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)