Alouettes co-owner Wetenhall rebuilding team, believes ‘Drew Willy is a great football player’

Bill Beacon, Canadian Press

Montreal Alouettes co-owner Andrew Wetenhall says he is just as determined as his father Bob to keep the club afloat and to make them winners again.

It won’t be an easy task with the club out of the CFL playoffs the last three years and attendance in decline at Percival Molson Stadium, but Wetenhall is convinced that the process has begun and that the turnaround on the field can start this season.

“We’re not so delusional to believe that we’re going to win all our games and lose none,” Wetenhall said Monday at the team’s downtown office. “But we expect to see progress and we expect to see a competitive team on the field right away, this year.

“And I’m hopeful that over five years, we go from foundation building to really challenging for the Eastern Conference championship and the Grey Cup. And that’s a reasonable position.”

Bob Wetenhall bought the club in 1997 from Jim Speros, who had moved it to Montreal the year before from Baltimore when the CFL’s experiment with U.S. franchises ended. Without the senior Wetenhall’s enthusiasm, and his apparent willingness to absorb losses, the team may not have survived.

But a move from Olympic Stadium, where they struggled to attract 10,000 fans per game, to their current cosy home on the downtown McGill University campus, saw the Alouettes sell out nearly every game as they dominated the East through the late 1990s and the 2000s.

Now the team is in trouble again, having missed the playoffs three years in a row and losing a franchise record 15 games last season. Average attendance tumbled below the 20,000 mark last season and many games it looked like there were far fewer in the seats.

But Wetenhall said his family is not ready to give up on the club.

“We really want this to be a success,” he said. “It will be an immense amount of effort to turn it around.

“That’s why we’re putting our sweat, blood and, more importantly, investment in it. We wouldn’t do that if we weren’t committed. We’re in the middle of our generational transfer, but that doesn’t diminish the importance of the franchise and the business, or our passion for it at all.”

Bob Wetenhall, who has had health issues in recent years, is still very much in the picture even if Andrew, a New York-based investment banker, has taken over as the team’s lead governor. He still consults his father on big decisions.

“He had a real tough fall with his health and he’s 100 per cent well,” said Wetenhall.

Under Andrew Wetenhall, much has changed. Last season, they parted ways with Jim Popp, the architect of three Grey Cup winners in the 2000s who had been general manager in Montreal since 1996.

Wetenhall has full confidence in his replacement Kavis Reed, who was charged with not only building a winning team, but fixing problems that were harming attempts to sign top free agents. For one, Reed got their old practice field back next to their locker room at Olympic Stadium, eliminating bus rides to a public park.

“We weren’t able to secure players a couple of years ago because they didn’t want to get on a bus,” he said. “One of Kavis’s first things he fixed, he got rid of the bus and found us a field a five-minute walk from our locker room.

“That’s a massive accomplishment. I don’t know if we could have signed the players we did in this off-season without the groundwork Kavis put in place.”

He also liked that Reed stays in the city, while Popp commuted from his home in North Carolina, and is willing to take part in activities in the community.

Reed also brought in former Green Bay Packers boss Mike Sherman to lead a revamped coaching staff.

The biggest challenge is finding a starting quarterback. The Alouettes have gone through more than a dozen since CFL all-time passing leader Anthony Calvillo retired after the 2013 season.

Wetenhall is convinced that Drew Willy, who joined them midway through last season, can be the answer, even if the veteran has struggled in recent years.

“Drew Willy is a great football player,” he said.

Wetenhall, who hired Patrick Boivin as team president last year, has a three-part plan to improve the team – build a winning squad, improve the in-game experience for fans and keep the team active in the community.

“We’re building our team back,” he said. “It’s a building process and we have to kind of build our way out to start winning games and proving to people that we’re a quality football team.”


44 Comments on Alouettes co-owner Wetenhall rebuilding team, believes ‘Drew Willy is a great football player’

  1. MR. Green // June 11, 2018 at 6:39 pm //

    I hope their 3 part plan is successfull. The league needs support there.

    • Klueless Kavis // June 11, 2018 at 8:26 pm //

      “Drew Willy is a great football player,” he said.
      Do they drug test owners?
      “Wetenhall has full confidence in his replacement Kavis Reed.”
      A guy who has failed at every position he has had in the organization.

      and finally:
      “One of Kavis’s first things he fixed, he got rid of the bus and found us a field a five-minute walk from our locker room. That’s a massive accomplishment.”
      Yes, by Kavis’ standards it is.

