HAMILTON -- Canada Day fireworks could be seen going off in backyards all around Ivor Wynne Stadium, but Kerry Joseph, Jamal Robertson and Arland Bruce brought their own explosives into the Tiger-Cats' den last night.
Joseph's redemption as the Argonauts quarterback and the role he played in last year's 4-14 season is now under way, with three touchdown passes to three different receivers last night in the Double Blue's 30-17 season-opening win, striking the first blow in this year's rivalry.
With 124 yards rushing behind a mostly green offensive line, Robertson was just 15 shy of last season's high in a game, while Bruce enraged the Ticats and 23,211 fans with a bizarre striptease touchdown celebration that was dedicated to the late Michael Jackson.
"Any questions about the running game?" jubilant Argos coach Bart Andrus said as he emerged from the locker room drenched in a Gatorade shower. "I'm extremely proud of this team. They came into camp with an open mind and bought in.
"There are some things we have to fix, because this is a marathon season, but on the upside, I don't want to ruin their moment."
"The run is very important in any team to open up the pass, whether it's 50-50 or 60-40," said Robertson, who racked up 177 combined rushing and receiving yards.
Andrus' vow to "go vertical" and stretch the opposition's defence, worked to a large degree, the aerial game averaging more than 16 yards for each of Joseph's 14 completions.
"The last time we won was in here (Labour Day) and it's good to get that taste of victory," Joseph said.
The Argos also had to charge to Joseph's aid during their first possession, when Hamilton linebacker Otis Floyd clocked him after releasing the ball, touching off a mild on-field donnybrook.
"It was very hostile in here and we had to thrive in that," Andrus said.
Tempers worsened after Bruce's TD on the same series as the Floyd hit. Bruce collapsed to the ground, then jumped up, stripped to a black T-shirt, then taunted the fans in the end zone. That display also enraged Hamilton coach Marcel Bellefeuille, who chewed out the Argos as they passed the Ticats bench.
"I was just having fun, a tribute to Michael Jackson, bury me in the end zone, rest in peace Michael," Bruce said. "Man, I had a Beat It jacket. I had the Thriller jacket. I could do the moonwalk ... I love Michael Jackson."
Bruce had just better hope the CFL office has some fans of the King Of Pop as a fine might arise. He was hit with two misconduct penalties for his bit of theatre as it was.
"I made the mistake in camp of telling them I didn't want any excessive celebrations, but that once you get in the end zone I don't care what you do." Andrus said. "I should have added 'legally.' "
"When you come into Hamilton," Bruce added, "it's a real nasty rivalry. You can feel it as soon you walk into the stadium. It's like they have a chip on their shoulder."
Bellefeuille, on his own difficult journey in his first full CFL season, having inherited a team that plunged to a 3-15 record, was not impressed with his team.
"Well, we got beat in all three places," he summed up.
Andrus couldn't have asked for a better first quarter for his CFL indoctrination, with a 20-0 lead on three majors via Joseph passes to Bruce and Reggie McNeal and a Robertson five-yard run on the closing play.
The Argos briefly threw the Ticats a life preserver in the rapidly dampening stadium, allowing them to cut the lead in half in the second quarter. But they snuffed Hamilton's momentum going into halftime when newcomer Lin-J Shell picked off Ticats QB Quinton Porter in the end zone.