This Sunday at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are carrying two statistics of note into the 107th Grey Cup Final; the first, of course, being their CFL best 16-3 overall record. This lofty mark has been fortified by an undefeated season on home turf; a perfect 9-0 against all comers that included last weekend’s 36-16 whitewash of the Edmonton Eskimos. So that’s all good and can we get an “Oskie-wee-wee” please? Amen.
The second stat to consider is not quite so wonderful for the Eastern Champions however, it being a deadly combination of futility and longevity. Are you ready for this? The last time Hamilton won the Canadian Football League Championship was 1999 when they managed a 32-21 win over the Calgary Stampeders. That’s a 20-year drought for those who can do quick math. They’ve been to the dance a few times since then, notably losing in the back to back seasons of 2013 and 2014 but they’ve been on the outside looking in for a full two decades of play. You may wonder how a team playing in a league with only 9 teams (and for much of that time, only 8 teams) can be denied a victory parade for that long. I mean, come on now!
Well, for those with inquisitive minds, you might want to ask the Winnipeg Blue Bombers about that little franchise fact. You see, this year’s Western representatives are the only CFL team that has had a longer wait for a Grey Cup Championship than the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. We’re talking 29 years, folks. That’s right. The last time Winnipeg was crowned kings of the Canadian Football League was 1990. Add that to the aforementioned TiCats non-winning record and you have 49 combined seasons that the Grey Cup has landed in a city other than Winnipeg or Hamilton. The good news….no, the GREAT news….is that something’s going to give this Sunday when either the Blue Bombers or Tiger-Cats are crowned as CFL Champions. For one team and one impatient fan base, the losing streak is going to come to an end. But who will it be….the best of the West or the beasts from the East?
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are favoured and deserve that honour wholeheartedly. This season, they have trotted out the league’s best offence, the league’s best defence, the league’s best player in Brandon Banks and the best record in franchise history. Winnipeg, now with their third starting quarterback of the season, are a talented team but they are definite underdogs in this one, despite some great performances book-ending this 2019 season. There are interesting story-lines to consider outside of the championship droughts too, including Bomber quarterback Zack Collaros facing down his former Hamilton teammates. Last weekend he helped nip another former team in Saskatchewan, so the precedent has been set and as the old saying goes, anything can happen in a one-game Final.
Whatever the outcome, one thing is for certain: for one team and one city, the long journey to win the Grey Cup will be over after either 20 years or perhaps 29.
And for the other. Well, there’s always next year.
Listen to The 107th Grey Cup Game Sunday, November 24th on Canada Talks Channel 167 with full coverage beginning at 3 pm ET.