The good and bad of Hamilton’s 2017 schedule

The schedule is out and here are some of the good and bad things about Hamilton’s 2017 slate.

Good: Opening against Toronto

This is how almost every Toronto and Hamilton season should open from now until football no longer exists. Hamilton at Toronto was the best game the Argos had at BMO Field last year, attendance wise, and a lot of that had to do with a ravenous Ticats fan base heading the 60km to see the game. It was hoped that this would be a glimpse into what was to come, but alas it was a one-off. But starting the season off between the two most-hated rivals in the league is a smart decision.

Bad: No Labour Day Classic rematch

Starting the year in Toronto means that the Ticats and Argos will not meet in a post-Labour Day rematch. There are a couple reasons why. Firstly, the Argos only host the Ticats once in 2017 and that will be in Week 1. Secondly, Toronto FC has a game scheduled at BMO Field that weekend — a home game against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, September 9 — which made it impossible for the Argos to get a home game that weekend. So no Classic rematch in 2017.

Bad: Ottawa after Labour Day

So the Argos get a bye week after the Labour Day Classic, while Hamilton heads to Ottawa to take on the Redblacks the following Saturday. This is a terrible draw for the Ticats. With the Eskimos and Stamps tied up with one another in their rematch, and the Banjo Bowl keeping the Bombers and Riders busy, the choice of opponents for the Ticats was down to B.C., Ottawa and Montreal. A divisional matchup on limited rest is not ideal even when the teams played on the same day, as is the case most years with Hamilton and Toronto, but given that the Redblacks play on the Friday while the Ticats play on the Monday (and at night, no less) the competitive advantage given to the Redblacks is quite large. Had the game been in Hamilton, it wouldn’t have been so bad, but the team will finish up their game on Monday night around 10pm, likely have a Tuesday off and get just two practices in before heading to Ottawa. Not good. This game, even this far out, smells like a blowout waiting to happen. I know the CFL was in a bind here with the dates available at BMO, but this feels like the worst of a lot of bad options.

Bad: Early bye weeks

There are a few teams with crappy bye weeks — Ottawa’s byes are in Week 6 (after playing two games in Week 5), and Week 18 and 20; Saskatchewan is off Week 4 and Week 9 — and Hamilton is one of them. The Ticats open the season against Toronto and then get a bye in Week 2. Their second, and final, bye of 2017 is in Week 10 (which is the week before the Labour Day game against the Argos). The Ticats will then not get a bye week the rest of the season and play 10 straight from Labour Day onward. So unless the Ticats finish first in the East, their road to the Grey Cup in Ottawa is going to be without a break.

Bad: Saturday Morning Football

Hamilton playing in B.C. is almost always a late start, but the league upped the ante this year by having that game start at an insane 11pm Eastern. There is a good chance most Ticats fans won’t stay awake until nearly 2 in the morning to see that game end, and many won’t make it to the 11pm kickoff. There doesn’t seem to be any other good time to do the game — the Whitecaps have B.C. Place Stadium booked for the Saturday, there is already a Sunday afternoon CFL game that week, and the league doesn’t play any Thursday night games after Labour Day (when the NFL has kicked off) — but it is still not an ideal start time for a game.

Good: Balanced schedule

After years of long road trips because of events or stadium delays, it is nice to see a relatively balanced schedule for the Ticats. Their longest road trip of the season is two games (twice, at Calgary and at Edmonton on July 29 and August 4, and at Montreal and at Ottawa on October 22 and 27) and their longest home stand is just two games (twice, hosting B.C. and Edmonton on July 15 and July 20, respectively, and hosting Winnipeg on August 12 and Ottawa on August 18). It is a nice balance for a team that has had backloaded schedules the last few years.

(I know the start of the season is back-to-back road games, but those have a bye sandwiched in the middle, as well as the two-game, Winnipeg-Ottawa back-to-back is three games with the team hosting Toronto afterwards, but a bye week breaks that up also.)

Good: Summer of the West

The Ticats become a defacto West Division team throughout the months of July and August. After opening the season against Toronto, the Ticats next six opponents all come from the West. It starts in Saskatchewan before the team welcomes B.C. and Edmonton to Hamilton, then the Ticats head West for an Alberta doubleheader against Calgary and Edmonton before ending their stretch against the West with a home game against Winnipeg.

The Ticats get 60 per cent of their western games over with before the summer ends, and get trips to Saskatchewan, Edmonton and Calgary out of the way early. This also means a backloaded schedule of division games, where the Ticats will play six of their eight division games from Labour Day onward. It will either allow the Ticats to take control of the division or sink them. Either way, the end of the season will be big for the black and gold.

Bad: Goodnight afternoon

Hamilton plays just two afternoon games all season — Week 1 vs. Toronto and Week 18 vs. Montreal – and neither of them are at home. The earliest kickoff for a game at Tim Hortons Field is 6:30. I don’t know about you, but I’m a fan of afternoon football. And while the team has a nice balance of days — just one Thursday home game and none on Sunday — the lack of any afternoon starts, especially in the summer, kind of sucks.

The final week against Montreal could have easily been a 1 or 4pm kickoff. The Ticats play at 7, with the Bombers-Stampeders game kicking off at 9:30 (which means fans will miss the start of that game) and there is a doubleheader on Saturday with the Eskimos at the Riders and the Argos at the Lions. Those are both night games, and slotting Hamilton in at 4 could have set up another final week triple header, like last year, that fans seemed to enjoy. While the weather is not as bad here in November as it is in places like Winnipeg and Edmonton, it can still get pretty chilly at night that late in the year and putting that game in the afternoon probably would have been a better idea.

Bad: No Als ’til October

This is the third straight year where the Ticats won’t see a divisional opponent for the first time until very late in the season. The last two years, it was the Redblacks — seven of the eight meetings (including playoffs) between these two teams have taken place in either October or November — and this year it is Montreal. The Ticats and Als do not lock horns for the first time in 2017 until all the way in Week 18, with the second matchup coming in Week 20. Who knows where each team will be by then, but waiting that long to play a divisional game just seems silly.

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