Ticats need to rediscover their winning ways at Tim Hortons Field

There was a time, not so long ago, that included with the towels and soap in the visitors’ locker room at Tim Hortons Field was the certainty of defeat.

Unlike cranky old Ivor Wynne Stadium, their quarters had reliable lighting and hot water in all the showers, but other CFL teams just couldn’t win in the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ new digs. It was discomfort amidst comfort.

Ah, but things change and not always for the better. Hamilton home-field advantage has become at best a misnomer, at worst a mocking mythology.

The Ticats who christened the long-delayed new stadium with 10 straight victories beginning, deliciously, with a 2014 Labour Day win over the Toronto Argonauts, have devolved into a team which has lost 12 of their last 14 regular-season and playoff games at home.

Despite their still-raucous fan support they have allowed the east end to become the least end.

“You don’t lose at home if you want to be a champion,” says head coach June Jones. “You have to win your home games and be able to steal a few on the road. It’s got to become an attitude and an infectious thing.”

Jones and Co. will try to spread that infection Friday night when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers arrive for the Ticats’ home opener.

Both teams are 1-1 and coming off big road wins.

The Bombers had a chance to win on opening night against Edmonton but let it slip away, on the same weekend that the Ticats had the game in their hands in Calgary, but threw an interception.

Last week, Winnipeg hammered the hapless Montreal Alouettes 56-10 while the Tiger-Cats surprised Edmonton, 38-21, to end their nine-day Alberta road trip.

It’s that satisfying split which gives Ticat veterans confidence that a new era of homeland security is possible.

“You stay in hotels for a week and then go and beat a dominant team like Edmonton, this is a game we should play very well in,” linebacker Simoni Lawrence says of the home opener.

“It’s going to build your confidence and let you know what you should be doing to teams at home. You have to be confident that you’ll win at home and we feel like we’re going to win until proven otherwise.”

Winnipeg comes in riding its own buoyant bubble, with 86 points scored in their first two games, despite the loss to injury of starting quarterback Matt Nichols.

Replacement Chris Streveler, the first quarterback to go directly from college to starting in the CFL since Anthony Calvillo 24 years ago, has thrown for six touchdowns and run for another in his first two games.

He’s fourth in CFL rushing and his tailback Andrew Harris is third, giving the Bombers a one-two punch on the ground and Streveler the classic CFL quarterback run-throw duality.

“He’s very athletic and faster than I thought he was,” says Jones, who was impressed with Streveler’s maturation between his first and second starts. “We’re going to have to take the run away from him…you can’t let him have both.”

The Ticats can counter with their own Canadian running back and double menace at quarterback. Jeremiah Masoli is the second-ranked passer in the league and has scampered for 71 yards in just nine carries, scripted and impromptu, while Mercer Timmis ranks second in CFL rushing after churning up 133 yards in Edmonton.

In both Alberta games, the Ticats’ defence surrendered some big plays, then tightened. But one of their emerging traits is a nasty physicality that even shows in practice. That could help incite a fan base raised on anti-visitor truculence.

“The crowd responds to that mentality on defence,” says receiver Luke Tasker, who’s off to a great start. “The all-black jerseys and a tough defence is kind of the nature of the city, right?”

No one can accurately pinpoint why home-field advantage has so clearly drifted away, but it revolves largely around the team not being good enough.

The Ticats opened Tim Hortons Field as a team on the way to its second straight Grey Cup appearance, but home superiority was never the same after mid-September, 2015 when Zach Collaros, enjoying a season for the ages, was injured.

Since, and including, that game, despite winning the 2015 semi-final against the Argos, the Ticats have been a less than mediocre 7-and-17 at home.

It took them nearly a year to lose a game at Tim Hortons Field after it opened. Then it took them nearly a year to win one after beating Montreal in mid-September 2016.

“In the times when we were really struggling, we had to get some things figured out offensively and defensively, all around,” Tasker says. “You can’t rely on home-field advantage to fix problems like that.

“I think this is a team where we can see home field advantage again. We start having success early in games, it will become really uncomfortable to play against us here.”

That progression has to begin Friday. They did their job in Alberta, now it’s time to start doing their job in Hamilton.

Steve Milton

Steve Milton

Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.
Steve Milton
Steve Milton
About Steve Milton (243 Articles)
Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.

48 Comments on Ticats need to rediscover their winning ways at Tim Hortons Field

  1. I would hope June Jones showcases and introduces Manziel for a series or two in this game. The fans would love it. A set of designed plays. Manziel needs a couple of Johnny football plays to excite the crowd.

