A Ticats fan guide to the Grey Cup

Hamilton hasn’t hosted a Grey Cup since 1999 but with the CFL championship game – and all the fun that comes with it – taking place just down the road in Toronto, football fans in Steeltown have an excellent opportunity to enjoy all the trappings of the country’s largest sporting extravaganza. Here’s how.

1. Getting there or staying there. The drive from Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton to BMO Field in Toronto where the game will be played Sunday night is less than hour – assuming the traffic is good, which it rarely is. Parking in downtown Toronto can be expensive and there’s limited spots around the stadium on game day.

The best option both Saturday and Sunday is likely the GO train from the station at Aldershot in Burlington which run on the half hour starting at 9 a.m. on the weekend. Get off at the Exhibition stop for easy access to BMO and Union Station for the downtown events. Last train leaves Union at 12:43 a.m. so getting back shouldn’t be a problem after the game or a night on the town.

For those looking to stay in Toronto there are plenty of hotels rooms still available in the downtown core, though prices are likely to start near the $200 mark and go up from there. Pretty much everything is centralized but getting around via public transit, cab or Uber should be easy.

2. What to do. The list of free and paid events can be mind-numbingly long – and expensive – so choosing wisely is important. The Grey Cup Festival is headquartered in the South Building of the Metro Convention Centre on Bremner Boulevard where a number of the big team parties take place. Admission is free but the parties – Riderville is the most popular – have an admission fee. There are also concerts on Friday and Saturday night.

The Street Festival, which takes place in Roundhouse Park next to the Rogers Centre, will have plenty of all-ages activities and is free to attend. Popular paid events include the Spirit of Edmonton breakfast on Saturday ($125) and the CFL Alumni luncheon ($175) later the same day.

The Ticats are hosting a “takeover” of the Shoeless Joe’s restaurant and bar at 376 King Street West starting at 3 p.m. on both Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday. Admission is free and its open to all ages, though it’s likely to get loud and boozy in the evening. There will be appearances by current players and alumni as well as prizes and giveaways. The team has a long history of doing these events very well.

For Hamilton fans looking to express their displeasure with, say, CFL officiating can attend the Fan’s State of the League with commissioner Jeffrey Orridge at the Delta Hotel at 75 Lower Simcoe Street on Friday morning at 10:30 a.m. Orridge will give an address, then take questions from the assembled masses.

One game day, there is a league-sponsored VIP Grey Cup party at a bar called Muzik near the stadium starting at 1 p.m. but it’s a pricey $175. There is Game Day Fanzone at the nearby Enercare Centre that’s a more affordable $10 (and it’s licenced.)

For Ticat season ticket holders who have renewed for 2017, the team is hosting a pre-game at the Liberty Grand close to BMO featuring “he re-creation of key elements of the Tiger-Cats renowned Tim Hortons Field game day experience.” Doors open at 1 p.m.

3. What to watch on Game Day. While the Ticats may not be playing in the championship game, there are still plenty of Hamilton storylines. Former Tiger-Cats quarterback Henry Burris, who led the team to a Grey Cup appearance in 2013, will start for the Redblacks along with ex-Ticats’ linebacker Taylor Reed, receiver Greg Ellingson, and defensive end Arnaud Gascon-Nadon.

On the Stampeders side, receiver Bakari Grant played five seasons in Hamilton before joining Calgary as a free agent in February while fellow pass catcher Marquay McDaniel has enjoyed tremendous success after being released by the Ticats in 2011. Hamilton native and former Ticat Matt Bucknor is also on the roster.

For those looking to go to the game, as of Wednesday afternoon there were still plenty of tickets available on the Ticketmaster website starting at $149 each going all the way up to $899.

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