The Montreal Alouettes are entering the 2022 season with big expectations in the eyes of their owner and a failure to meet them could result in major organizational changes.
In an interview with the Montreal Gazette this week, Alouettes owner Gary Stern told long-time beat reporter Herb Zurkowsky that this will be a make-or-break season for his franchise.
“This year will tell if we’re just talk or real — and I believe we’re real,” Stern said. “If it doesn’t come together, I have a lot of questions. We owe it to the fans to put a team together that’s entertaining and wins. If the team wins and is entertaining, I don’t see why they won’t come out. If they don’t … you have to look at your own internal organization.”
“This season will determine what the CFL and Als are about. If not, by midseason, you’ll see me take action, although I’m not sure what that means.”
Stern and his late business partner Sid Spiegel purchased the Alouettes in January of 2020 under the corporate entity S and S Sportsco. Siegel passed away in July of 2021 having never seen his franchise play and Stern has yet to reap financial benefits after the 2020 season was cancelled and the 2021 campaign was shortened.
The team averaged just over 13,000 in the stands at Percival Molson Stadium last year while finishing with a 7-7 record, numbers that weren’t good enough on either front to see a return on investment for the Als owner.
“I’m a big man and I’m not stupid,” Stern told the Gazette. “I knew what I was getting into. Am I putting in way more work than I thought? Yes. Way more money? Yes. I admit I could have handled some things differently. It’s nobody’s fault. Last year, I don’t know how anybody could have made money; we knew we weren’t. I can’t blame people for not coming out.”
“The fans are passionate and love it; there’s just not enough of them. It’s up to ownership and the team to give them what they need. Then if they don’t come, you go as a business person and say I think we have a problem.”
The Alouettes will need to reach new heights on the field if they expect the stands to be filled and that presses a bullseye firmly onto the back of head coach Khari Jones. While team president Mario Cecchini and general manager Danny Maciocia arrived on the scene shortly after Stern’s purchase, Jones was a hire from the previous administration suddenly thrust into the top job to begin the 2019 season.
While he’s led the Alouettes to back-to-back playoff appearances, criticism of his team’s discipline plagued Jones last season and there have been rumours of a rift between him and Maciocia, who could be eyeing a return to the sideline.
While Stern won’t say where the axe will come down if the team underperforms — and later promised not to meddle on Twitter — the expectations are clear. Jones will need to field a winning team that’s exciting enough to put butts in seats or changes will be made.