    • I would hope June Jones does what is best for the team to get a win, and not try to placate a certain segment of the fans, some of which are only paying attention to see just what you mentioned and don’t actually care about the team.

      • I’ve heard Jones say that he’d like to get Johnny into a game IF the team has a comfortable lead but I don’t anticipate that happening until at least 6 games in and certainly not tonight. I expect that this game could be a close one but the Ticats are primed to resume their winning ways at THF!

      • Jimmy you don’t get it. No one is saying he starts or finishes. The fans the media across Canada would love it. You honestly believe that Manziel going in would screw up Hamilton’s chances. If so you don’t know manziels talent.

        • Steve J. // June 29, 2018 at 1:38 pm //

          No, John, you don’t get it. There’s no special treatment here. He only gets to play if:

          A) The starter goes down
          B) The starter is not getting it done
          C) The game is well in hand.

          If you think otherwise you are:

          A) Johnny Manziel
          B) Nuts

          • Steve your B is exactly what I am saying. If things are not going well you need a change up and then get Masoli back In the game. I am also saying jones can have a couple of plays for Manziel based on what he sees on the field. Not trying to diminish madou good play. But you want Manziel no matter how orcwhen June Jones does it that we as cat fans know he is ready.

    • Steve J. // June 29, 2018 at 11:14 am //

      I hope that Masoli continues to play at such a high level that the other guy never gets to see the field this season. I agree totally with Jimmy. There is a certain group that are starting to sound like obnoxious hockey parents, the type who constantly whine and complain that their kid should be starting, or isn’t getting enough playing time. Boo Hoo! Manziel had his chance, several times, to shine in the NFL and other less prestigious, low tier leagues. For now he sits, unless there is a distinct need to call him into action. When and if he does play, I wish him well. Until then, enjoy the pine. Go Cats! Beat Winnipeg!

      • Steve your statement is ridiculous. You need to let Manziel get some game reps or a change up when things are a in neutral.

        • Steve J. // June 29, 2018 at 12:16 pm //

          Hardly ridiculous, John. He knew he was coming in to Hamilton to compete for a starting job, he lost out to Jeremiah, and was relegated to 2nd String. That’s life. That said, as he continues to lean the Canadian game, the opportunity is there for him capture the position should Masoli fail. If the game is well in hand, by all means, put him in. Otherwise, he sits. Your love affair with his perceived fame and collegiate glory is no basis to arbitrarily insert him into the game just because his “fans” demand it.

          • Steve it was never manziels plan to come up here in the short training camp and say he is ready to be number one. I am saying When he gets a chance he should have had game reps.ii presume that if jones because of a couple of losses starts Manziel and his playsto his potential and starts winning masoli’s turn to sit on the bench.

        • Tiger man // June 29, 2018 at 12:20 pm //

          Things are NOT in neutral..perhaps you could actually watch the games…

          • You are wrong Masoli only played between the 20 yard line. Only one running touchdown. There was a period where Manziel could have gone in for a series to change things up. Ps I watch all the Hamilton games. Have you ever seen Johnny Manziel play full games not highlights. I do t think so otherwise you would want him to get ready as quick as he can to have to good quarterbacks.

        • mightypope // June 29, 2018 at 12:41 pm //

          Hey John2, since you’re obviously an American who is obsessed with Manziel, answer me this. How many NFL teams would give their hotshot back-up some meaningful reps just to get him some playing time in a regular season game? I’ll answer for you….NONE.

          • You are comparing Masoli to starting BFF quarterbacks? The answer is he would get more respsvuf the team thought he was ready as he is ew equal to it better than the starter. The team that takes him will do what jobes goes fetchim usecto the offense but I am sure he would get some playing time or series of plays in opportune times. In my opinion when nanziel is ready he could play as starter for any cfl team. So let’s see things unfold. You haven’t heard me say one bad word about Masoli. 66

          • Sorry for auto correct but my bad as I should reread. Don’t need to get in debate on what an NFL team would do. Depending on team and type of offence. The team that picks him knows he will end up being the starter because he is a starting quarterback. That is too far down the line. this could get interesting if Masoli does get hurt and out for a few games he may not get back in.

    • Tiger man // June 29, 2018 at 12:18 pm //

      Jones is there to win games..period.

      What I want is a win…speak for yourself.

      • So if Masoli gets hurt and Manziel goes in and plays the way he can lights out football and keeps winning I presume you are saying Masoli should never get in again. I would hope so Based on the criteria many of set. Look at Steve J conditions A B C. I agree with them.

