Ticats in transition
By GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency
|Ticats head coach Marcel Bellefeuille and quarterback Kevin Glenn talk during the team's mini-camp in Hamilton last month. The Ticats open training camp for rookies and quarterbacks next Thursday. (ALEX UROSEVIC/QMI Agency)
EDMONTON - It has been 10 long seasons since the Hamilton Tiger-Cats won their last playoff game, knocking off the Montreal Alouettes 24-12.
At that time, the Ticats were just two years removed from their last Grey Cup championship in 1999. Since then, the club hasn’t scored as many points as it had last year, with 481.
“We did some positive things on offence last year, but we didn’t do it when it was most important in the playoff game,” said Ticats general manager Bob O’Billovich, who saw last year’s team fall 16-13 to the Toronto Argonauts in the Eastern semifinal. “I think that we’re coming to fruition this year.”
While things are looking up, the Ticats still find themselves looking up in the standings at the mighty Alouettes, who are on the hunt for their third-straight Grey Cup this year.
“I expect us to be a major challenge to the Aloeuttes because they are the defending Grey Cup champions and our job is to dethrone them.”
But they will also have to fend off s surging Argonauts team, whom they tied with a 9-9 record in the regular season only to fall short in the post-season.
“After the tough loss in the playoff game last year, we all agreed that we weren’t going to make the mistake of believing it was just bad luck. We weren’t good enough,” said team president Scott Mitchell. “We were going to make some changes to address that. I think we have, obviously.”
The biggest changes happened to head coach Marcel Bellefeuille’s left- and right-hand men. Quarterbacks coach Khari Jones has become the team’s offensive co-ordinator, while former Calgary Stampeders defensive backs coach Corey Chamblin has come on board to co-ordinate the defence.
“We have two young co-ordinators who are both very aggressive in their own way,” said O’Billovich. “Just looking at our depth chart and our football team, it’s been a process. Our ultimate goal is to win the Grey Cup.”
In an if-you-can’t-beat-’em-have-’em-join-you move, the Ticats picked up running back Avon Cobourne from the defending champs through free agency.
“We were able to have continuity and change at the same time,” said head coach Marcel Bellefeuille, who has already worked with Cobourne as running backs coach with
Montreal for two seasons before coming to Hamilton in 2008. “Obviously having coached Avon, I know him well and I know his style, and I think that is something that is going to help us and it is going to contribute to our leadership.
“Avon will hold himself accountable to the other players around him. I think that was part of it. The No. 1 part was his ability to play.”
The Ticats are coming off their second consecutive season of record revenue, including surpassing the $1-miillion mark in merchandise sales for the first time.
The franchise’s most recent victory was also their hardest earned, winning over the minds of city council for a new stadium after threatening to move outside city limits.
“There’s not a lot I can say about the stadium, it’s a confidential process,” said Mitchell. “It was a very tough debate for a good deal of time, but ended off with a good result.”
One that will see the Ticats get a new home on the current Ivor Wynne site by 2014.