Ethan Charters, left, and Mitch McCoy, both of whom played high school football with the Oromocto High School Blues this past season, inspect the Grey Cup along with former Canadian Football League players Darin Burns, second from right, and Bruce Smith Thursday at OHS. Several former CFLers, along with current Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Quinton Porter, were in town to promote Scotiabank Touchdown Atlantic II, the regular season CFL game between the Tiger-Cats and Calgary Stampeders, taking place in Moncton Sept. 25.

CFLers get good reception in Oromocto
Grey Cup visit | Former CFLers believe Atlantic region would support club

By Andrew Holland

Some special guests received an enthusiastic welcome at Oromocto High School Thursday.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Quinton Porter and several former Canadian Football League standouts were in the Model Town with the Grey Cup, promoting the second year of Scotiabank Touchdown Atlantic, the regular season CFL game between the Tiger-Cats and the Calgary Stampeders, set Sept. 25 at Moncton's Stade Moncton Stadium.

The event was coordinated by the CFL Alumni Association in conjunction with CFB Gagetown, another stop on the Grey Cup tour.

Porter, who hopes to be in the lineup for the game against the Stamps, was joined by a handful of ex-Hamilton players, including Hall of Fame defensive ends Grover Covington and Less Brown, defensive tackle Rod Skillman, former CFL great Bruce Smith who played in Hamilton and Toronto and won two Grey Cups, Ken Evraire along with former player and current Saskatchewan defensive line coach Mike Walker.

Mitch McCoy, a Grade 12 student who played with the Blues of New Brunswick High School Football League this past season and is slated to play university football with the Ottawa Gee Gee's next fall , was impressed with the caliber of former players who were on hand with their championship rings.

"The school is super excited as you can see," McCoy said. "Just to have that experience in our school is pretty huge.".

McCoy would love for the Atlantic region to land a CFL franchise.

"If this is right in your backyard, you can get that experience and it can inspire people to go to university for football," he said.

The CFL delegation also included Moncton resident Jan Carinci. Carinici played ten seasons in the CFL with Toronto and British Columbia, suiting up in three Grey Cups and winning one. He is active in the Touchdown Atlantic event.

"If you had of told me in 2001 when we first moved here if there was ever going to be a regular season CFL game played anywhere in Atlantic Canada, I would have said you are a little crazy," he said.

Carinci said Moncton has pursued CFL football aggressively for the last several years. He said it would be nice for the city to secure a long-term, three year contract from the league.

He expects once a team is re-established and operating in Ottawa by 2013, the league will seriously look at putting a team somewhere in Atlantic Canada.

"It would be really nice if Halifax's corporate world would start looking at this event as a pan-Atlantic region event, not just a Moncton event," he said. "When the CFL does come, the team to be successful has to be Atlantic Canadian. It would be nice if they started paying attention to it a little bit more.".

Carinci feels the league is doing the right things with outreach to Atlantic Canada saying that is strategy in how the CFL sells itself in current member cities.

"If you are thinking about where the team will be located in the Atlantic region, you have to have your players stay in your community during the off-season. That is when you are developing relationships with your fans. Look at school visits, basketball games against high school teams, anti-bullying and anti-drug programs that further establishes that relationship."

Leo Ezerins, the executive director of the CFL Alumni Association, said it would be nice to have a 10-team league across the country. He said this trip is an opportunity to see how football is important to Atlantic Canadians.

"We need to build at the grass roots instead of just plunking down a team. While people would be interested in the CFL, whoever comes in here you want to make sure it will be sustainable".

"We want people connecting with the Canadian Football League and putting a face on it. You guys are close to the U.S. and there is a huge NFL influence. It is hard to follow the B.C. Lions when the games start at 11 or 11:30 at night here."

The delegation is also speaking with groups in Sussex, Hampton, Riverview and Blacks Harbour.

They are also supporting a football camp being held at the Canada Games Stadium in Saint John this week as part of Prokids, a program aimed at helping children who cannot afford to play sports. It is spearheaded by Riverview resident Darin Burns who attended five CFL training camps and played in two league games. He connected with former Hamilton teammates to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the team's Grey Cup win.

Last year's initial edition of Touchdown Atlantic featured the Toronto Argonauts facing the Edmonton Eskimos in a game played in a festive atmosphere before a sellout crowd of 20,725 fans. Tickets sold out in a mere 32 hours for the game, won 24-6 by the Eskimos,