  2. Eat ‘Em Raw !!

  3. With the Red/Flat’s loss last night to Calgary, the Cats are gunning for 1st place in the East. The last time this team has seen first place was 2014. Plenty of reason to be fired up. See if Streveler can handle Glanville’s man/blitz defence. Force him to pull the ball down and run, and let Dean and the boys soften him up. That’s two crappy games from Mitchell in three games, and he’s the top-ranked QB in the league? Gimme a break! If Masoli is solid gain tonite, he’s finally gotta be recognized for how he’s playing. Masoli beat Reilly head to head, and was better than Bo-Levi for 58 minutes. Time to recognize it. I’d like to see Manziel get some of those 3rd and shorts to start with. Most teams run their backup in that situation. Masoli’s been real durable so far, but why push the envelope.

  4. Hamilton’s D can’t let Streveler run wild tonight.

  5. Blue rules // June 29, 2018 at 9:58 am //

    Can’t wait for the game of the week, agree George after tonight’s game there should be a new #1 ranked QB league wise, the question is who will it be #8 black or #17 blue? Good luck, play well to both Cats & Blue, Bombers by 2, watch out for the razell dazell plays.

  6. Both of these teams looked good winning their last game… so let’s call them even… for now… the one thing that is the tie breaker giving Ticats the home field advantage will be the noisy, raucous fans… we’re a football savvy group of fans who know the impact of noise to distract the bomber’s offense and to fire up our defence… see you at tonight’s game…

    • Snake – Winnipeg looked good against a bad larks team, Hamilton looked good against a team many have selected as a GC favourite – AFTER a week on the road. I think I’d give the edge to the Ticats. For sure the fans are going to fire them up and that can only help! Have a great time at the game.

  7. Dundas dude // June 29, 2018 at 10:23 am //

    Makes for an interesting and well written story, but the past is irrelevant. Should be an interesting game. Both teams can score a lot of points , but I sense this is the best defence Streveler has faced, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a bit of the gleam come off. I don’t care about seeing the Cats dominate in early summer like the Stamps historically do, I wanna see a team progressing to challenge in November. That being said, the pressure is on the Cats to win, given this a home game,against an opponent playing their back up qb, and the fact the next couple of games aren’t gonna be any easier. I would have taken a split in Alberta gladly, but that successful road trip will be minimized if we can’t win the home games. Long season, though, and I like where the cats sit.

  8. The heat and humidity has settled into Hamilton now – this game may be decided by which team can deal best with that if it is close – maybe the team with the most players who grew up or played their college football in the south may have the advantage.

  9. A few years back, Austin had Burris as the starter but had some set plays for Lefevour.. Jones is smart enough to know if a similar system would work wiht Masoli and Manziel. Manziel will get attention for us south of the border bu right now, Masoli will win football games

    • Tiger man // June 29, 2018 at 12:23 pm //

      Different time…different coach…those of us who are fans of the TEAM…want to see them WIN…

      • Tiger man are you suggesting ticats. Can’t win with Manziel. If so you don’t know his talent level. As a matter of fact you know why June Jones would never want to trade him? Because he would be a force to play against Jones was not kidding when he says Manziel will light up the CFL. Masoli was ready based on his 6 years in CFL and Manziel only had 3 weeks or so.

        • And Jones is smart enough to know when Johnny is going to be ready to come in to a game. I don’t think he’ll bring him in as a “change of pace” – he’s pretty much said that. He’ll bring JF in ONLY if he feels the game is well in hand – and not before. Johnny may be talented but he’s still learning about the game up here.

    • Steve J. // June 29, 2018 at 12:56 pm //

      ETG, does anyone, other than the CFL marketing department, seriously care what anyone South of the border thinks? This is the Canadian Football League. If any international fans would like to tune in or adopt a certain team as their own, I’m all for it. The League has been around for 105 years, US college stars have come and gone, and it’s always the same blah, blah, blah. Some washed up kid from Texas is not going to turn the CFL on it’s axis. If he turns out to be the next Doug Flutie, then good for him, but the guy can’t even crack the starting lineup on his own team. Until then, he’ll have to pay his dues just like everybody else.

      • Steve give your head a shake. You do not have any business acumen. You don’t have a clue what Johnny Manziel unlike any other player brings to CFL and to team and city of Hamilton. Should he start I can assure you more TSN revenues and ESPN. More fans in the stadiums. The growth is n mellenials and particularly get interests in colleges and universities. Do you think fans would be flocking to stadiums for any other pkayer than Manziel. Do you think the media coverage in Canada and USA would not channel everything they have to Manziel. He is a cash cow !!! The key is to Get him playing and for now h has to wait.

