Making Grey Cup noise: meet the fan who began Montreal’s controversial air horn tradition

Photo courtesy: Denis Genereux

Everyone has a story about how they fell in love with football and their favourite team. For Denis Genereux, it was at the Montreal Alouettes’ home opener in 2010.

Anthony Calvillo completed a touchdown pass to Kerry Watkins and the receiver jumped toward his section. He hasn’t looked back since. Genereux convinced 47 of his friends to buy season tickets with him, and a year later, he came up with the idea for the fanbase’s now-infamous air horns.

“I was trying to be the 13th man for the team to the best of my abilities,” he told 3DownNation this week. “I never expected to be talking about it today.”

The Alouettes super fan was surprised to learn that his noise-making had become a hot topic leading up to the 110th Grey Cup. Air horns will not be allowed at Tim Hortons Field on Sunday due to a stadium policy despite Montreal’s presence in the championship game, much to the delight of thousands of television viewers tired of the irritating honking.

The news of the ban went viral on social media, with the original post on the platform formerly known as Twitter generating nearly 110,000 views in two days. “Ben voyons donc!” is the expression Genereux used in response to reading the myriad of comments for the first time, a phrase which can be best interpreted as “Well, would you look at that!”

“I never thought it would disturb the league that much. It’s funny because when we think about the role of the 13th man, for the love of God, the CFL has completely missed the boat,” he said in disbelief. “Sorry, but those who don’t like the noise can get noise-cancelling earphones, go watch billiards, go watch ping-pong, but don’t watch football.”

Genereux believes air horns are a staple at sporting events and he has never received a complaint in person, even at RSEQ university games. While he won’t be making the trip to Hamilton this year, he has been to three Grey Cups that didn’t involve the Als and used his instrument sporadically.

His craziest story came in Toronto when he made the trip to watch both the Grey Cup and the Vanier Cup. In the days before the U Sports championship game, he obtained the name of the stadium security manager to verify the legality of the horn but never managed to make contact with him. When the game started, so did his cacophony and three security guards immediately ran towards him. He casually name-dropped the manager and was allowed to continue making noise until the end of the game.

Genereux returned to the Percival Molson Stadium this season after an absence of a couple of years. However, he passed the torch on to other fans who carried the tradition forward. In fact, the number of people with air horns increased during his absence.

Those numbers peaked when Gary Stern, the team’s outspoken former owner, encouraged fans to buy them. Not all the fans answered the bell, but some did.

According to Genereux, there is no danger in using manual air horns. He agrees that compressed air cans can be dangerous and should be forbidden everywhere, but struggles to understand why the standard ones that Als fans use are a problem.

“They use cowbells and trumpets, but you’re saying they want to forbid air horns?” he remarked. “It’s funny how it doesn’t make any sense.”

Genereux does not doubt that some Alouettes fans will sneak their air horns past security and even encourages them to do so. He would not provide further details for fear of tipping off security but suggested that there are plenty of ways to smuggle in contraband.

In the meantime, his noise-making legacy will continue to generate buzz ahead of the Grey Cup, evening garnering attention from Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ defensive end Willie Jefferson, who responded to the article with a call for his own fans to “bring their cowbells.”

“The fact that a player like him saw it and talked about it means we, the 13th man, have done our job. And that’s enough for me,” Genereux smiled.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Montreal Alouettes will meet in the 110th Grey Cup on Sunday, Nov. 19 at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton. Kickoff is slated for 6:00 p.m. EST.

Pablo is a CFL and Alouettes analyst based in Montreal.