Hunt remains diligent in search of Ottawa's first GM | | Official Site of the Canadian Football League
On the Hunt For a General Manager

OTTAWA -- While others hurry to do their last-minute Christmas shopping Jeff Hunt is content to take his time before wrapping up one of the first big acquisitions for Ottawa's CFL expansion team.

Hunt, the team's president, is looking for a general manager. He's searching for someone capable of nurturing the yet unnamed club through its infancy in a market that has a proud CFL history but has been frustrated by some questionable ownership.

Hunt hopes to have the new GM in place by late January or early February. He chuckles at the thought that both the Edmonton Eskimos and Hamilton Tiger-Cats have hired general managers while he still shops around.

"It would appear as if I'm the tortoise in the race," said the 48-year-old businessman who also owns the OHL Ottawa 67's. "We're going through a process."

The team's name will be announced early in the new year. So far over 45,000 suggestions have been made by fans with Ottawa Rush one of the front-runners.

"That's the name that has been bandied around," was all Hunt would say.

The shortlist for the general manager's job has been narrowed to five to seven people but "that could change next week," Hunt said.

More on Ottawa's Return

» Football returns to Ottawa for 2014
» Video: Ottawa On Track for 2014
» Video: On the Hunt for a GM
» Video: Cohon on Expansion Draft
» Images: New Ottawa Stadium Concept
» Cauz: Getting excited for Ottawa
» Ottawa ready to play the name game
» Images: The Best of Ottawa Football
» Expansion Draft plan approved

"It could go up or it could go down. Sometimes guys you weren't thinking were a possibility could become available."

Hunt admits Kent Austin, who the Tiger-Cats recently hired as coach, general manager and vice-president of football operations, was on his interest list.

Two candidates being mentioned for the job are Marcel Desjardins, the Montreal Alouettes' assistant general manager, and Marcel Bellefeuille, the former Hamilton coach who also coached the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees. Both men have ties to Ottawa and are bilingual.

"These are all guys we think are great candidates, guys we wish to continue to talk to," Hunt said.

The challenge of taking over a team that has no players and hasn't even announced the colours of its uniforms requires a GM with a certain skill set.

Most new GMs have a foundation to build on. In Ottawa, the person will be laying the concrete. The CFL will hold an expansion draft next December and the team will play its first game in 2014.

"The emphasis on personnel is greater on an expansion team environment than a mature team," said Hunt.

"You could say the demands of personnel, both expertise and resources, is triple what a typical team experiences in a year. We are starting with zero players. A year from April you are going to need 50, 60, 70 players coming to camp."

Hiring someone with CFL experience "is a prerequisite." The person must have at least played in the league, if not coached or held a management position.

"Maybe I will live to eat these words (but) I can't imagine us hiring somebody who does not have a CFL background," Hunt said.

"There's a difference between American football and CFL football. A lot of guys have failed in not being able to make that transition. Having been a player in the CFL you couldn't help but come to understand the nuances and differences."

A strong knowledge of the game is essential but the Ottawa GM will also become the public face of the team. He needs to be accessible to the media and help market the franchise to fans.

"I don't think in this business anybody can afford to be one-dimensional," said Hunt. "You may be the smartest football guy in North America. But if you don't have a bedside manner with the media, if you can't deal with fans and represent the franchise in a very professional manner, in my mind that's a deal-breaker.

"Everybody is well aware of some of the history here and of the fact we've got some scorched earth to overcome. The first 16 or 17 months of this GM being on the job we're not going to play a single game. This is a person that has to establish the excitement and credibility of what kind of team we are going to have. Every GM in the CFL has to have a certain finesse with the media. I think that's even more so in an expansion franchise in Ottawa."

So in a perfect world the Ottawa GM would be able to pick talent like B.C.'s Wally Buono and be media savvy like Saskatchewan's Corey Chamblin. An extra bonus would be the ability the speak French. The Ottawa market is about 15 per cent Francophone. Nearby Gatineau, Que., has a population of 300,000 with 78-per-cent French speaking.

"At the end of the day we want to find the best guy," Hunt said. "If that best guy could speak French, then that's our wildest dreams come true."

At the moment Hunt doesn't see the GM also being the head coach.

"It's hard to imagine, with all the work that needs to be done in building a team from scratch, you could have somebody also focused on coaching," he said. "Maybe once you have an established team and the personnel requirements are not as onerous, you might be more willing to see a coach-GM. At the same time we're going to make that decision based on the individual."

Hunt is prepared to roll with some punches in Ottawa's first couple of years in the CFL. He doesn't expect miracles on the field, but he does want a general manager to build a team that excites the fans.

"What I would have minimal patience for . . . is a lack of compete and a lack of effort," Hunt said. "You can't always get the best skilled players available, especially as an expansion team (but) that can't affect the effort and compete level and attitude of your team.

"Hopefully that's what the fans will see game in and game out, a team that goes and ties to win every game."

About Jim
Jim Morris has spent over 30 years working as a journalist, mostly with The Canadian Press. He has covered the CFL in Edmonton, Winnipeg, Calgary, Ottawa and Vancouver, where he now lives. Follow Jim on Twitter @jememorris
Fan Comments
Ottawa is bilingual. Get a name that reflects that. This would not only support a bilingual city, but open up the Gatineau market as well.

