Ever since being mentioned by name at Pierre Karl Péladeau’s introductory press conference, former team employee Annie Larouche has been at the top of the list when it comes to speculation about who will succeed Mario Cecchini as Alouettes’ team president.
Peladeau was asked if Larouche’s name is in the mix and he responded by wondering if the reporter knew more than they were letting on while smiling. He then pointed at and called that reporter smart. The 61-year-old billionaire wouldn’t comment on which candidates were being considered, but the implication was clear: Larouche is well on the owner’s radar.
When the Als rebooted in 1996, Larouche was on the field thanks to her athletic abilities as a cheerleader. She eventually ran the squad and also worked in team promotions prior to heading up the Alouettes foundation and community relations department.
After the arrival of the Canadian Elite Basketball League in Montreal, Larouche was wooed away to help with launching the Montreal Alliance in 2021. She started out as director of operations but has since been promoted to vice president, the role in which she currently serves.
How did the Alliance do in their inaugural 2022 season, you might ask? While their on-court record was abysmal, the team led the league in ticket sales, attendance and merchandise sales. That’s no small feat when you consider Montreal has been a virtual wasteland for failed sports franchises. See: Expos, Juniors, Matrix and Express just to name some.
She emanates a natural poise, level of class and charisma. Larouche is humble, hard-working, well-liked and polished. The CFL has long been an old boys club with the exception of recent success story Catherine Raiche, so Larouche would be a breath of fresh-yet-familiar air. She understands the league and the market intimately.
“She’s definitely qualified to be considered for Alouettes president. Annie is a true professional and well-respected in CFL circles. She was very loyal to the Alouettes organization for 25 years,” said Denburk Reid, former head of community relations with the Als.
“I consider Annie a friend. She’s an incredibly hard worker and has a great network in the sports world. Like me, she’s incredibly competitive as well,” added Reid, McGill’s all-time leading men’s basketball scorer and founder of both the Red Rush Basketball Leadership Program and the Montreal Community Cares Foundation.
I invited Larouche to last year’s Montreal Sports Celebrity Breakfast, an annual charitable event in the city that attracts top sporting names, both past and present. While the Canadiens will always be king and take up most of the time on stage, Larouche was only too happy to come alongside Alliance general manager and former NBA champion Joel Anthony. She graciously worked the room and spoke eloquently — despite the event moment being at her table and not on stage. She made the most of her time and her words resonated with the crowd that day.
At Alliance home games, Larouche is very hands-on and can be seen greeting VIPs, coordinating with staff and walking several miles in a couple of hours. Her energy, hustle and willingness to do whatever it takes to be successful are precisely what the Alouettes need.
Larouche recently said that speculation involving her name is flattering but she hasn’t yet been contacted by the Alouettes. Another candidate of note is former Als running back Eric Lapointe, who works in the financial sector and was part of a bid to buy the franchise in 2020. Perhaps former Als executive Mark Weightman, the current president and CEO of the ECHL’s Trois-Rivieres Lions, is also in the mix.
But if the Alouettes want someone to make an immediate impact without a steep learning curve, Larouche is the clear choice to be president.