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Stampeders hoping 3rd time’s a charm after booking ticket to Grey Cup

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The Calgary Stampeders have been here before.

The last two seasons have gone according to plan for the mighty Stamps until the championship game.

They were the heavy favourites two years ago against Ottawa only to lose to Henry Burris and the Redblacks in overtime.

They were heavy favourites last year against Toronto only to lose to Ricky Ray and the Argos in a nail-biter — who can forget that goal line fumble by the Stamps?

To say it has been repeat disappointments for the Stampeders is an understatement as they were just a few plays away from being back-to-back Grey Cup champions. 

How is it, then, that a team could find the composure to get back to the Grey Cup, after devastation the last two years?

Perhaps the motivation to right the wrongs of the past was enough to spur these Stamps onto Edmonton for another shot at glory.

Now quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell and the Stamps are heading back to the Grey Cup in a rematch of the 2016 game Calgary lost to the Redblacks. It’s a chance at ultimate redemption.

Bo Levi Mitchell seals the victory

The 22-14 win on Sunday over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers was somewhat underwhelming. At times it slowed to a defensive halt.

But with about six minutes left in the game and Calgary leading 14-11, Mitchell orchestrated a drive to put the game out of reach.

Mitchell wasn’t spectacular throughout the game, going 17 for 31 passing for 214 yards and three touchdowns. But with the game on the line he marched Calgary down the field with a seven-play 74-yard touchdown drive capped by a brilliant pass and catch to Eric Rogers in the end zone.

Calgary Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell lifts the trophy after defeating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL West final on Sunday night. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

That put Calgary up by 10 points with just a little more than three minutes left in the game, a deficit the Bombers could never overcome.

Many have speculated this could be Mitchell’s last game at McMahon Stadium as he may head south with NFL aspirations. If it was, it was vintage Mitchell — finding a way to win.

This now marks the fourth time Mitchell will enter the Grey Cup game as a starter. He won his first start, only to lose the last two. Now he’ll hope to lead Calgary to another championship.

‘Tired of seeing the Stampeders’

This is now the fourth time in the last five years the Stampeders are heading to the Grey Cup.

They won it all against Hamilton in 2014. But their last two meltdowns in the title game have been well-documented.

The West trophy presentation celebrations in the south end zone of McMahon Stadium after the game Sunday couldn’t have been more subdued and reserved — it was as if the Stampeders wanted no part of what seems to have become somewhat routine to them all. They want the big prize.

Calgary’s head coach Dave Dickenson could barely look at the trophy.

He quickly shuffled it along to his players before being asked to share a few words over the loud speakers inside the stadium.

« A lot of Canada is tired of seeing the Stampeders in the Grey Cup but tough luck, we’re bringing our team to Edmonton, » Dickenson said. « We have great fans and a great city. The city is looking for something like this. »

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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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