Milton: Hamilton still an option if Jays displace Argos

Souvenirs

Here we are on the cusp of another long weekend, which must mean the Argos are coming to town.

And guess what? Tim Hortons Field, which was technically a year late in being delivered, has now actually been hosting football games for …. yes, a year. Where does time go? Which, of course, the city kept asking the stadium builders.

The Argos were the first visitors in the partially-completed stadium last Labour Day, when the Tiger-Cats began a winning home streak that lasted until they came up flat against the Als last Thursday: nine regular-season victories, plus a couple of more wins in the pre-season and post-season.

The Argos were also here on Civic Holiday, the Ticats’ first home game this year because of the Pan Am soccer tourney, so the place must feel like home to them, too. After the Labour Day Classic, they’ll have played as many games this year in Hamilton’s east end as they have in Toronto’s south end.

And, now that the Toronto Blue Jays have all but nailed down a post-season berth, the Argos could play more games in Hamilton.

If the Jays make the playoffs for the first time in 21 years, the Argos will likely have to move one, two, or more games somewhere else. Because they, like the Cats, were sent on the road by the Pan Ams, Toronto’s home schedule is back-ended with five dates planned for Oct. 6 or beyond. That’s when baseball moves into its elimination rounds. Only one of those Argo dates (Nov. 6) falls after the end of the World Series.

The Spectator reported on Civic Holiday – just as the Jays began their month from heaven – that the Argos were considering Tim Hortons Field and Varsity Stadium as the main options for any games that were pre-empted by baseball and were leaning heavily toward Hamilton. But last week, there was word that the main focus had shifted to Varsity.

Not necessarily so, says Argos CEO Chris Rudge.

“There are a lot of rumours out there, ” said Rudge, who will be retiring from the Argos at the end of the season.

“I’m exploring a multitude of options, and Hamilton is still very much an option, ” Rudge added.

“It’s a very complex issue. There are a lot of stakeholders.”

Among them are the airtime schedules of TSN, the CFL broadcast partner, the schedules of the other teams the Argos are playing, and the commitments of other potential sites for Argo home games. Plus, the physical plant of a replacement site must be able to accommodate TV production needs and camera locations.

Additionally, the Jays could host one playoff game if they’re a wild card team, at least two if they’re the division winner, and up to a dozen if they go the distance in every post-season series, including the World Series.

“You have to create parallel streams, ” said Rudge, noting that the Jays could be eliminated at any point, in which case the Argos would want to uncommit to their replacement home and return to the Rogers Centre.

Ticats CEO Scott Mitchell says the Argos have kept the Ticats, “abreast of the details.”

But he isn’t sure where their archrivals will settle if they’re temporarily evicted, yet again.

Once the Argos move into BMO Field next year (and, it’s assumed, play host to the 2016 Grey Cup at Rogers Centre), this shouldn’t happen again. But as far as this year goes, Mitchell would welcome Argos’ games here, even though none would involve his team.

“The more quality events we have at Tim Hortons Field, the better it is for everybody, ” he said.

Just to muddy the waters a little more, Rudge concedes that there are more than two sites in the running for the Argo dislocation.

“I’ve looked at every conceivable place to play football, ” he says.

•••

By the time the Ticats get back to practice Tuesday (they’ll take Wednesday off), it’ll be a long time removed from last Thursday’s first-ever loss at Tim Hortons Field.

Eyes and minds will be focused straight ahead on the Argos, but the Cats can’t forget the penalties that popped up at oh-so crucial times in the 26-23 loss to Montreal, or the lessons that should be extracted from the loss itself.

“We’re aggressive, definitely, but all season we’ve been doing a great job with penalties, ” says linebacker Simoni Lawrence. “In this game some were close (calls) and some we just can’t have. They definitely came out with more intensity than us.

“They come here every year and they play like it’s a playoff game every time they play us, because to get through the east you have to come through Hamilton.

“We learn a lot from these games. We’re 6-and-3, that’s the reality, but since I’ve been here, nobody’s made the playoffs just by starting out super fast … it’s whoever is doing well at the end.

“Hopefully we learn from lessons like this. The big thing about Tim Hortons Field? We’ve lost here now, that’s over. We just play football now. We’re a really good team, we know that … and just keep moving forward.”




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