Vanier Cup: Laval sets a standard for host cities

Université Laval made people forget no one wanted to host the Vanier Cup.

It was a scene to share with the knee-jerk CIS knockers who have said Canadians will never create the U.S. college sports atmosphere for themselves. We'll never put 80,000 people in a stadium every Saturday (just like almost every country in the world other than the U.S.), but pound for pound, the 18,628 who were at Stade PEPS were loud, into it and they did in a Canadian way. Emotions might have run high (guilty as charged), but there was little sign of tension or people getting carried away with their support of their teams. It was an equal mix of loud and proud while being laid-back. It reflected who we are, the passion of the Quebec City fans mixing in with the Queen's kids with their politically-incorrect signs and a capella chorus of "Jim-my All-in!"

A lot of credit is due to Laval. Gilles Lépine and the organizing committee went all-out to make everyone feel like this was the place to be for anyone who holds CIS football near and dear. It was an Oktoberfest run by the Swiss. At 7 a.m., people were out tailgating; by 7 p.m., there was no trace of all the merriment, not a single stray beer can lying on the ground. Talk about breaking one Canadian stereotype — that we don't know how to cut loose — while confirming another.

A work colleague who makes regular pilgrimages to U.S. college football haunts noted, "That's how it should be everywhere in Canada."

That too-much-geography, not-enough-history comes into play with our collegiate sports culture. We don't call rivalry games long called the Civil War (until now). On a small scale, though, it captured what is good and right about university football, down to the last detail. Hearing the quarterback of the western team, Calgary's Erik Glavic, and the coach of the Ontario team, Queen's Pat Sheahan, do media interviews in French (and sounded more elegant than I do in English) brought to mind that Canadians get along pretty well, for all the complaining we sometime do.

(As a footnote, Sheahan had the sensitivity to point out to reporters his three children were each born in Québec, and his son Devan, who caught a touchdown pass, came into the world in 1987, when his dad was offensive coordinator of McGill's Vanier Cup team.)

Point being, Laval threw one hell of a party because it was better than having another dreary, muted proceeding. They won't make a killing off the game(although it will help with getting the infrastructure for the long awaited Super PEPS), but the goodwill should be paid forward. My SSN Canada colleague John Bower has been to almost 10 Vaniers and he said this was the best by far.

One could only hope that a few observers from other schools in Ontario, Québec and the West took notes. After this, there is no way the Vanier Cup can go back to a city where it is going to be forgotten and neglected like it was toward the end of its run in Toronto, once the novelty of playing at Rogers Centre (né SkyDome) wore off. Other schools must follow the lead of Laval (keeping in mind McMaster and Saskatchewan got it started) and say, we can do this.

The only downside? Stade PEPS cannot be bottled and taken all over the country in coming seasons. There is no way you could justify holding it at PEPS every season — there are 26 head coaches who would never go for that — but hopefully we'll see one of those other 26 schools try to replicate that atmosphere.

The 18,628 was the most for an outdoor Vanier Cup since 1984 and second-highest since '80.

Coupe Vanier: le coeur à la fête (Marie-Josée Nantel, Le Soleil)
Brannagan savait que les Gaels pouvaient rebondir (Jean-François Tardif, Le Soleil)
Les Gaels champions! (Jean-François Tardif, Le Soleil)
Inconsolable, Glavic prend le blâme (Olivier Bossé, Le Soleil)
Coupe Vanier: pour l'amour du football (Mikaël Lalancette, Le Soleil)
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  1. Bravo Laval. I have been to some very big events in my life including Queen's Plate as a youngster with Northern Dancer winning in the mid 1960's, attending last games of MLG and Chicago Stadium for the NHL, Daryl Sittler's 10 point game in the mid 1970's, Canada Cup final game in the early '90's and this game yesterday I attended was right up there with all of those.

    This was like a home game for Queen's and as I predicted here late last week there was at least 3,000 Queen's supporters in the stand. The parking lot tailgating atmosphere was electric , the Laval hosts were especially gracious and the game itself was riveting. Sipping on a beverage at 9:30 am with no OPP or City Police was lurker was something difficult to find in the OUA parking lots. While the Queen's alumni area was a "happening spot" the Laval fans/attendees were just as interesting and hospitable. The Laval fans were fabulous with coming to the Queen's area with extra tickets for sale when available.

    One note however to organizers , is to get less serious about the issue going onto the field as we did. The Queen's fans despite being told they would help delay the Cup presentation, waited and stormed the field in front of the gendarmes that put on very brave faces. No damage to the turf at all.

    BTW, as an early fifty something fan prior to the field being invaded, I reminded one of the local constabulatory (en francais I might add), that they were soon to be bits of sand in our wave of excitement. Thankfully , they took the high road and turned away as we went onto the field. This is an OUA tradition that even Rouge et Or fans enjoyed last year at Vanier and have enjoyed even back to a game in 2002 at Ivor Wynne.

    Thanks Quebec City/Laval for a job that was excellent. I am contemplating going ahead and buying a ticket for next year's Vanier as soon as they are available

  2. Alain J Lajoie12/01/2009 3:56 pm

    Alain J.Lajoie

    I was among the thousands of R&O season ticket holders who attended the game last saturday. Of course,I was sad not to cheer for our home team, witch we were so certain was going to be part of this game. I wondered if many fans would simply sell their tickets and watch the game on TV. I can tell nobody did, at least in my seating section. I am especially proud of the attitude of all fans in the stadium. I decided to support Queen's, eventhough they defeted Laval, they deserved it in my opinion.But a large portion of the attendance took for Calgary,and many others for Queen's. And for that it was fun.Every one was realy enjoying the game and applauding nice plays.No harsh feelins,no complaint, just people chanting and laughing.Maybe ,if we are lucky enough to cheer for Laval in the Vanier game next year, we can show we still respect the adversary even when our own team is in the battle. I hope there wont be another controversy about tickets next year.