Moncton is hosting its third Touchdown Atlantic CFL game in four years this weekend but something seems to be different about this one, as it might not sell out.
Moncton calls itself the "Hub of the Maritimes" and it positions itself as the central meeting place of the Maritimes. Within a few hours from Moncton one can reach Halifax, Fredericton, Saint John and all of PEI. Add an hour or two, and you're into the state of Maine.
But something is missing this year. There doesn't seem to be the excitement, the hoopla or the drive to make it happen like the previous two times.
The previous times were in 2010, when Moncton sold out close to 21,000 seats and the tickets sold out in 32 hours. Edmonton won the game over Toronto, 24-6.
A year later, the first none sellout took place when there were 700 seats still available in a matchup with Hamilton and Calgary. The game saw a lot of points scored in a Tiger-Cats 56-36 win over the Stamps.
This week, some 1,400 tickets were available for Touchdown Atlantic III and as of Friday night, some 900-1,000 tickets remained.
So why isn't this game selling out? Or if it does sell out, why did it take so long?
There are several reasons that come to mind.
First of all, it's no longer the novelty it was in 2010. Secondly, some that I spoke to said "it's too bad that Anthony Calvillo of the Als won't be playing."
But the biggest factor for the decrease in interest seems to be the fact that the game doesn't have a home team; a real Atlantic franchise.
"I love the CFL and my family and I have taken in the first two games but we want to cheer for or own team," said Dave Astle, a strong CFL football fan. "They (CFL) have talked about expansion down here for years; maybe they should do it and we'll come back - be it in Moncton or anywhere in Atlantic Canada."
Asked whether there will be more Touchdown Atlantic games in the future, CFL commissioner Mark Cohon said it's too early to say.
"We'll analyze it later and depending on a lot of factors, there may be another game," Cohon said. "But folks have to remember that we are taking a team away from a home date, so the revenue generated from such a game (has to) at least match what a home gate will bring in. So, if revenues are there we might consider other games."
There's still talk about CFL expansion to this part of Canada.
Moncton has a leg up on anyone else because they have a stadium. The stadium is under five years old but has to be expanded when the CFL plays. Seating in the stadium is 10,000 and expansion seats are almost the same amount. Cohon says it would be at least $100,000 to bring the stadium to CFL regulation size.
For the first time ever, an elected public figure has come out in favour of a stadium for Halifax. Newly elected Mayor Mike Savage has come out in support and would like to build a facility that could host CFL games. Mind you, Halifax has been down that route before. Remember the 1981 Atlantic Schooners in the days of the late J.I. Albrecht?
So, the third Touchdown Atlantic game will be held and Brian Warschick from the Halifax area will take it in. He's been to all games.
"I love the CFL," said Warschick, who turned 60 this year. "I grew up on Kenny Ploen, the Bombers and the CFL. I'll be wearing my Hamilton sweater at the game as they are my second favourite team," he told TSN.ca.
Warshick went to the first two games with friends but this one is extra special. His son goes to St.FX University and Warshick will be going to Antigonish to pick him up but his son will have on a Montreal Als journey.
"It will be a great day, regardless of the outcome," Warshick said.
If Touchdown Atlantic had more fans like Brian Warshick, a sellout would not be in doubt.
For TSN.ca I'm Alex J. Walling
Alex J can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org