It’s not exactly the return from leave that Danny Maciocia was expecting. Returning Tuesday from his winter vacation, he was in the office Wednesday for the dinner meeting between the team’s coaching staff and members of the media.
In fact, things are moving so fast that at the time of talking to reporters, he had not yet met his new boss, Pierre Karl Péladeau. The new team owner had mentioned it in a press briefing, but the conversation the two men had was rudimentary, the communication being scrambled because Maciocia was on a cruise.
“It was a conversation that lasted three, four minutes, admitted the GM of the Alouettes, Wednesday noon, on the sidelines of a rather convivial lunch. We understood that we were going to exchange emails and text messages while waiting. I can’t wait to meet him in person. »
Anyway, it doesn’t take long to scratch to realize that everyone in the team’s offices is breathing better now that the team has a proper owner, and is no longer under the guardianship of the Canadian League.
“But it had to be ‘business as usual’ in the meantime, otherwise we would have lost everyone during the free agents. So we had to work twice as hard, because we knew we were going to play games next season. »
Archambault mentions free agents because the period of uncertainty before the arrival of the new owner coincided with the opening of the market on February 14. In the days leading up to it, the team had their hands tied. Coincidence or not, the Alouettes lost quarterback Trevor Harris and receivers Eugene Lewis and Jake Wieneke, who took advantage of their autonomy to lift the markers.
“What was difficult was that the uncertainty came at the worst time, during free agency,” confirmed new Alouettes head coach Jason Maas.
The team tried to close the loopholes, including coming to terms with quarterback Cody Fajardo and receiver Greg Ellingson, but the instability was nonetheless disturbing.
This is why the arrival of a new owner is greeted with a sigh of relief. Luc Brodeur-Jourdain, member of the organization as a player, then as a coach, since 2019, knows something about it.
“I’ve been through ups and downs here, and it’s good to know that we’re owned by a local guy who’s willing to put his shoulder to the wheel, but the wallet too, recalled the offensive line coach. He’s a guy who understands that it’s an important organization in Quebec. To still be under the tutelage of the league, it was disappointing. Not that we felt that our jobs were at risk, because we were assured that we were moving forward, that the league covered our costs, that it was “business as usual”. But since I arrived with the Alouettes, I have always seen a reduction in staff and budgets. We always had less. And for a week, we have more. »
For the first time since the return of the Alouettes in 1996, the team is therefore owned by Quebec interests.
“It makes all the difference in the world,” Maciocia believes. When you come from the place, whether you are an owner, GM or player, it comes with pride. I worked in Edmonton for nine years. I can’t say I wasn’t proud to be part of it. But it’s not the same pride as for the Montreal Alouettes.
“It’s stability, it’s so important,” adds the GM. We haven’t really experienced that lately, there were more subjects off the pitch than on the pitch! Mr. Péladeau has had a lot of success, he is a proud Montrealer, a proud Quebecer, he has ties with the province. We are really motivated. His way of expressing himself has inspired many people in our office. There is work to be done, but we are relieved. »
Now that the team has changed hands, it will need a president. The former leader, Mario Cecchini, recently appointed commissioner of the QMJHL, also came for a ride on Wednesday, but his succession has still not been formalized. “It’s important that this gets sorted out,” Maciocia agreed. What is important, and we share this with Mr. Péladeau, is that we have to be aligned, that we share the same vision, the same values. If we are well aligned, we can dream of winning on the field and having success off the field. Recall that the name of Annie Larouche, vice-president of operations for the Montreal Alliance and former employee of the Alouettes for 25 years, is one of those who have circulated in recent days.