Some kind of team name that would be representative of this would be desired, regardless of what it is. That and hey, if I'm going to buy season tickets I'd want a decent name to cheer for.

I was thinking the Ottawa Voyageurs / Les Voyageurs d'Ottawa for example, but hey there are tons of options...
January 20, 2013 - 9:27pm
previous comment typo...I meant to say agree.
January 01, 2013 - 1:24pm
als rule, History belongs exactly where it is...History!!!! I afree with LionWhiskers.
January 01, 2013 - 1:21pm
als rule
January 02, 2013 - 10:56am
From a historical point of view it makes sense, but from a promotional point of view I don´t see it being positive for the league. It (the league) runs the risk of being viewed as unimaginative. If you want to attract interest in the league (possibly entice new owners for future expansion) it´s in the best interest of the league to project itself as an entity that is creative as well as dynamic. Either way, it´s good to see Ottawa back and, hopefully, to stay this time.
December 31, 2012 - 7:07pm
I agree with you LionWhiskers.
January 01, 2013 - 1:14pm
als rule
FF continue being wrong!! history lives on bank st. in the glebe at lansdowne park!! you could/would not have believed the excitement a name change in montreal caused!! going from stallions to ALOUETTES!! history rules baby!!
January 02, 2013 - 10:49am
als rule
LW funny!! "not a promotional point of view" ARE YOU KIDDING ME? OF COURSE IT IS!! get with the bandwagon!!
January 02, 2013 - 10:51am
Please, not the Ottawa Rough Riders … in a nine team league having two teams with similar names just makes the league look “bush league”. Not very imaginative.
December 30, 2012 - 7:08pm
als rule
HISTORY BABY!! your not very imaginative & some might say "BUSH LEAGUE"!! LOL LOL LOL
December 31, 2012 - 11:03am
Haven't posted for some time...
This Old Man » Agree. Ottawa Rough Riders. Don't need Renegades, or some Arena Football nickname like Rush. Saskatchewan can deal with it as best they can.

As for the GM, not sure who the best candidates are, but please keep Eric Tillman the hell away from the nations capital.

Other than that, I'll try to post or log-in in a sporadic regular fashion =)

Happy New Year to all CFL fans from Victoria to the Maritimes, and across the USA.

Going to keep spending time with family and watch as many Bowl games as time permits.

December 30, 2012 - 4:21pm
als rule
your absolutely right!! CFL H/Office and 8 teams especially are wrong!! never seen a league every year constantly shoot itself in both feet and backside!! OTTAWA ROUGH RIDERS!!
December 30, 2012 - 7:09pm
Thanks alsrule. Happy New Year to you nad Alouette nation.

As for Ottawa Rough Riders, also keep the bold white''R'' on the black helmets as well. It would be stupid for Ottawa to turn its back on their rich (some times spotty) history.

And 100% correct you are about a league that keeps shooting itself in the foot. Their biggest mistake was (1970's - 1980's I think) was all the local T.V. blackouts for broadcasting games. The CFL lost out and alienated a complete geration of potential fans. When I was young, CFL was the shizzle. But during those two decades, they turned those ''kids'' into NFL fans because lack of CFL exposure, and NFL was just starting to crank up their marketing machine. Back in the day (1940's - 50's - 60's) a lot of American born football players wanted to come to Canada to play football. NOW, not so much.

As for the TV docs ''Engraved On A Nation'' that was great to run that flag up the flag pole to see who would salute. I saluted. I missed the doc about the ''Bad Boys - 1971 Argos''... I still want / need to see that!!!!!

Peace to all, and war RED HORSE.

(Just a old guy using the words ''shizzle'' and ''war'' attemtping to connect with the youth of our nation lol)
January 02, 2013 - 4:18pm
This Old Man
Just make it the Ottawa Rough Riders. Tell Saskatchewan to stuff it (and I bleed green). What this league needs is two teams with the same name (admittedly slightly different spelling). Anything less is insipid, Mr. Cohon. Ottawa has an extraordinary football history, and it's the Nation's Capital. Stop harping and get 'er done, dude.
December 29, 2012 - 1:25pm
als rule
agree 100%!! to h*ll with saskatchewan's objections!! there was always 2 roughriders/rough riders in our league!! T.O. CFL H/Office get a backbone!!
December 30, 2012 - 7:03pm
" One & Only " Ottawa Outlaws. Imagine The Possibilities...
December 28, 2012 - 1:35pm
als rule
and recently at that!!
December 28, 2012 - 7:26pm
December 28, 2012 - 11:34pm
What do you and recently at that!!!
December 28, 2012 - 11:43pm
"One & Only" Ottawa Outlaws
December 28, 2012 - 12:44pm
I think it should be The OTTAWA OUTLAWS!!
December 28, 2012 - 1:36am
als rule
FF then why not the rock machine, hells angels, popeyes, satan's choice, mean machine etc. etc. etc. funny? NO!!
December 28, 2012 - 8:56am
I see you like wrestling...
December 28, 2012 - 1:36pm
als rule
and you have fallen on your head!!
December 28, 2012 - 7:25pm
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