The Ottawa REDBLACKS Kick Off Their Season Tonight at TD Place

The 2023 CFL season is underway with the Ottawa REDBLACKS’ home opener at TD Place tonight.

Last year, the REDBLACKS were never able to celebrate a home win, disappointing to fans, not to mention the team. Some may question whether or not to return to support the team. I attended one game last season where the team didn’t seem to want to be there. If the team isn’t happy, why should I be? That game was a one-off. It’s also in the past. That was a different coach. That was last year.

My passion for the Canadian Football League is still very strong. There are things about the CFL that I am not thrilled about, but they are mutually exclusive from the operations of the Ottawa REDBLACKS. There are, in fact, three specific things the REDBLACKS did last season that they need to be commended for:

1. Introducing the Cheer and Dance Team

This won’t be high on most people’s lists, but I noticed it. Year in and year out, the men and (now only) women of the REDBLACKS Cheer and Dance team would run onto the field five times each game (pre-game and during each quarter) to deliver a well-prepared cheer and dance routine. These team ambassadors practised their routines for hours and hours and then took to the field without a proper introduction. This was a miss by the team.

Not in 2022, though. Every performance had the announcer introducing them to the crowd so they could get the recognition they deserve. I have always been a fan of these programs for many reasons. Not only is the athleticism great, but their consistent positivity during games and public outreach/community events is priceless. I don’t know why they weren’t introduced before, but it is great to see them being recognized finally

2. Movie Night

Someone within the REDBLACKS organization had the good sense to come up with a ‘Movie Night’ idea. We must appreciate the ‘out of the box’ thinking: We have a big screen and season ticket holders; let’s bring them all together.

Last summer, the REDBLACKS hosted a movie night on the field. Season ticket holders were invited to attend, which could have been met with scepticism. What were they going to try and sell me? Absolutely nothing. They put popcorn in one hand and a drink in another and said Have fun. Hundreds of fans sat under the lights of TD Place on the field in their lawn chairs and enjoyed a nice film under the stars. Well done, REDBLACKS.

I did receive a call from my rep the next day only to ask if we had fun. I think these types of events are great and hope to see more of them.

3. They Show Up

Towards the end of last season, the murmurs of disappointment turned into full-volume discussions. Some were frustrated, some were annoyed, and others vowed never to return. Through that chatter, the members of the REDBLACKS had appearances and obligations to fulfil, and they did just that. They didn’t miss one community event; they still showed up for their fans. I have friends with an eight-year-old son. This adorable child took advantage of every autograph signing and meet and greet the team offered because the players who said they would be there were there.

It would have been easy for them to cancel, but they didn’t.

In Ottawa, we are fortunate after every home game to have the opportunity to go onto the field, experience being on the field, and meet the players and members of the Cheer and Dance team. As a lifelong CFL fan, I am embarrassed that some teams in the league make fans pay for this privilege. Those are teams that just don’t get it.

The CFL has always been about the fans and the community. Yes, it is a business but not one that can overlook the importance of its customers.

Now, are the thing the REDBLACKS do differently, like introduce their cheer team, host movie nights, and show up for fans, enough to send season ticket numbers into the stratosphere? Maybe not, but they are a few examples that are a great model for the other teams to follow.

The mindset of the REDBLACKS is that it is the best party in town, and your ticket is the cover charge.

Not too long ago, there was a time when a CFL fan like myself would have to jump in the car or on a plane to see the CFL live. We are fortunate to have a team in Ottawa. And, while the results haven’t been there in the past few seasons, let’s remember that this team has done something several other teams haven’t done in years . . . won a Grey Cup.

Hamilton, Montreal, Edmonton, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia (BC) have all gone without a Grey Cup since the REDBLACKS won in 2016.  In fact, BC, Montreal and Saskatchewan haven’t even been a participant.

While no one has a crystal ball to tell you what the 2023 campaign will look like for REDBLACKS, one can remain optimistic: A new coach, a quarterback returning from a vicious on-field assault, and new signings.

It’s easy to cheer for a team when they win, but the REDBLACKS are coming out of another disappointing season. Let’s see how 2023 goes.

The REDBLACKS have done enough to earn that chance to see what they can accomplish in 2023.

Consider this, since the REDBLACKS returned in 2014, they have had four winning seasons and four losing seasons. Here is some quick trivia for you. How many teams have been to more Grey Cups than Ottawa since 2014?

The answer: one, the Calgary Stampeders. Ottawa has been to three.

While the concern over the results is valid, one must not forget that overall, since their return, the team has been competitive.

All that to say, let’s approach 2023 with an open mind.

No one can predict what will happen, just as no one projected at the beginning of last season the Toronto Argonauts would be Grey Cup Champions.

We have football in Ottawa, and our team is ready to take centre stage tonight. Let’s see what happens.