Thank God it wasn't the Argos

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:01 AM ET

HAMILTON - The Hamilton Tiger-Cats hosted a true Labour Day Classic on Monday even though the Toronto Argonauts were nowhere to be found. In fact, the last thing the Tiger-Cats needed at Ivor Wynne Stadium on Monday afternoon was the mediocre Argos stinking up the joint. And so, Monday’s annual Labour Day game, which traditionally pits the hated Double Blue against the Tiger-Cats at Ivor Wynne, turned out to be a classic in the real sense of the word — a hard-fought, entertaining game between two talented teams fighting for home-field advantage in the playoffs. Having the miserable Double Blue on the field would have just dragged the game down. The 2-7 Argos are a boring team on their way to irrelevance. Hamilton’s impressive 44-21 victory over the Alouettes showed that they are a team on the rise. Given their strong two-way play on Monday, an argument can be made that the Tiger-Cats are legitimate Grey Cup contenders. The Alouettes, on the other hand, looked old and undisciplined. The East Division rivals are both 5-4, but going in different directions. And so while there weren’t any Toronto fans and players for the Hamilton faithful to taunt and ridicule, the atmosphere at this year’s Labour Day Classique, as the game was rebranded, couldn’t have been much better. “The fans seemed to embrace it and enjoy the game,” Hamilton head coach Marcel Bellefeuille said. “I really didn’t know what to expect,” he added. “At no point during the week did I ever ask how many tickets were sold or what it was going to be like. I didn’t really think about it at all because I was of focussed on preparing. It wasn’t Toronto, but it felt the same way and had the same type of energy and atmosphere for the players and coaches.” Ivor Wynne wasn’t full, as it likely would have been the case if the Argos were playing, but there was a boisterous mob of 26,964 on hand and the atmosphere was electric, given the significance of the game. The only thing missing was the tension that goes with the Argos playing. Hamilton fans are notorious for getting on the Argos players and for making life miserable for those brave enough to venture in from Toronto wearing Double Blue paraphernalia. Still, the Tiger-Cats faithful had their fun, chanting “Argos suck!” on a regular basis throughout the game and “Nobody blows like the Argos,” as they made their way out of the north stands afterwards. Hell, they even dragged the “old” Pigskin Pete out of retirement for the afternoon and Tiger-Cat fans really love the “old” Pigskin Pete, for whatever reason. (No word on whether he saw his shadow). The build-up for this year’s Labour Day Classic, or Classique, or whatever you want to call it, was rife with debate as to whether it was a black eye for the CFL not having the Argos play in Hamilton on Labour Day. Traditionalists argued that it was an abomination. But the way the Argos look this season, coupled with the way Hamiltion is playing, the Labour Day game likely would have been a washout if the status quo prevailed. With Montreal in town, the game turned out to be the best positive scenario for Hamilton, and the league. “The implications for this game made for a better game, in my humble opinion,” said Tiger-Cats defensive end Stevie Baggs. For the first time in years, there are three teams in the CFL East who could, on any given day, contend for the Grey Cup. It’s refreshing not having the Alouettes alone at the top of the standings. “The fans here hate Toronto so much, I think it’s different for them,” said former Hamilton linebacker Otis Floyd, when asked about the change to the Labour Day Classic this year. “But for the players, this was a much bigger game.”

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