Skip to main content

There will soon be another Canadian head coach in the Canadian Football League, and it's one who has been around since the 1970s -- Don Matthews of the Montreal Alouettes.

The American-born coach is to be sworn in as a citizen at a ceremony on the field before the Alouettes' game on Saturday against the Ottawa Renegades at Olympic Stadium.

"I'm very happy to do this because I'm going to retire in Canada and spend my life here," said the 65-year-old coach, who has given no indication of when he will give up coaching.

"I feel loyalty for Canada letting me earn a living for so long as I've been here."

There are three Canadian head coaches in the CFL, all born and raised in Canada: Wally Buono of the B.C. Lions, Greg Marshall of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Jim Daley of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Matthews was born and raised in Amesbury, Mass., but because his parents were from Canada, he said it was "like going back to your roots. I'm an American by birth, but by blood I guess you'd say I am a Canadian."

His father, Fred, was from Prince Edward Island, but moved to the United States to become a labourer at a steel mill. His mother, Ida Babin, was from Tracadie, N.B.

Matthews visited PEI as a teenager, but never got his citizenship. He served three years in the U.S. Marines and played football at the University of Idaho, where he later began his coaching career.

His CFL career started in 1977 as linebackers coach with the Edmonton Eskimos.

He went on to become the most successful coach in CFL history, with 211 regular-season wins and 12 more in the playoffs, including five Grey Cups.

A crowd of more than 50,000 is expected at Olympic Stadium as the Alouettes move into the domed stadium for their final regular-season game from their usual home at the 20,202-seat Percival Molson Memorial Stadium.

The citizenship ceremony is to take about two minutes, and Matthews is to be sworn in by immigration judge George Springate, a former Alouettes place-kicker and politician.

Matthews has purchased an 11-hectare property near Kelowna, B.C., where he intends to spend his retirement. His sons live not far away on the U.S. West Coast.

But when he will retire is anyone's guess. Last fall, he was given an indefinite contract extension, and general manager Jim Popp suggested he could stay as long as he liked.

Matthews took over from Rod Rust after a disastrous 2001 season and brought the Alouettes to their first Grey Cup title in 25 years in 2002. They reached the championship game again last year, but lost to Edmonton.

This year, the Alouettes shot out to a 12-1 record, but since then have lost three games in a row, blowing a 20-0 lead in a 32-29 loss to B.C. at home last Sunday.

Typically, the gruff coach was unfazed by the losses.

With first place and a bye into the East Division final already secured, he said the game on Saturday will be used to test backup players to see whether they can contribute during the playoffs.

Canadian Richard Karikari will play at last half the game at free safety, and import linebacker Jason Lamar will see action.