      Wow. Just wow.

      • I laughed aloud to read Wettenhall pumping Reed’s tires for finding a new practice facility.

        What an accomplishment!

      • True Green // June 12, 2018 at 1:12 am //

        Like the facility wasn’t there before, he just happened to find it? My office is holding a flag football game. Our team has been practising in a park. If that’s all the Als had for a practise field that is a total joke!

  2. True Blue // June 11, 2018 at 6:45 pm //

    I hope they’re successful in building a stronger franchise with better facilities for players and fans alike. You need quality infrastructure in order to attract talent. Would be nice to see some sold out games in Montreal this season. The CFL needs strong Montreal team.

  3. Sun always shines at McMahon // June 11, 2018 at 7:22 pm //

    I believe he can be a great QB in the right situation

    • The “right situation” for Drew Willy would be playing in a YMCA rec league.

      The guy is a horrifically bad QB. His self confidence and mental toughness is even lower than Kevin Glenn’s.

    • True Green // June 12, 2018 at 1:16 am //

      What like my office flag football game? Check your head… oh never mind you’ll never listen to reason. How’s was the Grandslam breakfast with your niece?

    • Yeap Drew Willey would look Amazing starting in True Greens office flag football game, so great comment red ya realy know football much like Andrew , lol ,

  4. Where's Shultz? // June 11, 2018 at 7:27 pm //

    I really enjoy Percival stadium. I’ve only been twice but hope to go more (Cats fan living in MTL). They have some pretty good multi-pack deals and fans are mostly friendly and enthusiastic. The only thing missing is a good team. Anytime I talk to anyone about the CFL all I get is basically ‘I watched Als when they were good’. If the team becomes competitive again, people will start caring again. If they keep finishing in last place no amount of advertising or investment will bring people (and their wallets) to the games.

    The atmosphere is great, as is the location (wish I could say that about Tim Hortons field). Hopefully, for the league’s sake, they can turn it around and win at least 6 games this season.

  5. Billinburlington // June 11, 2018 at 7:46 pm //

    An inciteful article… gives me a bit more confidence in the team knowing there is a plan in place. Truly hope the East is much stronger than in previous years.

    Just hope Wetenhall dealt with yesterday’s embarrassment concerning releasing Fulton in error…. that certainly does not convey an image of a success.

  6. Jim Bob // June 11, 2018 at 8:00 pm //

    Greatness is in the eye of the beholder ass they say. Hope Wetenhall is right where I guess the Riders, Bombers and Argos were wrong in their final assessments on Willy.

  7. Lancaster/Reed // June 11, 2018 at 8:01 pm //

    Given the choices that were available, Willy is the best option at this point. Can he be successful? Maybe. If they keep him upright. But…Keep in mind, Wetenhall also thought Popp was a good choice for head coach.

  8. First of all, hat’s off to the Wetenhall family for their commitment through the profitable times and the challenging times like this. Hope the team does better this year. Not sure Willy’s the answer… he may be a logical back up… but they need to keep searching just in case.

    Ideally it would be great to see a proper renovation done to the stadium… corp. boxes, all those ugly soccer graphics removed from the field at game time. It could be a great boutique stadium in the league.

  9. For seven years while living in PEI, we had seasons’ tix and drove up for the games… Great stadium to watch a game in. And afterwards the walk down from the maintain with 10,000 other fans was special. Of course, it didn’t hurt that AC was qb…

  10. DoubleBlue1873 // June 11, 2018 at 8:46 pm //

    Speaking of renos, when are they going to put armchair seating in place, at least for sections primarily filled by STHs? Aluminum benches aren’t going to cut it anymore (only other stadium with them now is “historic McMahon”). Gotta deliver a better in-game experience to charge those prices. Would take capacity down a bit, but they can’t sell all the seats they have as it is.

  11. Just saying // June 11, 2018 at 9:07 pm //

    This is exactly why Montreal is where they are. He’s happy Kavis has got a practice field and stays in the community? Is he happy with the scouting? Is he happy cause Kavis over spends on free agents? Is he really happy that Kavis didn’t pick up a QB this off season? Name one new player on the team that was scouted this off season? I feel for the fans cause I’ve been down this same road with the 90s era Roughriders.

  12. The two statements,”We’re rebuilding our team” and “Drew Willy is a great football player” pretty much sums up why this team was 3-15 last year and will be hard pressed to do better this season…or in years to come (assuming there are any).

