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‘Making up for lost time’: Stampeders celebrate Grey Cup 3 years in the making

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EDMONTON — This time, they didn’t flinch.

There wasn’t heartbreak, a fumble or interception that would leave the Calgary Stampeders wondering what might have been.

It was only pure joy and celebration for the Stamps, who defeated the Ottawa Redblacks 27-16 to capture the 106th Grey Cup.

And when the clock finally hit zeroes inside Commonwealth Stadium on Sunday night in Edmonton, Calgary players galloped onto the field, raced to the stage and hoisted the trophy that had eluded them the past two seasons.

They danced around for what seemed like an eternity as red-and-white confetti shot into the calm, crisp night. None of the players were leaving the stage. They weren’t in a hurry. It was a championship moment three years in the making.

« Those emotions flooded over us. We were making up for lost time, » said Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell.

A special kind of win

Mitchell was named the Grey Cup MVP for the second time in his career. He was named MVP during his first Grey Cup win four years ago in Vancouver and is now 2-2 as a starter in the championship game.

But this win was different. The heartbreaking sting of the last two Grey Cup defeats left the Stampeders wondering if they’d ever get back to the top.

« It’s been hard, » Mitchell said. « The amount of time you put in. There is so much sacrifice and sometimes it feels worthless when you get to the championship and lose. »

When the Stampeders finally made it inside their locker room, the champagne sprayed, cigar smoke swirled and beer shot in all directions. The players went wild — their dancing, singing and celebrating told the story about how difficult the past three seasons have been.

« I think everyone knew tonight nothing was going to hold us back, » Mitchell said. « We were all going to do this for each other. That’s the difference. »

Mitchell, centre, sprays champagne in the dressing room as Calgary celebrates its Grey Cup victory. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Changing the narrative

There were times throughout the game the Stamps could have faltered or went « here we go again. »

Mitchell threw two first-half interceptions and Calgary let Ottawa stay in the game. The score was 14-11 Calgary with time ticking down before halftime — but it felt like the Stamps should have been leading by much more.

Then Calgary punt returner Terry Williams changed the story for a team that so badly needed a big play in a Grey Cup game.

Williams caught the Ottawa punt at his own 23 yard line with 20 seconds left and started to rumble on the icy turf. Players had trouble with their footing all throughout the game — Williams did too at the beginning of his run. He braced himself, got his feet under him and never looked back.

Williams ran straight to the end zone. His 97-yard punt-return touchdown was the longest in Grey Cup history. More importantly, it swung the momentum back to Calgary — something they just couldn’t do in the previous two title games.

Watch highlights of Calgary’s Grey Cup victory over Ottawa:

After back-to-back Grey Cup defeats, Bo Levi Mitchell and the Calgary Stampeders rode off to a 27-16 win over Ottawa, avenging their loss to the Redblacks in the 2016 championship game. 2:49

« I wanted to show the world what I could do, » Williams said. « That field is horrible. It was slippery. I couldn’t wear the cleats I wanted to.

Williams gave the Stamps a 21-11 lead going into halftime and instilled confidence in a team so fragile from two previous Grey Cup defeats.

« We said all week there’s no way we’re going to lose this game. We weren’t going to choke. »

Most Outstanding Canadian

Resilience is what the Stampeders preached all season long. Calgary wanted to be a team that fought through adversity and found ways to win.

Lemar Durant needed to be resilient when it mattered most. He dropped two easy passes for the Stampeders early in the game and looked shaken.

But Mitchell never gave up on his receiver. And Durant wasn’t about to drop the ball a third time.

He made a spectacular leaping catch and dove into the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter to give the team a 14-3 lead.

« Bo trusted me, threw it up and I made the play, » Durant said.

« Being the competitor I am, those drops hurt. It’s hard for me to get those drops out of my head. But then at the same time I worked way too hard to get here and let that affect me. »

You always dream of winning championships but to get it done is awesome … We were going to die on that field if we had to.– Lemar Durant

Durant rebounded after those first two drops, catching the next four passes thrown his way. He finished the game with 30 receiving yards, along with 22 rushing, and was named Most Outstanding Canadian.

« You always dream of winning championships but to get it done is awesome, » Durant said.

« We were going to die on that field if we had to. »

Sweet victory for Calgary coach

As the party spilled into the locker room, head coach Dave Dickenson was in the middle of it all.

He was doused with champagne, cracked opened a beer and then sprayed a bunch of his players. His relief, happiness and emotion were clearly evident as he celebrated with his players.

« There’s been a lot of frustrated guys these last few years, » Dickenson said. « It felt like we had to get it done and we did. »

This was Dickenson’s first Grey Cup win as a head coach and his third consecutive appearance — but the previous two trips have haunted him. The former quarterback won Cups before as a player and lost them too, but the defeat last year to Toronto was the worst ever for him.

« Last year was the hardest loss of my life. Player or coach, » he said. « I didn’t know if we’d get back and I really didn’t want to think what three losses in a row would feel like.

« This first win is sure sweet. »

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Anglais

‘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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