Football is family is football
The John Abbott Islanders are going to the Bol d'Or this year and there's a family connection for me -- and it is very exciting for reasons you probably don't quite understand. Please allow me to elaborate.
First off, the last time the Islanders won a football Bol d'Or was 2002. That, in and of itself, is worthy of remembrance, but despite having turned out some legendary football players over the years, (Mike Soles and Louis-Phillippe Ladouceur come to mind) and championships have been few and far between. There were some Bol d'Or titles in the late '70s, but only the one since.
Those decades of frustration seem to have turned around, though, with the arrival of Pat Gregory as head coach just a few years ago. Gregory came to the job after having served as the offensive coordinator for the Universite de Montreal Carabins and the receivers coach for the Concordia Stingers. Full disclosure: Gregory was on staff at Concordia when I played there and I consider him to be a tremendous football mind. Couple that with the return of former Isles head coach Bob Bindon as offensive line coach, the exposure of players to such respected football minds as quarterbacks coach Stan Gendron, (another) former Isles head coach Dennis Waide as defensive coordinator and former North Shore legend Shaun Romeo as receivers coach, and there is a critical mass of knowledge and coaching acumen around the program the likes of which many teams have never seen.
It's an exciting time.
It's very exciting for players; it's also an exciting time for their families. Even if it's my extended family, it's still there. My baby sister married a local soccer player in 2005, and one of their nephews will line up at left guard for the Islanders when they square off with the College Edouard Montpetit Lynx Friday night in Thetford-Mines.
Andrew Pearson is a second-year starter from Pierrefonds, whose path to John Abbott is pretty typical. An Alexander Park grad, he played his bantam and midget years with North Shore before coming to John Abbott, said his mother, Cynthia Romani, who let slip that the whole family -- including his grandparents -- would be on the fan bus going down to the game.
Well, it just won't do to to have former coaches of mine (Bindon, Waide and Ted Wall were all on staff when I played for John Abbott in 1994), former colleagues of mine on coaching staffs (Gendron at LCC in 2011 and 2012) and even former classmates and teammates (Romeo and I played together for North Shore in 1996 and went to Lindsay Place High School together) and even family members going all the way down to Thetford-Mines, just to come home disappointed.
It's not my only family connection, either. My cousin, Maxime Payant, was a defensive lineman on the 2002 team, as well. Family is football is family.
Like many locals, I'm interested in the game as well, but I don't have it in me to drive to Thetford Mines on Friday night. So, I'm going to go to Kelly's Old Orchard in Pointe Claire (88 Donegani Ave.) and watch it there. Kids are welcome. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
Andrew, I'm sure this advice may go unheeded, but here goes, anyway.
Have fun! Enjoy every minute and get ready to play the fastest game of your life (championship games are always a little faster), and play with love in your heart for your teammates, your school and your family. You do that? You cannot lose.
Good luck, Islanders, and may you play free of stress and constraints. You cannot lose when you go out there with love in your heart.
I'll be rooting for you.