rivières.
“He grew up in football and it shows. I saw him lead a training session for his team last week and you quickly see that he knows football very well. After speaking with François for a few minutes, I immediately knew that we would be in very good hands in Trois-Rivières. I quickly felt confident. »
Bit of a chat with Anthony Calvillo, too. The greatest player in franchise history was beaming Thursday, light years ahead of the disillusioned and frustrated coach who left the team after the disastrous 2017 season, the one in which Kavis Reed lost all nine games after losing replaced Jacques Chapdelaine as head coach midway through the schedule. By an average of 26 points!
Calvillo is also increasingly fluent in French. Our conversation on Thursday was in both languages. The quarterbacks coach often speaks in French with his family at home and watches French shows on television.
When I asked Calvillo if the Alouettes’ current offense could be the club’s most successful since he retired almost 10 years ago, a sparkle appeared in his eyes. “This attack has a lot of talent. I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish this season. »
It’s not just the offense that looks to be at its strongest in the last 10 years. The group of coaches seems particularly solid, too. But when it was pointed out to Barron Miles, the defensive coordinator reminded that the team’s fans shouldn’t get carried away too quickly.
“Yes, our team ‘seems’ strong on paper and yes, our coaching staff ‘seems’ strong, too. But to seem and to be are two quite distinct things. If we don’t win, it won’t mean anything. »
Indeed. The long six-month marathon that the Alouettes will begin in the coming days can only be considered a success if it does not end with the Gray Cup game on November 20 in Regina. And everyone in the organization understands that.