Eric Lapointe is exactly the type of owner that the Montreal Alouettes need.
The Canadian Football Hall of Fame running back lowered his pads and met the idea of buying the team with full force.
“Yes, it’s something that would be very interesting for me. I was surprised that they were not actually ready to listen for anything. Maybe the approach wasn’t right because the person that talked to the lawyer first – Paul Harris – was talking about the full acquisition and maybe should approach with a partnership instead, but anyway that’s in the past now,” Lapointe said on TSN 690 radio in Montreal.
“We always said that we were in. Now probably the same group would be there and probably now two years later they’re probably even more people, but we’re running out of time. It’s past March and the draft is coming. I’m not really sure, it’s been very silent since last week. It’s weird. Is there something going on with the league? The commissioner seemed to say that he was talking with the Wetenhalls to make the team better, but what does it mean? I’m not exactly sure. But if they need me, just tell me how much and I’ll write the cheque. I don’t think there’s any other way.”
Lapointe played the last six seasons of his CFL career for the Alouettes and believes the franchise can thrive in La Belle Province.
“It’s a smaller business obviously than the Montreal Canadiens, it’s even a smaller business than what we have right now for most of the people that are in the group. Yes, there’s different aspects to it. There’s obviously football ops, there’s administration and then the coaching and the actual game, which is three different things. If somebody thinks that they can manage the three at the same time, I mean they’re wrong and that’s probably what’s happened for the past couple years,” Lapointe said.
“It’s been such a freaking nightmare to look at all this and people fired after one year, it needs to be cleaned up. I said that 20 years ago and it’s still not fixed. Am I interested to fix it? Yes, for sure. I know exactly where to start. It’s an interesting business, but don’t get me wrong it’s not a passion investment for me. I believe there’s potential. I’ve seen numbers in the past and I’ve talked to many teams in the league also. It’s probably not a team that you could make 10 millions of profit every year… but as a group if we bring different type of people, different type of expertise, we can do great things for a small organization.”
Robert Wetenhall has owned the team since 1997 when he brought the team back from the brink of insolvency. He was responsible for the team’s successful relocation to Percival Molson Stadium and played in a role in the stadium’s expansion. He oversaw the team’s run of dominance from 1999 to 2012 when the Als finished first in the East Division nine times in 14 seasons, winning three Grey Cups.
“This organization was so strong back then when it was a team of the people. Again there is room for the team of the people because the Montreal Canadiens, yeah we love them, but they’re unaccessible for a lot of people. It’s more expensive. The players are different,” Lapointe said.
“For us we need to build the team like it was back in the days around Quebecers. We need to make sure that we do like Larry Smith was doing – shaking hands, getting involved. It’s a different type of organization, but it doesn’t mean that it sucks. It doesn’t mean that it’s bad – I think it’s a fantastic business.”
Montreal Gazette beat man Herb Zurkowsky reported the Alouettes were on the verge of being sold, which generated quite a stir in Montreal.
“Some people start calling, they’ve heard rumours. I’ve heard that Herb mentioned the team was for sale. I wasn’t sure that it was true that it was for sale because obviously why would you not approach different groups to get a better price? Unless they just want to sell it for cheap to someone that they know, but that’d be ridiculous,” Lapointe said.
“But since then after hearing the commissioner I guess something is going on, but what is it? I don’t know. Am I involved? Not yet. Should I be involved? Yes. Would I want to be involved? Yes. There’s many Quebecers that would like to do so. Even on the francophone side, in Quebec the money was not really on the francophone side 15 years ago. People are proud to be Quebecers, people are proud to be here in Montreal and there is a lot of people that would like to invest and be part of the next Grey Cup celebration on St. Catharine with 100,000 people.”
The team has fallen on hard times in recent years, missing the playoffs for four-straight seasons, the longest streak in franchise history. The Alouettes have struggled at the gate as well as fans have tired of the perpetual on-field ineptitude.
“If people are talking about money problems, why do you spend money on new uniforms instead of just trying to build a team? There’s been so many bad decisions over the years. We need somebody to be more vocal and bring more charisma to the team. The president and the GM needs to be involved with the people, they need to sell the tickets,” Lapointe said.
“You always wonder why the people below you don’t work correctly but if you don’t do things correctly at the top, how do you want people to understand what’s going on?”