It's a decision that many had anticipated for some time, but it still comes as a bit of a shock. Herb Zurkowsky of The Montreal Gazette reports that according to a source, legendary Alouettes receiver Ben Cahoon (pictured at right with the Grey Cup during the Alouettes' Dec. 1 championship parade) is expected to hang up his cleats for the last time this offseason. Here are Zurkowsky's exact words, from his Als Inside/Out blog:
A reliable source told Als Inside/Out that Cahoon's days in Montreal are over. While the 38-year-old is expected to retire, that's not necessarily carved in stone.
Earlier this week, Cahoon told montrealgazette.com he believes he could play at least another season or two. But several Montreal players have been told Cahoon won't be returning to the team in 2011.
Presumably, we'll discover in the days ahead whether Cahoon, in fact, is retiring from professional football or merely the Als. Any CFL player who "retires" before training camp is eligible to return at any time during the season.
If Cahoon is in fact riding off into the sunset, he's going out at the top. As Ian Busby writes, no one's left the CFL after winning back-to-back titles since Doug Flutie in 1997 (non-coincidentally, the last time any team repeated as Grey Cup champions). Moreover, Flutie was headed to the NFL; Cahoon presumably would be taking off the jersey for good. There aren't many who go out with that kind of success.
Whether he retires now or later, Cahoon will leave an incredible legacy. In 2010, he set the CFL's all-time receiving record with his 1,007th catch, passing the legendary Terry Vaughn in the process. Cahoon went on to make 10 more catches, finishing with a total of 1,017. It's not like he was limping through a final role, either; despite only recording two touchdowns this season, he finished with 67 catches for 703 yards and was a crucial part of the Alouettes' squad that claimed its second-straight Grey Cup. He played an important role in that title game, too, coming up with three catches (tied for third on the team) for 34 yards.
Some people will undoubtedly ascribe Cahoon's record-setting totals to his longevity, and that's partially true. The numbers of people who have played 13 CFL seasons aren't incredibly high, and that certainly was a factor in Cahoon winding up with the receptions record. However, it's worth noting that football longevity isn't particularly easy, especially when you make your living running crossing routes and taking big hits. Cahoon took plenty of punishment, but managed to stay quite healthy, only playing in less than 16 games of the 18-game schedule in 2005.
It's also notable that Cahoon wasn't just about putting up a few easy catches at a time; he notched over 1,000 yards in all but four of his CFL seasons, was named the Alouettes' MVP in both 2006 and 2007 (extremely rare for a receiver), recorded 65 touchdowns, was selected as a divisional all-star 10 times and a league all-star three times, and was named the league's Most Outstanding Canadian twice. He also teamed with Anthony Calvillo to form one of the league's most memorable quarterback-receiver pairings and made plenty of incredible catches along the way. Here's one of his most legendary, the CFL's version of the Helmet Catch, from July 1, 2009: