DON LANDRY - Argonauts.ca Columnist
TORONTO - Chad Owens loves playing the Montreal Alouettes.
At home, on the road, no matter. The Flyin' Hawaiian jet sets against his former team on a fairly regular basis.
Since being acquired by the Argonauts from the Als just prior to the 2010 season, Owens has been racking up yards at the expense of CFL teams without prejudice. However, it seems he saves just a tad more for his former team and the track at Percival Molson Stadium in Montreal has been almost as gracious to him as the friendly confines of home field at the Rogers Centre.
|Chad Owens: #Owens3k3|
With Chad driving towards his third 3,000 All-Purpose Yard Season, we will be tracking his progress on twitter with the hashtag #Owens3k3.
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As Owens and the Argos prepare for what you would safely understate as a fairly sizeable game on the campus of McGill this Sunday, the third year slotback/returner only knows he likes playing in Montreal. Can't tell you exactly why he performs well there, though. And I pushed him. Question after question about the city, the stadium, the restaurants, the train trip....
Finally, in a lighthearted way, he invoked closure on the whole exercise by blurting out:
"I can't stand here and tell you 'this is why I go there and play well.' I don't eat poutine, so I can't say that I love going there for the poutine," he said with a laugh.
Seems like a waste to go to Montreal and not partake in the poutine, but that's another matter. Owens' denial that french fries covered in gravy and cheese curds are what powers him past defenders is a setback to those of us who want to believe in the magic energy of the delicacy.
In compiling the hints in his other answers, however, you can begin to paint a bit of a picture as to why Owens gets a little more jazzed to play the Als, even if he doesn't sense it, or admit to sensing it. It has to do with the opponent, it has to do with the emotions involved and it has to do with the vibe in the stands.
In 7 career regular season games against the Alouettes, Owens has compiled 1,534 combined yards and totalled 6 touchdowns. That's an average of nearly 220 yards per game. He's saved his best performances, cumulatively, for Argo audiences, with 782 of those yards and 3 of those touchdowns coming in 3 games at home.
"You get to go against Anthony Calvillo," Owens said, of a motivating force. "He's the greatest, right? You get to go against guys who understand what it takes to win championships. It's a great test. You know you've got to bring your best. It may sound odd, because you've got to bring your best every week. Just because it's Montreal, its a chance for you to go out and prove your worth and prove what you can do against a top team in the league."
Owens has played in 4 regular season games in Montreal since being acquired by the Argos in a trade that sent a 2011 4th round draft pick back to the Als. (Montreal used that pick to select defensive lineman Renaldo Sagesse, out of Michigan. Sagesse was released by Montreal during training camp in 2011)
In those 4 games, Owens has racked up 752 all-purpose yards, including a punt return touchdown in a game last October. Earlier this season, he added two receiving touchdowns and 277 combined yards in a 23 - 20 win.
"I don't know if there's anything special," said Owens, of playing well in Montreal. "Other than I played there with some of those guys. It's just a great venue. A great atmosphere to play in. I think it's just coincidence that I have decent games against them. I approach every game the same."
Every CFL stadium and every group of CFL fans are different in some ways, so Owens doesn't think direct comparisons are in order. But he knows Alouette fans and the configuration of Percival Molson stadium make for a pretty raucous and uncommon experience. The energy gets him jazzed. Anyone who's stood on the sidelines near the North stands knows that the sound from the crowd there seems to rain down from directly above you. Owens has noticed.
"It's almost like a mountain, right?," he said of the tall and steep seating area. It almost goes more vertical than wide and it feels like they're right on top of you. And it's a great atmosphere. I love the fact that they expanded and got more fans in there. It's fun every time I get to go back and play. They've got great fans. And they've been and still are one of the best teams in the league. Always a challenge," he said.
With the energy of the venue, the enormity of the meaning of the game and the challenge of rising up against a traditionally excellent opponent looming this Sunday, Owens has no room for another possible motivating factor. Actually, it's not so much that he doesn't have room, but rather that he just doesn't have any of those clichéd 'I'll show 'em they made a mistake' feelings towards the team that traded him away more than two years ago.
"That's long gone," Owens said of any hard feelings he may have had. "I ain't gonna lie. In 2010, maybe the first game was kind of like that but after that... this is where I am. I'm a Toronto Argonaut. I have no grudges against them. They were good to me for a year, they gave me an opportunity to come back and be a part of a football team and to be a part of what I love and I'm very thankful for that."
So far, statistics show, Owens has had a funny way of showing his gratitude.
In July's win in Montreal, Owens had a tremendous first half of receiving, but caught just one pass in the second half for a grand total of minus 1 yard. If the Alouettes stymie the Ricky Ray to Owens connection from the outset this time, it will be crucial that somebody else in the Argo receiving corps steps up. If Owens finds himself open, however, he might just reach the 1,000 yard receiving mark before his old friend, Alouette receiver S.J. Green. Green has 953 yards. Owens stands at 938.
"S.J.'s a good friend of mine," offered Owens. "He's an awesome player. I wish him nothing but the best. It's not about who gets it first. Will he get there? Yes. Will I get there? Hopefully."
"If doing my job comes along with a thousand yards and a win, Sunday, I'm happy. If doing my job comes along with being a little short of a thousand yards and a win, I'm happy."