Montreal native finally realized a nineteen-year dream to lead the Montreal Alouettes and win the 2023 Grey Cup Championship

“My goal was always to be involved in professional football – either as a coach or General Manager; and preferably with the Montreal Alouettes.”

“I grew up in St. Leonard and played football for my high school team at Laurier MacDonald High School. When I graduated, I went into my parent’s insurance brokerage business. It was mostly managed by my mom, because my dad Cosmo was elected to the Quebec National Assembly from 1981 until he stepped down in 2001.” Danny’s father then entered municipal politics and was elected Borough Mayor for Riviere-des-Prairies-Pointe-aux-Trembles and also served as a Montreal City Councilor until he retired in 2009.

Danny Maciocia

Danny Maciocia waited 19 years for the chance to return to The Montreal Alouettes

“I spent so much time coaching and thinking about amateur football that I wasn’t very good in the insurance business. In fact, my mom had to fire me! I went to work for another insurance company so that I could have an income while I focused on football.”

Danny started his administrative career in football in 1994 as Offensive Coordinator with the St. Leonard Cougars, before being promoted to Head Coach in 1995.

Danny’s persistence and amateur coaching experience eventually led him to the professional ranks with The Alouettes when they returned to Montreal in 1996. “I got what they called a ‘quality control coaching ’ job with the team.” Danny adds with a rueful chuckle; “The only catch was that I didn’t get paid for that job.” Continuing, he adds; “My wife gave me two years to see if I could turn my love of football into a career that would support our family. I used that time in ’96 and ’97 before Jim Popp gave me a job as running backs coach for The Alouettes in 1998.” Danny now had a pay cheque in professional football.

Danny was promoted to the Alouettes Assistant Offensive Coordinator in 2000 and the full position of Offensive Coordinator in 2001. Following the 2001 season with The Alouettes, Danny decided that he would have to get a job with another club in order to achieve more credibility in the football marketplace in general and The Alouettes in particular. Danny smiles ruefully and quips; “I didn’t know at the time that it would take me nineteen years to make my way back to The Alouettes!”

“The Edmonton Eskimos (now Elks) hired me as Offensive Coordinator for the 2002 season; and my wife, daughter and I moved to Edmonton. We were part of a large Italian-Canadian community in St. Leonard, and it was a bit of a culture shock in moving to Edmonton. However, the fans embraced us and welcomed us into the community.”

Danny’s talents as an offensive coordinator were soon evident. The team progressed to the Grey Cup twice and won the championship in 2003. The reputation as a creative football strategist that Danny wanted was building… Following a difficult 2004 season, Danny was promoted to Head Coach of the Edmonton team; making him the first Quebec-born head coach in the history of the Canadian Football League, and Edmonton’s first Canadian Head Coach since 1951. Team management’s confidence in Danny was well-founded when Danny led the team to win the Grey Cup in 2005 in his first year as Head Coach.

Addressing a group of Alouettes hopefuls

Danny Maciocia addressing a group of Alouettes hopefuls

The glory days didn’t last; and the team failed to even make the playoffs in the 2006 season. Team management recognized that they had a talented football mind in Danny, and somewhat surprisingly, he was promoted to Director of Football Operations, while retaining his job as head coach. This is a key management position, because the best marketing and public relations campaigns won’t help to sell tickets if the team isn’t winning. That responsibility rests with the Director of Football Operations.

Unfortunately, the 2007 season was worse and again the Edmonton team missed the playoffs. He resigned as head coach, but stayed on as Director of Football Operations and was able to get the team back onto a winning track with a 10 win – 8 loss 2008 season.  The team beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the playoffs, only to lose to the Alouettes in the Eastern Final. Danny Maciocia’s time in Edmonton came to an end in July, 2010.

