The Ottawa REDBLACKS Organization

What a year for the Ottawa REDBLACKS! They won the Canadian Football League’s ultimate prize, the Grey Cup, in their third year of existence. For years Ottawa did not have a professional football team to call their own and when they did the team was run by owners who either devalued the product or didn’t know how to connect with an audience or even build a winning team. When it was announced that Ottawa would be returning to the league the news was met with skepticism. People thought it wouldn’t last and that this team, like the others, would be gone after a few years. How wrong they were. Now, I believe you win as a team and lose as a team, and with that in mind I find it impossible to name just one person in the organization as the most fascinating.

I could name the owners of the team: Roger Greenberg, John Ruddy, Jeff Hunt, John Pugh and William Shenkman. This ownership group came together to not only bring a professional football team back to Ottawa but also redesigned the Lansdowne area as a ‘must visit’ destination in the city of Ottawa.

I could name the general manager, Marcel Desjardins, who was the architect behind a team that would take the field and be competitive.

How about head coach Rick Campbell? In his second year he was named the CFL Coach of the Year. He was nominated for the same award again in this, his third year as coach of the REDBLACKS, and while he fell short in securing said award, walking off BMO Field hoisting he Grey Cup over his head was a more than sufficient “consolation prize.”

I suppose I could name Henry Burris as the most fascinating member of the organization, right? After winning the Most Outstanding Player of the league in 2015, Burris went through periods this year where fans were booing his performance and Ottawa sports radio was predicting an ignominious end to his career. Rumours swirled that he would need to be traded, but after a spectacular performance in the Grey Cup people in Ottawa are ready to give him the keys to the city.

And if we are talking players we should mention defensive back Abdul Kanneh, whose game saving tackle ensured Ottawa could win the Grey Cup. That was pretty fascinating. We should also mention wide receiver Chris Williams, who had the best season of his career before getting injured.

Stepping away from the playing field, how about the hard working people in the ticket office? People like Greg R. and Tanya W. who, along with the rest of the sales team,  ensured every game was a sell-out.

You can’t have a professional football team without cheerleaders. They play such an important role in keeping the crowd engaged. The Ottawa REDBLACKS Cheer & Dance Team boast some of the hardest working, community driven people you could ever meet. There are too many of them to mention so let’s just focus on two. First there is Alyssa on the dance team, a third year University student and pre-school teacher who is also an aspiring singer who has performed the national anthem for every sports team in Ottawa except for the REDBLACKS (OSEG – make this happen!!!) and who teaches dance in her spare time. On the cheer team there is Alex who just finished her third year on the cheer team and was finally able to take part in Grey Cup festivities. With Grey Cup champion on her resume, she is now leaving the team to pursue a career with the Canadian military.

All of these people on their own are quite impressive but when they all came together this year they created a benchmark for other professional sports franchises to take note of. The Ottawa REDBLACKS have drafted a new blueprint on how to build a winning team, and how to get the community involved and be passionate about a team. The REDBLACKS’ 2016 success isn’t based on one person but on a collective unit.

These are the reasons why I find the Ottawa REDBLACKS organization fascinating.