MILTON: The Breaux Show to make return engagement for East Semi-Final

They want wind in their sails, not their faces.

So, with new plays to install, more than a dozen regulars to ramp back up after they were rested against the Montreal Alouettes, and the most important game of the year looming Sunday against the B.C. Lions, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats fled Tuesday’s blustery elements and practised indoors for the first time in two years.

It was actually an additional practice to the normal three-day process which starts Wednesday at Tim Hortons Field.

From the looks of the workout under the Redeemer University College dome, the Ticats will have all the players who haven’t been long-sidelined available for the East Division semifinal.

That would include shutdown cornerback Delvin Breaux, who’s been battling knee issues for three weeks and starting offensive tackles, Ryker Mathews and Kelvin Palmer, who exited with injuries during the penultimate game of the regular season against Ottawa.

Head coach June Jones said all three will play against the Lions.

“Obviously, if you have your best players healthy, that’s going to give you a better chance to win, ” Ticats strong-side linebacker Don Unamba said.

It was the first time that the Ticats have practised at Redeemer, which would be the logical choice as the indoor practice venue required in any Grey Cup host city. The Ticats are prospective candidates to host either the 2020 or ’21 Cup game.

The Ticats’ former indoor venue was Players Paradise in Stoney Creek, but it’s being converted to a cannabis grow-op.

Insert your own punchline here.

Buono’s last game?

Lions head coach Wally Buono, the winningest coach in CFL history and a league mainstay for 46 years as a player and coach, will retire after B.C.’s final game which, of course, the Ticats want to be on Sunday.

“I know the players will be motivated, ” Jones says of the Lions. “They’re going to play hard whether Wally was retiring or not. Wally has motivated a lot of players to play at a high level for a lot of years. He’d love to go out with a win…. we’d like to send him out with a loss.”

Meanwhile Ticat centre Mike Filer would like the fans to send a message on Sunday.

“I was saying to a couple of guys that haven’t experienced a playoff game here that this game will be packed, ” Filer said. “Snow, rain, sun, whatever it is, we need this place packed. We need to make it tough for them to come in here, to make it a pretty hostile environment. We have the best fans in the CFL so I don’t know if I really need to call out, but let’s get it fired up.”

Reward for Daly

There were times, Mike Daly concedes, when he wasn’t sure he’d ever suit up again.

But after missing the final 16 games of 2017 due to shoulder surgery, he not only made it back to the field, he moved up to starting safety.

The five-year Ticat was rewarded for his persistence and civic-mindedness Tuesday with the Ticats’ nomination for the CFL’s Jake Gaudaur Veterans Award. Gaudaur was an RCAF veteran, played for the old Hamilton Tigers and later the new Tiger-Cats in the first four years of their existence, then ran the club for 15 years before becoming the CFL’s longest serving (1968-84) commissioner.

The award recognizes the CFL player who epitomizes service veterans’ values of strength, perseverance, courage, comradeship and community contribution.

As well as enjoying his best season on the field, Daly is active in numerous good causes, including anti-cyberbullying, the Ticats BeFit health program, McMaster Children’s Hospital, Camp Kidaca, and Chedoke Minor Hockey.

“I think it’s a pretty cool award because it combines community and playing, ” said Daly, whose three interceptions are second to team leader Cariel Brooks’ four.

As for the perseverance aspect: “Last year when I had to get shoulder surgery, I was told I might not be able to play again. It depended upon how the shoulder reacted. So that was pretty scary. I remember coming into camp thinking that I just want to make this team again. I was out a whole year, the whole coaching staff had changed over. To sit out that year and think, ‘oh, oh I might not play again.’ That kind of sucked.”

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
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Steve Milton
About Steve Milton (239 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.