        • Steve J. // June 29, 2018 at 4:00 pm //

          John, there only reason Manziel gets the coverage in the media he does is because he was such a f*** up in the NFL. People love to watch a train wreck. If he was any other QB who played a couple of years and then flared out, there would be no coverage at all. It would be, “Oh, yeah. I remember that guy”. The guy is a circus freak with more baggage than Samsonite.

          We’ve already been through the revenue thing. TSN’s contracts are already signed and in the bank. As for attendance, 97.5% of Hamilton’s tickets are sold EVERY game, so what do they care? They sell a few more overpriced beers at the concession? The only thing that draws attention is the sideshow with this guy. He is an average Pro, at best.

          • The more tickets Manziel sells in other stadiums the more revenue and Hamilton plays less subsidies to the teams with low attendance. There is a formula established by CFL

            There is not one person I hope thatveouls agree with your assessment as to why Johnny gets media attention. So no other comment necessary. By the way do done reading on what increase in ESPN and TSN revenues can. bring as I believe CFL will be negotiating with them or other you can see why media including 3 down nation are covering Manziel.

  10. So I guess no one has been listening to what coach Jones has been saying all along. Masoli is the starter….end of story. No packages for Manziel….It is a very loooong season, and the way starting QBs having been going down already this year, all teams need a quality back up QB. I think we will see Manziel play as I think this 2018 team will see some big leads that will allow Manziel to come in late in a game and finish it off. Once we finish this brutal start with 5 straight games against the West. Montreal is horrible, Toronto is in trouble without Ricky. I thought Ottawa looked good until they played Calgary last night. I was so impressed with Hamilton’s first two drives against Edmonton last week…scoring on both drives. I think this is Masoli’s year. Just need to keep the pedal to the metal. Now that he has an O line, a running game, and now has a handful of veteran receivers, I just see them getting better and better. Time to start the home field dominance. It all starts tonight. Can’t wait.

  11. Back on topic. The Cats home slide began when Collaros
    went down in Sept ’15. He’s gone and it is time to get back to dominating at home. I really like the depth and talent on this team. The defense hits harder than before and make the receivers pay. I think Cats win this one hands down. Please tell me it not the rod/dwuane show tonite.

  12. BlueBomberChris // June 29, 2018 at 2:25 pm //

    Sorry Cat fans your winning ways won’t start tonight. While it will be a close game the Bombers will prevail. I hear about our rookie QB, but people forget that we are a strong all around team this year.

    Bighill should reduce or eliminate Masoli’s running ability. We just need to keep him in the pocket and not create anything back there.

    As I said before it should be a great game (game of the week since last night was a stinker) but Bombers spoil the party 27-18. Go Blue!

    • You were saying BBC? Guess you haven’t been watching the Ticats too closely to see that they TOO are a very good all around team. Masoli hardly ran – didn’t need to – but Sean Thomas-Erlington a 2017 EIGHTH round pick sure ran all over your defense. Sorry that they spoiled YOUR party! (not!)

  13. David Tress // June 29, 2018 at 2:27 pm //

    If they’d start Manziel at quarterback, the place would be sold out and then they’d have enough money to sign some free agents that could put them at the top of the division.

  14. This game is all Jeremiah Masoli. If we are really ahead OR Masoli is falling apart badly then yes I would like to see Manziel get in there I agree but so far Masoli is playing well and I don’t see a reason to change it.

  15. i hope glanville, with all his wisdom and experience, has something up his sleeve to befuddle streveler. something the kid hasn’t seen before, can’t react to, can’t figure out. in seasons past, raw rookie quarterbacks (kevin feterik! jason gessler!) have beaten the cats. no more.
    between coach o and glanville, i am sure they can concoct something …

  16. “There was a time, not so long ago, that included with the towels and soap in the visitors’ locker room at Tim Hortons Field was the certainty of defeat.”
    Huh?? Does anyone proof this stuff??

  17. TicatTO // June 29, 2018 at 5:44 pm //

    Manziel zealots. Of course He is the second coming. Do we need more of this drivel?

  18. fannotacoach // June 29, 2018 at 9:04 pm //

    28-10 in the 3rd, looks like Johnny Football might get some time but it looks like there is no QB controversy in Ticat land tonight!

  19. 4.48 4.73 .. Mercer Timmis is almost a clone of Christian McCaffrey (Stanford -Carolina) Except for the 40 yard dash. Guess which of the dash times at the top is which guy.

  20. Re-establishing home field advantage – CHECK!

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