Why Canada should play in Moncton

Update, Sept. 18: If you support this idea, sign the petition to be sent to the CSA.

The Voyageurs have devised a theme for Canada’s quest to qualify for the next World Cup: Mission 2014. Well, I’ve got a mission of my own, which I’m going to — very uncreatively — dub Mission Moncton. Quite simply, the goal of this mission is to see the men’s national team play an upcoming match in Moncton, New Brunswick. Yes, I’m serious; and yes, I’ve thought it through. Take a look at my reasons, and hopefully you’ll come onboard:

1. Moncton has a brand-new, 10,000-seat stadium… with grass. The horribly-named but wonderfully fresh Stade Moncton 2010 Stadium — which will host a regulation Canadian Football League game on September 26 — is expandable to 20,000 seats, so disavow yourself of the assumption that there isn’t a suitable venue out there. Believe it or not, Moncton Stadium (if you set aside the fact there’s a running track surrounding the field) is one of the best venues in the country for a men’s national team friendly, in my opinion.

2. Someone should break up the burgeoning Toronto-Montreal duopoly. Don’t get me wrong — Toronto and Montreal have pro teams, new soccer-specific stadiums and plenty of potential ticket-buyers. It makes sense to play games there. And my endorsement of Moncton is definitely not meant as a repudiation of the very valid arguments in favour of playing games out west.

But no matter where games are played, it’s important to create an atmosphere that’s conducive to winning, and to building the brand of the team in the national consciousness. While there are surely a number of cities that could perform that function, I think the one that can most effectively break the Highway 401 stranglehold on the men’s national team at this moment might just be Moncton — because of the stadium, and because…

3. There will be a pro-Canadian crowd in Moncton. Watching a clip of Canada v. Brazil from 1994 blew my mind. I simply couldn’t believe what I saw when Eddie Berdusco scored: a packed Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, full of delirious fans cheering for the boys in red. It reminded me of how important it is for the home team to have a home crowd. That doesn’t mean everyone in the stadium needs to have an official team kit or scarf. It doesn’t mean everyone needs to know the words to chants, or even the names of the players. It just means they need to be at the game and excited to see their national team playing. Why would this happen in Moncton?

3a. Sporting events of this marquee value are rare. Many of the supposedly sophisticated soccer fans in Toronto and Montreal passed on the recent friendlies. Why? They perceived the games not as a rare opportunity to see the national team play, but rather, as “just” a friendly. “Why waste time with this game? There’ll be better, more important games down the road.”

Let’s face it: big cities everywhere are filled with spoiled, complacent jerks, whereas smaller cities tend to be more appreciative of the sorts of things that those in bigger cities tend to take for granted.

That’s not just me talking. Cole Hobson, a reporter for the Moncton Times & Transcript, notes that aside from the CFL game later this month, and the Canadian track and field championships in a few years, there’s not much planned for Moncton Stadium. So the novelty value of seeing a “big” game at the new stadium is surely still high.

3b. Folks might attend as a “screw you” to Halifax. From talking to Maritimers I know, I get the sense that there’s some resentment towards Halifax for perpetually being the golden child of the Atlantic provinces, pre-anointed as the host of many big events that head out east. So it’s possible that Monctonians with a hate-on for Halifax might show up to the game not because they even like soccer, but as a way of thumbing their nose at those damned Haligonians. (Tongue planted firmly in cheek here; I love Halifax.)

3c. Less chance of fans of the opponents showing up. There’s no way I can say what I’m trying to say without setting off someone’s overly sensitive political correctness detector, so I’ll just pose the question and let you come to the indisputable logical conclusion: if you’re trying to maximize the number of people who will be cheering for Canada, and not for the opposing team (whatever team it may be), are you better off playing in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver or Moncton? Yeah, I thought so.

4. Decent travel situation. For all involved.

4a. For the players. For those coming from Europe, it’s even closer than Toronto or Montreal; ergo, less time spent cramped on an airplane (well, unless there’s a stopover in Halifax, which there probably would be, but hey, I’m no travel agent). Plus there are fewer distractions. More time and ability to focus on training and the game, rather than media questions, big-city bustle or strip joints.

