Ticats look to London

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:40 AM ET

Hamilton Tiger-Cats GM Bob O'Billovich stopped in front of the Western football Wall of Champions.

He saw familiar faces and names.

He told a John Metras story.

He talked about old pal Whit Tucker.

He pointed out to Western coach Greg Marshall he's wearing a Ticats shirt in his photo.

He complimented late sportswriter Bob Gage and recalled drafting Michael Kirkley, for whom the Mustangs' training centre is named, as a running back.

The Ticats held practice yesterday at TD Waterhouse Stadium in an effort to strengthen their ties with London.

Heck, they're already pretty darn tight -- and not just because of Obie's vast memory bank or geography.

Donnie Marshall, now a Western quarterback, used to roam the sidelines at Ivor Wynne Stadium while his dad coached the CFL team.

"I'd help the equipment manager but not that much," Donnie said. "I'd watch Danny McManus throw the deep ball. It's fun to see the new guys who weren't there before."

McManus was on hand, too. He played an exhibition game against the Toronto Argonauts here in London long before Western secured better turf.

Hamilton linebacker Ray Mariuz gave Greg Marshall a big hug but couldn't resist a jab. The former McMaster standout knew the Marauders ruined Western Homecoming with a 42-35 win on Saturday -- just like the two of them combined to do seven years ago here.

"I haven't been here since I played but I have happy memories," Mariuz said, "for Mac, anyway. With Greg here with these facilities and with Mac getting the new (Ron Joyce Stadium) to help with recruiting, I think this is going to be a great rivalry for years to come."

Mariuz knows, though, he'll never get the last laugh.

The man who could make his workouts a lot harder is the Ticats strength coach. That's Roger Dunbrack, former Mustang and Vanier Cup champ.

"My cousin (lineman) Will Scott is in his second year with the Mustangs, my brother and I both played at Western, and we went to the Vanier Cup game last year (at Ivor Wynne) against Laval," Dunbrack said. "They didn't win but they put themselves in position every year to be there again.

"I look around at this facility -- I've been through before many times -- and knowing the kind of man Greg is, there's no doubt they will be there again."

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats president is Scott Mitchell. His dad is Doug Mitchell, the former CFL commissioner for whom the Mitchell Bowl in Canadian university football semifinal is named.

In this year's rotation, it's Quebec champion visiting the Ontario survivor.

There's a chance next month it could be Laval-Western again right here.

And there's a good chance the Ticats will bring a full, or partial, training camp to London soon.

"I wouldn't be surprised if it happened in the near future," Mitchell said. "Mac would always be our training centre but I could see us moving here during one camp. I've already talked to (Western athletic director) Therese Quigley about the possibility.

"We feel we have a strong bond with London and we want to build on it."

There are some logistics to clear up first. Ticats training camp falls during the high school track and field season and OFSAA will be held at TD Waterhouse Stadium next summer.

So how about an exhibition game, too?

"We'll see how it goes," Mitchell said.

The Ticats' timing to reach out to London is good because the club is experiencing an on-field resurgence.

No longer doomed doormats, Hamilton has a real chance to lock down a grip on second place in the East Division with a win in their next game against Winnipeg. That would result in a home playoff game at old Ivor Wynne.

"That's what we're working for right now," Ticats quarterback Quinton Porter said. "That's our goal."

It would be a major plus to fill the seats for such a tilt. That, Porter knew, was a key reason to come to London.

"There's a pretty good population here and it isn't that far from Hamilton," he said, "and we want to show London the brand of football we play."

And make an already-strong relationship that much tighter.

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca


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