SIMMONS: On the field, in the stands and even on the drive in, the CFL felt like it mattered again


HAMILTON – Walking along Melrose Ave., over an hour before the game starts, feels the feel of Canadian football.



The houses are almost all decorated in gold and black. Banners are posted and parking spots are for sale on most driveways. The kids, parents, grandparents all dressed up in colorful Tiger-Cats, taking pictures of each other, getting ready, wearing shirts with names like Mosca and Zambiasi and McManus and a few named Banks and Lawrence, just up to date.

This is Labor Day in Steeltown, 659 days after the previous professional football match was played at Tim Hortons Field. This feels right. It’s like football. It’s like Hamilton. Anyway, this afternoon it feels like the Canadian Football League is doing well and making noise where it matters most.

Orlondo Steinauer knows the feeling is a little different when he arrives in his stadium parking lot three and a half hours before the game. It was the morning, really, for an afternoon of football. But he couldn’t help but be surprised, moved, and proud of what he witnessed.



“It started to sink in,” said the former Argos player who is now the Ticats coach.

What does it all mean, being at home, here, playing on Labor Day for the first time since 2019.

“There was a lot of relief,” he said. “There is a lot of healing for those who return to the stands. For the community and everything. This is an outstanding win for everyone in the city of Hamilton. “

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This is football’s biggest day in Canada during the regular season and it still matters. It may not be as important as it is in Toronto with the Blue Jays stealing the Yankees around and with the US Open stealing our hearts, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. It has its place, even if that place can be quite invisible in the big city.

However, in Hamilton, Canada, the equivalent of an American college town, a Western Canadian stop in an Eastern city, driving out of QEW, through the tangled roads in front of Barton St. going on. Everyone has a jersey, or a t-shirt, something that speaks to football.



It’s not all about the Ticats, and it’s never been a match this Labor Day, even if it’s completely one-sided. The first shirt I saw while driving with Barton was a Clemons shirt, with Pinball’s familiar number 31 on the back.

Steinauer is currently coaching Tim Hortons 11-0 during his rather remarkable career, and the Tiger-Cats have won eight of the past nine Labor Day Classics. The last time Argos won here in what used to be mid-season, was 2012.

Now, International Labor Day football takes on a different meaning. It’s not about determining who’s in the league or what it is. It’s about an innovation. Even with 15,000 fans in a 26,000-seat stadium. It was a sold-out under the rules the Ontario government has allowed for professional sports. And that feels meaningful, if only because it’s been so long.



No Labor Day game a year ago, no CFL at all. Now the tournament is back. Trying to rewrite a new story. Try to find insults in places where there isn’t much of it. Trying to determine who are the new stars of a very old league.

The Ticats were clearly the better team on Labor Day, as usual they won 32-19. Argos’ attack was unable to control the Ticats’ defense. Toronto quarterback Nick Arbuckle will be in pain today, tomorrow, possibly Thursday for all the times he was attacked on Monday afternoon. Hamilton scores in attack, defense and with exceptional teams, that rare Don Matthews type is the trio, which distinguishes great teams from good teams from running teams.

We anticipate the Ticats to be Gray Cup contenders, with the Gray Cup slated to be held in Hamilton in December. We’re still trying to figure out what Argos will look like under the coach. freshman Ryan Dinwiddie and they seem to be at least a non-rivalry offensive line.



The two teams will play again in Toronto, three nights from now, also uniquely Canadian in both good and bad ways.

At the end of a rather monotonous afternoon, with Argos scoring a late winner, there was plenty of shoving, shoving and anger on the pitch. It was enough to see their Pinball Clemons general manager upset with one of his men for the first time in Pinball Clemons history, shouting at someone on the field.

This makes Friday night a little more savory. As the Ticats and Argos fight and hate each other, it makes the QEW takedown a little more imperative than usual.

We need that feeling on Monday afternoon. We need this kind of labor on Labor Day. We need football back and feel that it resonates.

Too bad Labor Day is only one day of the year. We could use this even more around the CFL.



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