Ticats schedule good for fans but horrendous for team

There are many facets to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats organization but they can be roughly divided into two components: the football operations side and the business side. And while those departments work together in tandem and their relationship is often symbiotic – after all, a good football team is good for business – now and again their interests diverge.

Tuesday was one of those days.

The CFL released their 2017 schedule and while the folks who sell the tickets are happy, those responsible for winning games on the field are decidedly not. Ticat fans didn’t necessarily get shafted but their team sure did.

First the good news. Other than the fact that the Hamilton won’t host a home game until Week 3 of the regular season (the Ticats have a bye Week 2), the schedule is nicely spaced with none of the giant gaps that plagued both 2015 – which featured a stretch of six weeks between home games – and 2016 (five weeks.) They play four games in July and August, then again on Labour Day.

Speaking of which, the most important game on the regular season schedule is in its rightful place against the proper opponent (remember when the CFL messed that up a few years ago? Yeah, so do they.) After a long run of 1 p.m. starts, last season’s 6:30 p.m. kickoff was a huge success both with fans – the game was sold out well in advance and featured a ton of cool events – and with broadcaster TSN as it drew the highest rating of any regular CFL season game.

There’s a few oddities in the home dates – no Sunday contests, no afternoon starts – but by-and-large Hamilton’s schedule is pretty good if you’re a season ticket holder or just a casual fan who wants to go to a few games. It’s not a stretch to expect the club to keep its streak of 27 straight sellouts at Tim Hortons Field going for another season.

Now let’s get to the horrendous part.

First, the both the team’s bye weeks fall in the first 10 weeks of the season, meaning Hamilton will play ten straight games down the stretch and into the post-season (assuming they make it, of course.) After opening in the season in Toronto against the Argonauts for the second straight year – the Ticats haven’t opened at home since 2012 – Hamilton will play their next six games against West Division including a brutal stretch that includes three games in 13 days (followed by a trip to Calgary, followed by a trip to Edmonton.) That’s tough on a lot of levels.

The intricacies on the CFL schedule creates significant fluctuations in preparation time but the Ticats will play eight games where their opponent has more time between contests than they do. Hamilton has the advantage just five times (with another five games coming with an equal number of days in between for both teams.)

But that’s not even the worst of it: the Ticats will play games in Weeks 17, 18, 19 against teams coming off a bye, meaning they’ll face opponents with at least 13 days to rest and prepare. Teams coming off a bye week are 45-38 since 2010 (a .542 winning percentage) and Calgary, who comes to town Oct. 13, is 9-0 over that span.

Oh, and if the Ticats make it to the post-season and play in the East Semi-Final? That game will be their fourth in 21 days, not to mention their 11th straight week of football. That’s not just absurd, it’s downright dangerous.

So while Ticats fans may be pleased with the schedule, it remains to be seen whether they’ll be happy with a team that has to overcome not just their opponent but the schedule-maker too.

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