Being a person with a positive nature, Danny put the knowledge and experience he gained at the professional level to work. To stay in football, he volunteered as Head Coach for the College André-Grasset football team at the CEGEP level for their 2010 season. The experience Danny brought to the position paid off, and the team won the Quebec Junior college championship.

Danny’s success at the CEGEP level, his professional success in Edmonton and his ‘name’ recognition in Montreal caught the attention of the Montréal Carabins football organization at the Université de Montréal. He accepted the job as Head Coach in November 2010. The team flourished under Danny’s leadership. “Not only are you coaching these young athletes, you’re also imparting some valuable life lessons and character development teachable moments to these young men. Winning football games was our objective, but along the way I was able to make a positive difference in the lives of these student athletes.”

Danny Maciocia

Training Camp starts at 5:30 am and continues into the night

Under Danny’s leadership, Les Carabins became a football powerhouse, winning The Dunsmore Cup (three times), Utek Bowl (twice) the Mitchell Bowl, and the Vanier Cup national championship.

Meanwhile, across town there were changes taking place with the Montreal Alouettes. By mutual agreement, longtime General Manager and sometime coach Jim Popp left the team in December 2016. “Jim had been a mentor to me when I was first working as an offensive coordinator with The Alouettes.  Danny was rumoured to be in the running – but the job went to Kavis Reed.

Following the sale of the team to Sid Spiegal and his son-in-law Gary Stern, Danny was again rumoured to be in consideration for the General Manager’s job. Again is was a combination of Danny’s football knowledge and name recognition in Montreal that helped to seal the deal and Danny was named General Manager of the Montreal Alouettes in January 2020. Little did anyone know that a worldwide pandemic would wipe out the 2020 season for the Canadian Football League. “I always wanted to come back to The Alouettes, and I know it would take some time – but I never dreamed it would take nineteen years!” Danny quipped during our conversation at the club’s training camp in Saint-Jerome.

In Danny’s first season as GM in 2021, the team had a 7 – 7 record, and lost in the East’s semi-final. After a slow start to the 2022 season, Khari Jones was let go and Danny stepped in as head coach, establishing a record of 8 wins and 6 losses for a second place finish, only to lose to the Toronto Argonauts n the East’s semi-final.

Danny Maciocia

Leadership can be a solitary existence at times

In the off-season, Danny hired former Edmonton quarterback Jason Maas as the Alouettes’ Head Coach. They had worked together in Edmonton and Danny was confident in Jason’s ability to communicate and relate to players. Going into the 2023 season, The Alouettes were considered an underdog, a very long shot to reach the playoffs.”I know that many people around the league didn’t consider us a serious contender.” stated Danny. “But we knew that we had a core group of talented players who supported and believed in each other.  So we just quietly went about our business and got better and better every week and won 11 games to our 7 losses. We were building victories when it counted… in the last part of the season. We knew that we could line up and be competitive with any team in the league – and the other teams soon found that out.”

On the practical side, winning the 110th Grey Cup earned Danny a four year contract extension. Danny is on mission to not only win football games, but to bring pride back to the organization. “I want Montrealers to be proud of The Alouettes, to see our players as positive role models. I’ve brought in former players as coaches and my Assistant General Manager; and they’re all local.” With a chuckle, Danny adds; “Of course, we have to win football games while we’re doing all this!”

“I want the fan base to see themselves reflected in this team. We’re a reflection of Montreal, and it’s important for the fans to see that.”

I ask Danny if he feels pressure to have a winning season and to go to the Grey Cup again. He replied, “I don’t see it as pressure, I look at it as a privilege to be the GM of The Montreal Alouettes. Look – every season is different, and during the season there are some lows. The challenge lies in how we handle those lows. We don’t panic, we analyze and move forward. You learn a lot about yourself; and you’re more valuable than if you win all the time.”

“A very wise man once told me that you build your legacy in your 50s and 60s. I want The Montrealer Alouettes to be respected, admired and loved by this community. Then I’ll know that I’ve made a difference for my city.

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