Massive crowd swarms downtown Montreal for Alouettes victory parade

Andy Blatchford & Tobi Cohen
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MONTREAL - The celebration was uniquely Montreal.
Tens of thousands of people swarmed the city's downtown streets for a trilingual festival Wednesday, singing in both official languages and even in Spanish as they warbled a soccer chant that's recently become fashionable at games of their beloved Canadiens.
And why was this city swaying to a Spanish-language hockey song? Because it was a victory parade for the Canadian Football League's Montreal Alouettes, that's why.
Chants of "Ole-Ole-Ole!" rang out from crowds that engulfed the city's core as Montrealers spent their lunch hour cheering on the Grey Cup champions.
The Alouettes have been a dominant force in the CFL for years, but had lost their last four Grey Cup appearances since winning in 2002.
They appeared set to lose again Sunday - this time to the Saskatchewan Roughriders - until they mounted a stunning fourth-quarter comeback and then took advantage of a bizarre penalty with no time left on the clock.
Montrealers celebrated the win Wednesday by tossing confetti from windows along Ste-Catherine Street onto the passing players, who pumped their fists skyward and waved at the crowd as the passed by on flat-bed trucks. Some placed the crowd size in the hundreds of thousands.
"It's truly amazing," said Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo.
"As many times as we've disappointed, the fans have been disappointed, they still come out here and respond by supporting us and coming to this parade."
Calvillo said the Als' improbable, final-second comeback is a perfect example of why you have to play for the entire 60 minutes.
"If you're going to beat yourself in your head then you have no chance - but we never gave up," he said.
Louise Laroche, a season-ticket holder for the last five years, waved her arms and shouted as the parade rolled by.
Asked how nervous she was in the final seconds of the game, she said she nearly had a heart attack.
"In the Canadian Football League, it's not finished until zero-zero seconds," said Laroche, who drove about 65 kilometres from St-Hyacinthe for the parade.
"We have proof of that."
The team was also celebrated during a Canadiens-Leafs NHL game Tuesday night by a chanting crowd at the Bell Centre. On Wednesday morning, the players signed the municipal registry at city hall.
Many Montrealers have noted the irony in recent days that their football and soccer teams (the Impact) are both champions this year but the team they love most - the one in the NHL - is highly mediocre.
But hockey-mad Montreal, which used to see so many championships that city hall would nonchalantly put out statements announcing that the Stanley Cup parade would take its "usual route," hasn't tasted hockey glory in 16 years.
On Wednesday, it was the Alouettes who rolled triumphantly down the Habs' once-regular parade route on Ste-Catherine Street.
A top Canadian on the team concurred with the obvious.
"It's definitely a hockey town," said slotback Ben Cahoon, who was chosen as the Grey Cup's best Canadian player.
"I was driving home in traffic from the airport the day after we won the Grey Cup and they were talking about hockey so we know where we rate, I think.
"But we sure appreciate the support today and we appreciate the support all season. This has been a magical memory for all of us."
The Alouettes didn't seem to have reservations about sticking it to Saskatchewan's famously devoted fans, either.
"All week long we were hearing about how the fans from Regina are the best," safety Matthieu Proulx shouted into a microphone to a massive crowd gathered around an outdoor stage.
"We were perfect at home and that wasn't for nothing," the native of Plaster Rock, N.B., said before leading a round of Ole-ole-ole chants.
"I want them to hear this in Regina."
The burly men who make up the entire Alouettes roster - as well as team's two mascots - were crammed onto the undersized stage, but the players still managed to make a little room for a dance circle.
The Als took turns showing off an array of dance moves. Even Cahoon, one of the team's more straight-edged players, impressed at least one spectator with his shout-out to Michael Jackson.
"Ben Cahoon's got the best moves ... he just did the moonwalk out here," fellow slotback Jamel Richardson said with a grin.
"This city is known for the party. But now? They took it to a whole 'nother level."

Organizations: Canadian Football League, Montreal Alouettes, NHL Bell Centre Habs

Geographic location: Montreal, Ste-Catherine Street, Regina Saskatchewan Plaster Rock

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