  13. “Drew Willy is a great football player,”

    I don’t know about that, but he’s a mediocre quarterback (at best).

  14. Edward Leslie // June 11, 2018 at 9:26 pm //

    The Wetenhalls deserve respect. They aren’t the Gliebermans. Other than the past three years, they had been the model of consistency and a well run organization.

    Drew Willy is a serviceable quarterback, who might do okay. Alright, not exactly a ringing endorsement, but they are spoiled for choice, aren’t they?
    After all the attention that Johnny Manziel has brought to Hamilton and the CFL, maybe Colin Kaepernick will decide to join Montreal in 2019.
    He could certainly fill some of those empty seats at Percival Molson stadium.

  15. Chris AB // June 11, 2018 at 9:28 pm //

    delusional, incompetent or both? not sure

    to build your resurgence around a 31 year-old QB who was a bust FIVE YEARS AGO, suggests the Alouettes just don’t know the league, the players nor the game

    Drew Willy played in 5 games last year…..threw ONE TD

    thanks for saving the franchise, Wettenhauls…..and thanks for killing it


    • Sadly , and I hope realy HOPE I am wrong , that could be Zac’s stats this year after 5 games (1td) for our Riders, lol . but with Andrews comments I am renewed with hope that if Zac is that bad, Jones can trade ZAC to Montreal , at least for a sack of footballs, or a 4th round draft, at least that would make the Zac experiment an even bust.

      • Relax Rider34. It was a preseason game. “Zach” hasn’t played since the midpoint of last year. If I’m not mistaken Bo almost threw 2-3 interceptions in the first quarter too. Moncrief was in his kitchen that quarter. All this negativeness over the preseason is unwarranted.. Plus Bridge looked no better, He ran back 15 yards and took a major sack his first possession. Again relax.

  16. Dan Bombers // June 11, 2018 at 9:56 pm //

    Wish we had the o line depth we have now when drew was under centre

  17. Yes, prehistoric McMahon Stadium is a shithole, but at least it’s paid for.

    I’d take McMahon and ZERO debt any day over the new stadiums in Regina and Winnipeg with their boat anchor loan that will never, ever, be paid off.

    • True Green // June 12, 2018 at 1:25 am //

      You’re a maroon. Do some research on what these facilities do for the local economy. There used for other events and those events and fb games spin millions Into the business community (and few extra parking bucks for the locals).

      What was Regina supposed to do? Watch old Taylor field fall over one day? Then what? Play in Montreal’s practise park?

      You make good assessments (sometimes) about actual football comments but your uneducated scrub opinions are a joke, my friend. Fact: no one in Sask cares what you think.

      • Please don’t humiliate yourself by spouting such asinine comments about the “economic impact” of sports teams and stadiums.

        People have a limited amount of disposable income to spend. If they use it on CFL tickets, they won’t be going to restaurant or to the movies or to the general store.

        Educate yourself, my friend. Here’s a succinct explanation from an economist. His words, not mine.

        “There are a lot of things economists disagree about, but the economic impact of sports stadiums isn’t one of them.

        “If you ever had a consensus in economics, this would be it,” says Michael Leeds, a sports economist at Temple University. “There is no impact.”

        Leeds studied Chicago – as big a sports town as there is, with five major teams.

        “If every sports team in Chicago were to suddenly disappear, the impact on the Chicago economy would be a fraction of 1 percent,” Leeds says. “A baseball team has about the same impact on a community as a midsize department store.”

        • Moron just close your mouth , YOU KNOW NOTHING about Saskatchewan or rider Nation economy , ya Ontario witless hac!!!!! good god ya just crossed the line!!! your comparing run down urban metropolises , like the crap hole Toronto is , but tells its self much like Calgary it has some significance to the world. from what I have seem, recently there are as many porches et all driving the streets of SASKATOON AND REGINA AS IN TORONTO , or Calgary. Saskatoona nd Regina have many new development areas as fancy as anything in TO or Calgary in fact the new areas of Saskatoon make Edmonton look like a slum. For you cheeseheads that live 2 or 3 provinces away and chirp on Sask based on what ya saw 25 years ago get your freaking butts on a plane and explore the new areas of Saskatoon or Regina, then make your JA comments. not saying that Saskatoon /Regina are changing the world, or big players , but they are very Nice CITIES running at populations of about 300k , fact they are much nicer then ether Calgary or Edmonton were when they were 300k ish 30 years ago. that is what modern technology will do for a province. So no Saskatchewan person is that ‘Po Boy’ un edumicated banjo playin’ bumpkin’ ya all would love to believe exist. Other then the hobbie farmers , even the farmers now are running mulit million dollar operations that are tech savey in order to survive in todays global economy. ,

          • Tailgate YYC // June 12, 2018 at 1:53 pm //

            RIDER 34; you lost me when you ripped Calgary……and you gave Area 51 what he wanted.

