Montreal·Analysis

Can the Alouettes write the final chapter of their 2023 fairy tale?

The Alouettes haven't played in a Grey Cup final since 2010 but they shocked the Argonauts in the East Division final. Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are going to their fourth Grey Cup game in as many years. Can the Alouettes pull off a victory? Some CFL fans are hoping so.

Montreal needs 1 more improbable victory for this season to end 'happily ever after'

A football player empties a large gatorade cooler of orange liquid onto a laughing coach as another player looks on.
Montreal Alouettes linebacker Frederic Chagnon (49) douses Alouettes head coach Jason Maas, centre, after defeating the Toronto Argonauts in CFL Eastern Conference finals football action in Toronto on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Like Cinderella at the ball in her perfectly tailored dress, the Alouettes have been looking great in the days leading up to the 110th Grey Cup.

Riding into Hamilton in the royal carriage reserved for the Eastern Conference champions, Montreal is on a seven-game winning streak. The last game was an utterly unexpected shellacking of the Toronto Argos, a team some dubbed "the best in a generation" after they finished the regular season with a franchise-record 16 wins.

But the Als haven't snagged a kiss with the prince — or the cup — just yet. And the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are likely to be more of an obstacle to this fairy-tale ending than a couple of devious stepsisters.

This is the fourth Grey Cup in a row that Winnipeg and its fans have earned an invite to. So this week, when it comes to the Bombers, the word dynasty is being discussed. And while another Grey Cup win would leave anyone arguing against it in a tough spot, it also comes with some fatigue from neutral fans.

Man in a blue football uniform slumps on bench with towel on his face.
Toronto Argonauts wide receiver David Ungerer III (83) sits on the bench after losing to the Montreal Alouettes in CFL Eastern Division final football action in Toronto, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

"Oh, you're from Montreal," a woman wearing a Stampeders sweater said to me in Fan Central in downtown Hamilton on Thursday.

"We're a group of six from Western Canada. All of us, other than the guy from Winnipeg, are pulling for the Alouettes this weekend. We'd like to see the Bombers taken down a notch."

The Alouettes last appearance in the Grey Cup was in 2010. That year, quarterback Anthony Calvillo led the team to a 21-18 win over Saskatchewan, ripping the hearts out of Riderville for a second year in a row in the big game.

It was back-to-back titles for the Als in Montreal's eighth appearance in the Grey Cup in 11 years. Safe to say, there weren't many Western Canadians celebrating on that day in Edmonton 13 years ago.

Player in a blue and gold football uniform appears to be roaring.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers wide receiver Kenny Lawler (89) reacts to a play during practice in Hamilton, Ont., Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023. While some think the team has the makings of a dynasty, others think it needs to be taken down a notch. (Nick Iwanyshyn/The Canadian Press)

If my unofficial straw poll of a few folks in Fan Central means anything, it feels like things might be different this Sunday.

Unlike last time, it feels novel for Montreal to be here.

Thirteen years without an appearance marks the longest active streak of not playing in a Grey Cup in Canada's nine-team league.

Three football players dressed in red and blue uniforms rejoice,
Montreal Alouettes quarterback Cody Fajardo, centre, reacts with teammates Landon Rice (55) and Justin Lawrence (54) during second half CFL East Division finals football action in Toronto on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

What makes breaking the drought even more exciting for Als fans is that this success feels like it came out of nowhere.

At the start of the season, Montreal had a new owner, new president, new head coach and a new starting quarterback. It's not your typical formula for success. You have to hand it to general manager Danny Maciocia, he built a winner when few thought it was possible.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The job isn't done yet. After all, no one would have ever even heard of Cinderella if she had just gone home after the ball and there wasn't that final "who-saw-that-coming?!?" dramatic moment when the prince showed up the next day with her slipper.

For the Alouettes' 2023 season to have a happily-ever-after ending, it's going to take another unexpected twist. Grab your popcorn. If this season has taught Alouettes fans anything, it's that everything can happen.

WATCH | Al's general manager Danny Maciocia explains his strategy and values:

A sit down with Alouettes GM Danny Maciocia

4 years ago
Duration 2:35
Danny Maciocia tells CBC's Douglas Gelevan why he chose to join the Als now, and what he hopes to accomplish.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Douglas Gelevan is a national award-winning journalist who has been a member of the CBC team since 2010. In addition to his role as host of CBC Montreal Weekend News, Doug also covers community sports and sports news.

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