Inaugural Season 2–16
Still Receive CFL Commissioner’s Award
The excitement was palpable. The rumours were true. The announcement was (finally) here. In March 2008, Jeff Hunt and the OSEG Group were awarded the newest CFL franchise in Ottawa’s history. And from that moment on the momentum started building, as did the expectations.
This organization overcame, what seemed like, insurmountable odds to produce the CFL’s most successful season (off the field) for a freshman franchise ever. When they announced the team’s nickname, Redblacks, it was met with polarizing public opinion. Though the buzz created by the team was so overwhelming, that any negative press was soon forgotten.
The same issue arose when the mascot was announced. Big Joe Mufferaw was beloved by the Anglophone community, but Francophones were quite insulted. Big Joe had been based on a living legend, Joseph Montferrand. This French Canadian logger’s surname had been anglicized, as that was incredibly more marketable. The team once again sprang into action, quickly dropped Big Joe’s last name and deflected any unpopular press.
Finally, the season had arrived. Only weeks prior to training camp, Ottawa made a big splash and acquired veteran QB Henry Burris. This move caused expectations to soar. The mood around the Redblacks was that this was to be unlike any other expansion team’s first season.
As Lansdowne Park, and the newly developed TD Place Stadium, was still under construction, the Redblacks opened their season with two road games. Both of which they lost. There was so much hype around their first home game that it was sold out weeks in advance. And they won. The Redblack’s put on a great show and captivated the Ottawa sports commmunity. Little did they know that this would be one of only two joyful moments in a season full of disappointment.
The Redblacks only collected one more win in their next 15 attempts. They finished last in points scored, touchdowns, and rushing yards. Their former all star quarterback, Burris, did not comfortable all season. But through all this disappointment and despair on the field, off the field the business thrived. The Redblacks drew the second largest crowds (% of capacity) in the CFL throughout the entire season. The only non-sell-out was the season finale played on Hallow’s Eve.
This ownership group persevered through so much to create a successful brand, that after such an arduous season the community still beloved their team.
That is why they deserve this award.
They not only rejuvenated Ottawa’s sports community, but created a brand with the longevity to become successful in the future. A brand that Ottawa sports fans will support through the rough times, and celebrate when the good times finally arrive.