Fire up the chainsaw: Ottawa to add takeaways to their wood cookie criteria in 2021

CFL teams may be cutting costs ahead of the 2021 season, but Ottawa’s budget for logs and chainsaw fuel is about to go through the roof.

Redblacks head coach Paul LaPolice joined The Drive on TSN 1200 in Ottawa on Thursday to explain why, revealing that an offseason meeting will lead to a big change for an existing TD Place tradition.

“When guys make plays we want to celebrate that, so one of the interesting things when we sat down as a staff sometime in the spring last year was trying to figure out what are other ways we can celebrate when a guy gets a takeaway,” LaPolice said.

“It’s all the rage down in the United States where guys have the chain they put on after a takeaway or they have all these different apparatuses on the sideline. We were trying to figure out our own thing and it just sort of popped to us that after a touchdown they do a wood cookie, so why can’t we do a wood cookie after an interception or a fumble because those often lead to points.”

Since the inception of the Redblacks in 2014, the Algonquin Loggersports Team have been cutting and branding commemorative wood cookies after ever touchdown, quickly becoming a core piece of the CFL team’s identity. Next season, their job will expand to include firing up the chainsaw for any interception, fumble recovery or blocked kick that an Ottawa player produces.

Communications manager Chris Hofley was the one who ran the coaching staff’s idea up the food chain and permission was quickly granted for the additional sawdust creation in the East endzone.

“Any time Antoine Pruneau gets an interception, we are going to be able to cut off a wood cookie and make sure players have an understanding of how important taking the ball away is.”

LaPolice was hired as the Redblacks head coach last offseason following a four year stint as offensive coordinator with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, culminating in their 2019 Grey Cup win.

During his time in Manitoba, the Bombers became notorious for forcing turnovers on the defensive side of the ball. LaPolice and defensive coordinator Mike Benevides hope to replicate that success in the nation’s capital.

“You get what you coach. You get what you celebrate, you get what you praise and certainly we understand as a staff how important taking the ball away on defence is, just as we understand protecting it offensively,” LaPolice explained.

“The teams that lead the turnover margin each year are the top teams in the league.”

To drive that point home, turnover wood cookies won’t just be a sideline phenomenon. LaPolice says they will hold a prominent place in the building as well.

“We’ll probably put one up in the team meeting room as well, and whether we carve it in or brand it in, if player number four gets a turnover, we can etch their name into it and keep it up in our defensive meetings,” he said.

“I think that will be a good thing to help celebrate when guys do the things that win games.”

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