4b. For the fans. It’s fairly central in the Maritimes, meaning that fans from the rest of New Brunswick — as well as P.E.I. and Nova Scotia — could reasonably get there. It might even be easier for folks out on the Rock to make the trip. For Quebeckers, it ain’t so bad. For Ontarians — well, kind of a headache, but you should take any excuse to get out east that you can (Pumphouse Brewery FTW!) And for those west of Ontario — hey, you were getting screwed if the game was in Toronto or Montreal anyway, so why not come to New Brunswick to support Canada and deprive the economies of Upper and/or Lower Canada of your cash?

5. Moncton would go for it. I’ll let Hobson, the local boy, take this one:

I think Moncton would go for such a thing. There is TONS of soccer here, tons. Of course, not much in the way of high profile/high calibre, but minor soccer is huge here and I believe is our most popular sport amongst the kids, so you have to believe there would be lots of kids and their families who could be convinced to attend such an event.

Further, the CFL game we are hosting here in two weeks sold out 20,000 tickets in 32 hours, which was a surprisingly high demand. As a spectator sport I’m sure football (American, or Canadian, as the example here happens to be) is more popular here than soccer, but it just shows that people will come out here for big events. Same with some of the concerts we’ve had over the years, which have all drawn over 20,000 people.

We hosted the World Junior track and field championships here this summer and I can assure you track and field is a less popular spectator sport than both football and soccer, and the crowds we had out for that were very respectable for a seven-day event.

What’s more, I’m sure the city would be a willing partner [having spent $20 million on the new stadium] … I believe there will soon be a lot of taxpayers really curious as to what exactly that stadium will be used for in the future, so I’m sure the city will be willing to keep things as busy as possible in there with large events that make it seem as if the stadium was a worthwhile investment.

6. Domino effect of positive energy. Playing in a decent-sized stadium, with a strong pro-Canadian crowd would do wonders for the team’s confidence and, hopefully, performance. Plus it would look much better on TV than a half-empty BMO Field or Stade Saputo where most of those who bothered to attend are cheering for the opposing team. That stuff is contagious.

If people see highlights of the game, and see a vibrant, excited atmosphere (and hopefully, a Canadian victory buoyed by said atmosphere), there’s a better chance that they’ll take an interest in the team… and come out to a game played in their town at whatever point down the road.

That, ultimately, is why I want a game in Moncton. Because I believe it would not only be a great environment at the time and in the aftermath, but would also give the team a better chance to win. Really, what is there to lose? If everything I’ve said doesn’t come to pass, oh well. A failed experiment, but not one that couldn’t be recovered from.

But if I’m right, the benefits could be huge for the men’s national team, both on the field and off the field. And that is what matters. Not regionalism. Not in-fighting between supporters. You’ll note that I’m earnestly proposing that the team play in a city that it would take me hundreds of dollars to travel to, rather than at a stadium I’m a 30-minute transit ride away from.

They could play the games in Resolute Bay, for all I care, if there was a good chance that it would help the team win and build a better buzz for itself from coast-to-coast. That’s what matters to me as a supporter… even if it impedes (or eliminates) my ability to watch the games live.

Again, don’t get me wrong, there are definitely other cities outside of Toronto and Montreal that would be fully capable of hosting games.

But for the reasons listed above, I think Moncton deserves a chance.

What do you think?

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34 Responses to “Why Canada should play in Moncton”

  1. I like it.

  2. If we could refer to the stadium as “Atlantic Soccer Centre” the same way BMO Field was allegedly the “National Soccer Stadium” back in the U-20 World Cup, I’d be all for this.

  3. I’m from Moncton, so obviously I’m in favour of this proposal. The highest level of soccer here is CIS university, so there’s not a tradition of watching live soccer, but the community (and region) have a habit of coming out to support big events. A national team friendly would qualify as a big event here.

    There are a decent number of people here of Dutch and German origin, but then again we’re hardly likely to face either of those countries.

  4. can’t find any reason to argue with that logic.

  5. First off, I love the idea of trying to get more pro soccer exposure “out east”. I really love the beauty of the whole area (esp. the coastlines) and the super friendly people (can’t beat the Newfs for hospitality).

    Re: name (get it?) … IMHO, not the best they could do.

    Re: Best venue? Depends on how the extra seats are installed – the track makes the existing seats too far from the pitch. And the (CFL) football lines… yech!!

    I’m in Montreal and I have to agree with your points 2 and 3a.

    I like the humour of 3b (and I suppose seat sales are kinda take-what-you-can-get), but it doesn’t really show support.

