HAMILTON -- Not many weeks ago, Arland Bruce frustrated Bart Andrus to the point that a trade was the only way out of an ugly mess.
Mention Andrus, the head coach of the struggling Argonauts, to Bruce now and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats receiver gets a puzzled look.
"Who?" Bruce said after the Ticats practised yesterday. "(Former Argos coaches) Don Matthews and Rich Stubler are two coaches I have known in the CFL. I don't know who you are talking about."
Ouch! Do you think the Labour Day Classic on Monday afternoon at Ivor Wynne Stadium between the Argos and Tiger-Cats doesn't mark a personally significant game for Bruce? Take another guess.
It's the first time Bruce, shipped out of Toronto in late July for conduct that Andrus deemed unprofessional, will play his former teammates since the trade.
"I get to say what's up to my boys," Bruce, who still lives in Mississauga, said. "They're my people over there. I'm not the first athlete that has been traded and played against his former team, but it's going to be exciting, man."
Bruce has become an integral part of the Ticats offence, hauling in 18 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns. And on the subject of whether he has been an off-the-field distraction, which Andrus thought he was, Bruce has been toeing the line in Steeltown.
"You see his play on the field, he has improved our team tremendously from Day 1," Ticats centre Marwan Hage said. "I've seen what he has done to us in the past. And in the locker room, he has been awesome. So far, it has been good."
The Argos won their first game without Bruce -- he was suspended by Andrus for a July 24 tilt in Winnipeg -- but since the swap are 0-4. Hamilton is 2-2 with Bruce, as it was in its first four games without the 31-year-old receiver. His former team has fallen to the bottom of the CFL, but Bruce is not sold on the Argos' bad record. Toronto's defence remains among the upper tier in the league and Bruce realizes that possibly torching the secondary won't come without effort.
"I have a lot of Tupac songs I have been listening to this week," Bruce said. "It's motivating to me, really. I am looking for a challenge every day of my life, and this is definitely a challenge. I want to set the tone for the team."
But does Bruce have a greater understanding of why Andrus felt he had no choice but to get rid of him?
"(The trade) was (more than) a month ago, bro," Bruce said. "A lot of things happen within two days, so imagine a month. I am on this team now, I am sworn into it."
And, refusing to elaborate, Bruce said: "I'm not the only one that had something to say about the coach."