        • True Green // June 12, 2018 at 9:43 am //

          Small minded people like yourself may only look at linear results. Have you ever been to Regina or Saskatoon? Quotes from Professor Rosentraub:

          “It’s trying to make sure people understand it’s not about the venue — whether it’s an arena, a ballpark or a stadium — we’re building a new neighbourhood, a new downtown area,”

          “Professional sports and professional entertainment brings people into the city and can’t be duplicated in the suburbs”

          These quotes are with respect to a new arena in saskatoon. The concept is relative to Mosaic in Regina. It’s the same reason why museaums are built: they provide art, sport and culture for the communities. they don’t have to directly pay for themselves when they contribute in other ways to a community. It isn’t all about the money.

  18. Edward Leslie // June 12, 2018 at 12:19 am //

    Area 51:
    The cheque is in the mail.
    Saskatchewan and Winnipeg have prosperous football businesses. They will pay their share of the costs in time.
    It’s really no different than a fan paying off a mortgage on their home… just a much bigger and costlier home.

    • The Bombers portion for that boat anchor of a stadium was $85 MILLION. They’ve been making annual payments of $3.5 MILLION and were fortunate to have the interest portion dumped on taxpayers until this year.

      The amount is down to about $70 MILLION but now the 4.65% interest rate kicks in. This means it’ll cost $3.2 MILLION just to service the debt.

      For the uneducateds trying to follow along, that means just the interest portion alone.

      WTF do you suppose annual payments of $3.5 MILLION are going to accomplish? The Bombers don’t have a hope in hell of ever paying off their debt.

  19. I agree Andrew Wetenhall’ s statement that the biggest challenge is finding a starting quarterback; but most CFL fans agree that Drew Willy is NOT a great QB. He is below average at best and has proven nothing in the CFL. The fact that the Alouettes have gone through more than a dozen since Anthony Calvillo retired after the 2013 season is also a part of the problem. That is an average of more then two QB’s a season over the past four FULL CFL seasons. Its next to impossible to have a winning record and to contend for the Grey Cup when the Alouettes are burning through more then two QB’s a season. I hope that the Alouettes can become contenders within the next two or three seasons for the sake of the CFL as a whole and the Alouette fan base; but as long as Drew Willy is the teams starting QB and Kavis reed is the GM that is unfortunately NOT likely to happen.

  20. Tiger man // June 12, 2018 at 8:40 am //

    “Alouettes co-owner Wetenhall rebuilding team, believes ‘Drew Willy is a great football player’”

    And this is why Reed is still in Montreal, he has ownership there fooled…mind you with their recent history…it`s not surprising…

  21. sth1988 // June 12, 2018 at 9:23 am //

    Love the ‘do they drug test owners’ comment. Excellent point.

  22. Biggest mistake Wetenhall made was not keeping Jim Popp as GM… I’m not a fan of Popp but do respect the man’s ability to find and recruit talented football players…

    I do hope the Als rebound and make it to the ECF where they lose to the Ticats…

    • Tiger man // June 12, 2018 at 3:00 pm //

      Popp at end of it in Montreal got lazy. He wanted to coach so much, he neglected the other job.

      Popp also put all his eggs in the Calvillo basket..and when the player was forced into retirement, there was no plan B (quarterback developed to take over).

      That mistake has cost this team dearly ever since….

  23. 3rd & 1 // June 12, 2018 at 9:45 am //

    Willy plays well as a #2 back up and under the tutelage of a #1 starter. Willy does not have the mental toughness of a starting QB.
    I’m surprised that Kavis wasn’t all over the EE before they traded Franklin.
    Kavis Reed has failed at bringing in good players to the league. He has zero contacts and can only over pay free agents. If this league signs a couple more young inexperienced GMs like Kavis. You can kiss the talent goodbye in this league.
    As Wally’s last year in BC. Kavis should beg Wally to return to Montreal after 2018 strictly as a scout. Where Wally just reaches out to his contacts down south.

  24. Wetenhall also believe’s in Unicorns.

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