Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Toronto Argonauts 18 at Hamilton Tiger-Cats 34 - August 3, 2015

After witnessing the rebirth of baseball in Toronto, I made the 70-km (45-mile) drive to Hamilton to see Toronto's other summer team on the road.

Despite the short distance between the two cities, they couldn't be more different. Whereas downtown Toronto is filled with young hipsters, Hamilton is still populated with a hard-drinking blue collar population. I was still wearing my Blue Jays jersey and received a number of comments, mostly along the lines of "Wrong sport, moron", though one friendly guy invited me into his bar for a few pints. Sadly, I had to decline the offer, enticing as it was, and made my way to Tim Horton's Field, Hamilton's addition to the stadium scene.

It opened in the middle of the last CFL season after a long delay, and was used in the recent Pan Am Games. It is built on the footprint of Ivor Wynne Stadium, though the field now runs more or less north-south (I was told that it used to be east-west), with the sun now setting behind the west stand.

THF is located in the middle of a neighbourhood so you can easily find free street parking within a few blocks and avoid the private lots set up along the main streets that charge $10 or $15. The ticket window is in the southeast corner of the stadium and I was a bit surprised to see that the game was completely sold out. Fortunately, a season ticket holder had an extra and he was happy to sell it to me for a discount. Turned out to be a great seat, in the shaded west stand at the 40-yard line 12 rows up. You can see the difference in the two stands in the photo below.

I took the obligatory tour and was impressed with the design. There are only two stands, each with a concourse featuring a number of concession stands selling a good variety of eats. The classic poutine ($7.50) is a worthy choice, but you should have two people to share it, as the volume is surprisingly large and very filling. The concourse also has some historic photos on the pillars, such as the one below. Note that as the crowd files in the concourse gets very crowded, so if you want to tour, get there early.

A few other pictures, including one taken at sunset:

This was Hamilton's first home game of the season as they had been forced to the road by the Pan Am Games (as have the Argos) and so there was a small ceremony highlighting all of their Grey Cup and Eastern Division Championships as former players carried out pennants.

The Tiger-Cats also unveiled a new 15-foot tall steam whistle in the Northeast fan terrace that signalled the start of the game, touchdowns and victories. Sadly, it was used quite a bit on this night.

No need to recap the game, it was terrible on many levels. There have been several rule changes this year and the players are still getting used to the new regulations. The Argos committed 18 penalties on the night, while Hamilton was whistled for 12 infractions. That's a penalty every 2 minutes. Boring. To make matters worse, there was a lightning delay of 25 minutes with 5:38 left in the first half. Why not just make that halftime? Nope, the players returned to the field, played that 5:38, and then went back to the locker rooms for a 16-minute halftime.

The Ticats had injury troubles with C.J. Gable knocked out of the game after making the catch below, and fan favourite Andy Fantuz falling late in the fourth quarter. Both were placed on the 6-game injury list later in the week, bad news for a team that has four more games in August.

The final is below, a dreary ending to an otherwise great sports day. I say that I root for the Argos, but in reality I couldn't name a single player on the team these days other than Ricky Ray so I wasn't too disappointed, particularly considering that Hamilton has yet to lose at Tim Horton's Field.


I've now seen 4 of the 9 CFL stadiums, which means I'm not going to bother with a full league road trip. My only other CFL trip this season will be to see the Grey Cup in Winnipeg, thus completing the big 5 North American championships (I've seen the clinching games of the Stanley Cup Final, World Series and NBA Finals as well as the Super Bowl).



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