Sunday was a great day for the 2011 Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Six members of that particular former Ticats squad – quarterback Kevin Glenn, running back Marcus Thigpen, offensive lineman Peter Dyakowski, receiver Bakari Grant, defensive tackle Eddie Steele and assistant coach Jason Shivers – are now with the Saskatchewan Roughriders who won the Eastern Semi-Final 31-20 over the Ottawa Redblacks.
“We’ve got the the team back together but we’ve made a few key additions,” said Dyakowski, tongue forever planted in his cheek. “Overall though, mostly the same roster.”
They were hardly the only Ticats to see playoff action, however. Former running back C.J. Gable, traded to Edmonton in October for two negotiation list players, racked up 107 yards ruishing and two touchdowns in the Eskimos 39-32 win over kicker Justin Medlock’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Veteran defensive end John Chick, dealt to Edmonton in August for draft picks, collected a sack.
The Riders also feature former Hamilton players Ed Gainey, Chad Owens, Mike Edem and Josh Bartel while the Eskimos have defensive backs Neil King and Johnny Adams, linebacker Alex Hoffman Ellis as well as offensive lineman Joel Figueroa and Simeon Rottier. The Redblacks featured receiver Greg Ellingson, linebacker Taylor Reed and defensive end Arnaud Gascon-Nadon. In addition to kicker Medlock, the Bombers have Canadian receiver Matt Coates.
Next week will also feature Toronto Argonauts defensive backs Cassius Vaughn and Rico Murray as well as Calgary receiver Marquay McDaniel, all former Hamilton players as well.
It’s a long list but Dyakowski is unquestionably the most synonymous with the Black and Gold after spending the first nine years of his CFL career in Hamilton and making countless charitable appearances, not to mention stints on TV as CBC’s Canada’s Smartest Person and a short-lived run on Jeopardy!
But the 33-year-old offensive lineman was released this winter, his reign as the longest-tenured Ticat coming to a sudden and inglorious end. With younger, more affordable players in development, the Kent Austin regime decided Dyakowski was expendable, the latest in a string of long-time Ticats to be shown the door or allowed to depart without much fanfare.
Dyakowski quickly caught on with the arch-rival Toronto Argonauts, signing with them just hours after his release from Hamilton. Then, as training camps were set to open this spring, he was dealt to the Roughriders.
So now Dyakowski will travel with his new team to face his old team the Argos in Sunday’s East Final at BMO Field.
“I really have a chip on my shoulder against that Marc Trestman guy, I’m looking forward to giving him a good thumping,” he said, again joking.
Dyakowski took some good natured ribbing from former Ticat teammates – and faced the legitimate ire of some fans – after signing with the arch-rival Argonauts. Switching sides in the Labour Day Classic is a tough thing to do and seeing Dyakowski in Double Blue would have downright weird.
“It was a very interesting episode, a several month interlude this off-season that I do not acknowledge,” Dyakowski said. “I’m looking forward to playing the game against that team of which I have never been a part.”
The move was perfectly understandable on many levels. First, he needed a job. Second, his wife had recently given birth to their first child, a daughter.
“I knew it was going to be a challenge. The reason I made that terrible misjudgment and signed with Toronto is because I wanted to make it easier on the family, be able to stay home,” he said. “But going out to Regina worked out. I went with a very positive attitude, I wanted to make the most of the chance that the Riders were giving me.”
Dyakowski started all 18 games this season as Saskatchewan posted a 10-8 record, good enough for a crossover spot in the East Division. As he heads to Toronto to take on the Argos, he’s hoping the old allegiances will come back to pay dividends.
“I think everyone in Hamilton will be cheering for Toronto to get beat so hopefully that energy will give us a boost,” he said. “At least for me personally. I don’t care if anyone else is thinking about the Ticat fans.”
“There’s lots of people on this team for Hamilton to pull for so tell them to buy tickets.”