Ticats to be first visitors to BMO Field

There are the usual grumbles about the CFL schedule but there’s little question the league got this one right: The Hamilton Tiger-Cats will open the 2016 CFL season by helping the Toronto Argonauts christen their new home.

The Ticats will be the first visiting team to play at BMO Field, travelling to face the Double Blue on June 23, the league announced on Thursday as it unveiled the schedule for the upcoming season. It’s the latest chapter in the extensive shared history between the two clubs.

“I think it’s entirely fitting that we are playing the opening game at BMO out of respect for the rivalry,” said Matt Afinec, Chief Commercial Officer for the club. “The Argos helped open Tim Hortons Field so there’s some symmetry there. It’s great for football in Southern Ontario.”

Hamilton fans have made a habit of packing the Rogers Centre in recent seasons, making the cavernous – and mostly empty – stadium a home-away-from-home for the Ticats. But the Argos new facility has a capacity of just 26,000 and the team has had some early success with its ticket drive says president Michael Copeland.

“The interest we’ve had in the opening game is incredible – we expect it to be full of our fans,” Copeland said. “If anyone from Hamilton wants to go to that game, I would suggest they buy Argo season tickets.”

Hamilton will play its home opener the following week, hosting the B.C. Lions on Canada Day. After three years of scheduling challenges created by stadium construction and the PanAm Games – the team didn’t play at Tim Hortons Field until Aug. 3 last season – the Ticats will pay two of their first three at home this year.

The traditional Labour Day match up takes place against Toronto on Mon., Sept. 5, a game that will be played at 6:30 p.m – the first time it has been held in prime time since 2008. The Ticats requested early afternoon starts after unruly behaviour by some fans at the old Ivor Wynne Stadium but Afinec says he doesn’t expect a problem.

“The fan experience at Tim Hortons Field is dramatically different,” Afinec said. “I think it puts the spotlight on Hamilton, a chance for city to showcase itself in what’s become a marquee sporting event nationally.

There are some oddities in the schedule, however. The team plays four straight road contests between July 7 and Aug. 20, sandwiched around the first of their two bye weeks – a break that will be shortened by a rare Wednesday night game in Winnipeg on Aug. 3. They also have a tough stretch between Sept. 5 and 16 when they play three games in 11 days.

The team’s home schedule includes one Thursday night game, four Friday evening contests, three Saturday games (two afternoon, one evening) plus the Monday night Labour Day affair.

The Ticats will finish the season by playing four of their last five at home, the only road trip the back half of a home-and-home set against the Ottawa Redblacks in mid-October. The regular season concludes with a Saturday afternoon match up with Montreal on Nov. 5.

“Coming down the stretch, those will be important football games and there’s nothing our fans pride themselves on more than creating a home field advantage for our team,” Afinec said.

Week  Date Away Home Time EST 
PS1 Sat., June 11 HAM TOR 4 pm
PS2 Fri. June 17 OTT HAM 7:30 PM
1 Thur., June 23 HAM TOR 7:30 PM
2 Fri., July 1 B.C. HAM 7 PM
3 Thur., July 7 WPG HAM 7 PM
4 Fri., July 15 HAM MTL 7:30 PM
5 Sat., July 23 HAM EDM 7 PM
7 Wed., Aug. 3 HAM WPG 8:30 PM
8 Sat., Aug. 13 HAM BC 10 PM
9 Sat., Aug. 20 SSK HAM 7 PM
10 Sun., Aug. 28 HAM CGY 7 PM
11 Mon., Sept. 5 TOR HAM 6:30 PM
12 Sun., Sept. 11 HAM TOR 4:30 PM
13 Fri., Sept. 16 MTL HAM 7 PM
14 Sat., Sept. 24 HAM SSK 9:30 PM
15 Sat., Oct. 1 CGY HAM 4 PM
16 BYE
17 Fri., Oct. 14 OTT HAM 7 PM
18 Fri., Oct. 21 HAM  OTT 7 PM
19 Fri., Oct. 28 EDM HAM 7 PM
20 Sat., Nov. 5 MTL HAM 1 PM
Drew Edwards is the founder of 3DownNation but has since wandered off. Beard in the photo not exactly as shown.