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Former Montreal Impact GM fans, have mixed feelings over reported name change

MONTREAL — Pino Asaro suggested at least five different names for the newest Montreal soccer franchise in 1992. The Impact, the team's eventual name, did not make his list.

MONTREAL — Pino Asaro suggested at least five different names for the newest Montreal soccer franchise in 1992. The Impact, the team's eventual name, did not make his list. 

But nearly 30 years later, the team's first general manager is sad about the possibility of a name change. 

"Part of my heart is tattooed with the Montreal Impact logo," Asaro said. 

A reported change of Major League Soccer's Montreal team name has incited mixed opinions from Asaro, the team's fanbase, and even a member of Quebec's national assembly. According to a report from Radio-Canada, the Impact want to change their name to Montreal FC. In response, a petition to keep the name started by the Montreal Impact Supporters Association has garnered nearly 2,000 signatures. 

The group says a name change would cause a "rift" between the team and its fanbase.

A provincial political leader also joined the debate recently. Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, the leader of Quebec's Parti Quebecois, tweeted "non merci" in response to the reported name change. 

"I much prefer the Montreal Impact," he added, in French. 

An Impact team official declined to confirm whether the team will be changing its name, telling The Canadian Press that the club is not "commenting on rumours."

Six of the 26 MLS teams have no team name other than FC or SC before or after their respective city, including Toronto FC.

The Impact have had their name since 1992, when the club was formed for the American Professional Soccer League following the dissolution of the Montreal Supra franchise. The Saputo family, including present-day owner Joey, spearheaded the new franchise and sought to make an impact in the city as well as the local soccer community, which led to the name. 

Asaro says he isn't sure why the Impact would consider changing their identity.

"I don't know how much something like that makes. The Impact has a history, championships that have been won. I don't know. Honestly, I'm at a loss for words at a reason why." Asaro said. 

Michael Murray has been a fan of the Impact for nearly 16 years, well before the team made the jump into MLS, and remembers when the team played at a venue that attracted casual fans and families who were most excited when the team mascot, Tac-Tic, would launch T-shirts into the crowd with a cannon. 

Murray feels there has been a lack of consultation between the team and fan groups on a potential name change.

"I think there are a number of things that could be run better on the team, especially as far as player recruitment," Murray said. 

"But nobody here is calling for a new name. If you went to 100 people and asked what should they change with the Montreal Impact, you'd probably get a variety of answers but I don't think anyone would say you need to change the name."

Ian Boudreau-Alvarez, a season-ticket holder for the last five seasons, is open to a name change. He says he always likened the name Impact as a name that would fit an under-14 youth team or a "typical North American type of soccer team name," but many of his friends see it as the team getting rid of its history. 

Asaro, however, doesn't buy the notion that Impact could be perceived as an amateur name.

"Being professional, or more professional, stems from the product that you are able to present to the community on and off the field," Asaro said. "And it has very little to do with the name." 

Boudreau-Alvarez is receptive to a rebranding, but that may depend on how it will actually look.

"I'm not against the name change. But it really depends on the overall brand that they're trying to present us. The logo, the colours. I hope they keep the same colours," Boudreau-Alvarez said. 

But he also agrees with Murray. He feels the Impact should have reached out to fans, and other club ambassadors, on a possible rebranding. 

"I think they should have, maybe, contacted people who have season tickets, ex-players, people that have actually been with the club since the beginning or support it wholeheartedly." Boudreau-Alvarez said. 

The Impact are out of this year's MLS playoffs, but the team still has a trophy to play for: the CONCACAF Champions League. The team will play the second leg of their quarter-final matchup against C.D. Olimpia on Dec. 15.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2020.

Julian McKenzie, The Canadian Press