CFL team gets ri­val Ar­gos for sea­son opener and Labour Day

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - DREW ED­WARDS

There are many facets to the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats or­ga­ni­za­tion but they can be roughly di­vided into two com­po­nents: the foot­ball op­er­a­tions side and the busi­ness side. And while those depart­ments work to­gether in tan­dem and their re­la­tion­ship is often sym­bi­otic — af­ter all, a good foot­ball team is good for busi­ness — now and again their in­ter­ests di­verge. Tues­day was one of those days. The CFL re­leased their 2017 sched­ule and while the folks who sell the tick­ets are happy, those re­spon­si­ble for win­ning games on the field are de­cid­edly not. Ti­cat fans didn’t nec­es­sar­ily get shafted but their team sure did.

First the good news. Other than the fact that Hamil­ton won’t host a home game un­til Week 3 of the reg­u­lar sea­son (the Ti­cats have a bye Week 2), the sched­ule is nicely spaced with none of the gi­ant gaps that plagued both 2015 — which fea­tured a stretch of six weeks be­tween home games — and 2016 (five weeks.) They play four games in July and Au­gust, then again on Labour Day.

Speak­ing of which, the most im­por­tant game on the reg­u­lar sea­son sched­ule is in its right­ful place against the proper op­po­nent (re­mem­ber when the CFL messed that up a few years ago? Yeah, so do they.) Af­ter a long run of 1 p.m. starts, last sea­son’s 6:30 p.m. kick­off was a huge suc­cess both with fans — the game was sold out well in ad­vance and fea­tured a ton of cool events — and with broad­caster TSN as it drew the high­est rating of any reg­u­lar CFL sea­son game.

There’s a few odd­i­ties in the home dates — no Sun­day con­tests, no af­ter­noon starts — but by-and-large Hamil­ton’s sched­ule is pretty good if you’re a sea­son-ticket holder or just a ca­sual fan who wants to go to a few games. It’s not a stretch to ex­pect the club to keep its streak of 27 straight sell­outs at Tim Hor­tons Field go­ing for an­other sea­son.

Now let’s get to the “hor­ren­dous” part.

First, both the team’s bye weeks fall in the first 10 weeks of the sea­son, mean­ing Hamil­ton will play ten straight games down the stretch and into the post-sea­son (as­sum­ing they make it, of course).

Af­ter open­ing the sea­son in Toronto against the Arg­onauts for the sec­ond straight year — the Ti­cats haven’t opened at home since 2012 — Hamil­ton will play their next six games against West Di­vi­sion in­clud­ing a bru­tal stretch that in­cludes three games in 13 days (fol­lowed by a trip to Cal­gary, fol­lowed by a trip to Ed­mon­ton.) That’s tough on a lot of lev­els.

The in­tri­ca­cies on the CFL sched­ule cre­ates sig­nif­i­cant fluc­tu­a­tions in prepa­ra­tion time but the Ti­cats will play eight games where their op­po­nent has more time be­tween con­tests than they do. Hamil­ton has the ad­van­tage just five times (with five games com­ing with an equal num­ber of days in be­tween for both teams.)

But that’s not even the worst of it: the Ti­cats will play games in weeks 17, 18, 19 against teams com­ing off a bye, mean­ing they’ll face op­po­nents with at least 13 days to rest and pre­pare.

Teams com­ing off a bye week are 45-38 since 2010 (a .542 win­ning per­cent­age) and Cal­gary, who comes to town Oct. 13, is 9-0 over that span.

Oh, and if the Ti­cats make it to the post-sea­son and play in the East Semi-Fi­nal? That game will be their fourth in 21 days, not to men­tion their 11th straight week of foot­ball. That’s not just ab­surd, it’s down­right dan­ger­ous.

So while Ti­cats fans may be pleased with the sched­ule, it re­mains to be seen whether they’ll be happy with a team that has to over­come not just their op­po­nent but the sched­ule maker, too.

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