Party like it’s 1996 doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but we no longer have to think about the last time Hamilton hosted a Grey Cup and can instead focus on the next time the CFL’s marquee event will be located on the western tip of Lake Ontario.
That’s right, it finally happened. The Grey Cup is coming back to Hamilton in 2021.
As a born and raised Hamiltonian, I couldn’t be happier or more excited to show off the city I call home. Hamilton has grown tremendously in the past five years, let alone the past 25 — which is how long it will have been in 2021 since the Grey Cup was here — that I expect more than a few travelling fans to be surprised by what greets them.
Just wait until you sample some of the restaurants we have here. There are so many to try that you will have to invent new meals to get them all in. Just head down James St. and you’ll find somewhere unique to park yourself for a meal. And hey, if you need a recommendation, I’ll gladly offer one.
I want this to be a positive piece, but there are some things, mostly around the way this announcement was handled, that merit scrutiny.
For all the good that the new bidding process did by keeping the CFL in the news in a post-free-agency dry spot, the unintended consequence was seeing fans pitted against fans on social media. Downright rude behaviour by some fans to others left a bad taste in my mouth about this whole process. The league likes to talk about the #CFLFamily, but the competition between Hamilton and Saskatchewan (and to a much lesser extent, Montreal) led to some pretty nasty, ignorant comments volleyed back and forth between fans. The inclusivity of the CFL is something a lot of people cherish, but this felt like anything but that as fans became very territorial.
As the first true Grey Cup bidding competition — Edmonton was technically the first, they bid against Calgary only and that was really no contest; same with Calgary in 2019 being the only bid — you saw a nastiness that had never been exhibited before. It was definitely an unintended consequence of going to this model. I expect it will only get worse in the future and I’m not sure that is entirely good for the league. A lot of that seems to be water under the bridge now, and all fanbases are celebrating where the 2020 and 2021 Grey Cups will be held, but for the 72 or so hours before the announcement, it was ugly.
For as much as I wanted the hosting drought to end in 2020, waiting another year is hardly an eternity. We have waited this long, so what is another year anyway.
Hamilton 2021 is going to be a party the likes of which CFL fans have never seen, almost literally. A new generation will be exposed to the new Hamilton and maybe the old stigmas associated with the city will drift away as people discover just what type of city Hamilton has become. There is work still left to do to ensure there isn’t another 25-year wait after 2021, but I know that the team and the city are up for the task.
The Grey Cup hosting drought is over… now if the team could go about ending the other Grey Cup drought, that would be fantastic.