    Re: 3c … Hahaha … No OSPCD here. Not much ethnic diversity, eh? So for fun, our CMNT should play against a Maritime All-stars side. Might even fill some more seats. A popular CONCACAF rival might do better to get the CBC interested.

    Re: 4b … Yah. And it’s a short trip if you’d like to visit Halifax. Hahaha.

    Great read. Thanks. And good luck. I’ll support it, if anyone asks…

  6. No thanks. It has a track.

  7. ^ Now we are soccer stadium snobs and a track is beneath us? Up until a few years ago, Swangard was the best soccer facility we had in this country, track and all.

    I think this is a great idea. I would be much more likely to make the trip from Vancouver for a game in Moncton instead of Montreal or Toronto. Really what does the CSA have to lose. I bet they would get more than the 8,000 people that turned up in Montreal.

  8. Just sent an email to the man who has brought several high profile events to Moncton and the CSA about this. I think it would be awesome… plus I’ve never been out East. Would be a great excuse to head out there!

  9. Good idea… They should spread the games out across the country no doubt. But lets not pretend that the games are always in Toronto or Montreal… they have been since BMO and Suputo where built but before that they played mostly in Vancouver and Edmonton it seems to me.
    but this…..
    “Let’s face it: big cities everywhere are filled with spoiled, complacent jerks, whereas smaller cities tend to be more appreciative of the sorts of things that those in bigger cities tend to take for granted.”
    Go fuck yourself you ignorant twat. I don’t even live in a big city, but i’ve met just as many “spoiled, complacent jerks” in small cities or in rural areas as in big cities.
    However you’re right other cities should get a shot. Moncton, Winnipeg, Whitehorse are all cool with me.

    • Ha! I only wish I could integrate terrible insults into otherwise complimentary statements as well as that. Well done.

    • I have to disagree. Smaller cities just don’t have the drawing power of metropolises (metropoli?). So, they get fewer big ticket events.

      Big city folk become more complacent due to the fact that such events are happening much more frequently. And, if there’s nothing this week for the soccer nut in you, your music-loving, festival-going, hot-rodding, prize-fighting, etc. side will have something to see any night.

      It’s a valid point. And Masster is right. I’ll bet they will need those extra seats.

    • As someone who grew up in Halifax, I can vouch for people even in medium-sized cities getting worked up for just about any event that comes their way. And living now in Toronto, yeah, there’s hardly anything noteworthy because everything is. It’s all about perspective. Squizz’s point is correct.

      Also: I’d travel to Moncton for this.

  10. Yes, but to further ensure a 100% canadian crowd, let’s play Lithuania, or Estonia. Not el Salvador or Honduras.

    • Jeremy, as you’ll soon hear on our latest podcast, Statistics Canada data shows that there are only 10 Honduran immigrants living in the entire province of New Brunswick!

  11. I’d travel btw.

  12. If we’re going to go with a place like Moncton, how about taking a look at Winnipeg or Saskatoon or Regina again as well?

    I’m totally in favour of a game being played out there. I agree that it would probably not only sell out, but be fiercely pro-Canadian as well (assuming it isn’t against Germany or the Netherlands as the one person above mentioned). I applaud the two of you if you can get some discourse going with the CSA towards taking a serious look at Moncton. I have to say, though, that if its stadium wasn’t even on the CSA’s radar yet, that there will need to be some serious sacking of the CSA staff for it. Things like this cannot be overlooked if it offers us ANY upper hand at all, theoretical or not!

    • Hey, you know that I’m in no way against games being played in any of the cities you’ve mentioned. I’ve wanted to see a Riders game at Taylor Field for a while now, and if the men’s national team could play there — and draw fans who are as rabid about Canada as they are their CFL team — then holy shit, that could be a good time, and I’d do my very best to make it out there.

      • Honestly, as someone who grew up in Winnipeg, I think you’d struggle to sell tickets there for a Canada soccer match. You’re still battling a lot of people who feel soccer isn’t our sport and thus not worth their time and money.

        To make it work in Winnipeg I think it would almost have to be a really important qualifying match, after the team has created some countrywide buzz. If ‘Peggers knew they were coming to watch Canada play a game that would be a big step toward the World Cup, then maybe you’d see some of the same rabidness as you would with junior hockey.

  13. Someone has already done a scouting report on Resolute Bay. We just need couple of posts and some fans to fly in, we’re good to go!

  14. I am the journalist quoted in this blog entry and I have another point to make that I neglected to send to squizz in my first response, but I think it’s very valid.

    If part of the point of taking the team to Moncton would be to grow its profile, there is certainly value-added incentive to bringing the team here as our local media jumps all over stuff like this.

    As noted, I work for the newspaper here and the amount of coverage we give major sporting and cultural events is insane.

    Where a friendly soccer game played in Toronto might get a 10 inch recap story in the Toronto Star, if such a thing were to come to Moncton there would likely be 24 page special sections in the paper highlighting Team Canada and the game, as well as large-scale coverage during the event.

    As an example for the CFL game we have had an obscene amount of pre-game coverage, we currently have a reporter in Toronto right now following around the Argos for some feel good stories and post-game there will be an entire section devoted to the game and the event itself.

    Same as with the world junior track and field championships, we had special sections and a daily program every day of the event and even had a book created out the end of it.

    Basicallly, the point is that when things happen in smaller cities where there is not much going on, they are a lot bigger deal than they might otherwise be in larger centres.

    Ramble over.

    • Kevin Smith Says:

      It’s an extremely good point, and makes me think that the CSA should try and do a tour, rather than just a single game in one place. Get a bunch of players to volounteer (doesn’t have to be the top lineup afterall) and a bunch of central american minnows (Turks and Caicos anyone?), then start in one end of the country and work your way to the other.

      Maybe 9 games? Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon/Regina (or both), Winnipeg, Ottawa (depending on if we have a field), Quebec City, Moncton, Halifax. Maybe throw in a place like Hamilton? Or how about Saint John’s?
      If they do it sometime in the summer, most of the Europeans will be free, while MLS/NASL players can be invited if convienent. So, for example, a game in Vancouver might be okay to use Vancouver players, and then they can go back to the Whitecaps.

      If nothing else it’d show the CSA where they can expect to get decent crowds.

  15. […] opponent for a Canada friendly next year. It’s kind of neat, because while Squizz’s Mission Moncton looks at where Canada should play in order to ensure a passionate, full house lusting for the home […]

  16. Re: point #3 – yes a big crowd in Edmonton in 1994 for Brazil, but where were they in 2007 when the U20 team played there? There was a full house at BMO to watch the U20s open against Chile.

    • I was just using Edmonton in 1994 as a good example of a full house cheering for Canada. I don’t know if Edmonton could replicate that today, but ideally we’ll return to a point where 60,000 people will pack a stadium to cheer for the men’s national soccer team.

    • To answer your question literally, “where we were” in 2007 was waiting outside Commonwealth Stadium in a line ten thousand people long patiently waiting for the single, slow-moving TicketMaster booth to actually hand us the tickets we paid for online.

  17. what about St Johns?

    similar size stadium, no track, field turf though. . . but a little bit larger population base and for sure pro canada crowd
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_George_V_Park

    • It’s also got all that history attached to it, as the site where we qualified for our first and only World Cup back in 1985.

      I’m not saying Moncton is the only place the team should play; rather, it’s a good spot where the team could play to open the CSA’s (and the country’s) eyes to the idea of the men’s national team catching on from coast-to-coast.

      And honestly, if the men’s national team could play a game in St. John’s, in the midst of summer, with the George Street festival and the regatta going on… holy smokes, would that ever be awesome.

      • I’ve been having this debate with people for some time… 2011 is the 25th Anniversary of Canada’s one and only appearance in the World Cup.

        That’s always a significant mile stone and is reason enough to justify hosting a game with the MNT here again.

        What better way to honour and commemorate that achievement.

        And Emlyn is right… you’ll get a solid pro Canada showing at King George V.

      • I’m not averse to the idea of St. John’s… the women’s national team played a couple of games at King George V a few years ago, and sold them both out.

        Now, the counter argument is that the cost involved wouldn’t be recouped… but that’s for the bean-counters to decide. My interest, as a fan and writer, is in building interest and passion for the team amongst soccer fans across the country. And I’m not saying my ideas are necessarily the perfect ones, but at least they’re getting a discussion going.

  18. […] Guys writer Squizz will be debating Duane Rollins from the 24thminute about whether or not it is a good idea for the Canadian mens’ national soccer team to play a game in Moncton, New Brunswick. Squizz […]

  19. […] made my rationale for supporting a Moncton game well-known, including giving an interview to the Moncton Times & Transcript and starting an […]

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