As a kid, Labour Day was always a bittersweet day. It signified the end of the summer, as you were getting ready to head back to school the next day.
But Labour Day also meant football.
Growing up, Labour Day weekend meant Notre Dame football starting on Saturday, the NFL kicking off its season on Sunday and the Ticats taking on the Argos on Monday. As a young football fan, nothing could touch Labour Day weekend.
As one gets older there are no more worries about back to school, and the summer doesn’t mean as much as it used to. College football begins earlier than back then and the NFL doesn’t get started until after Labour Day. The one constant was always the Labour Day Classic.
But not this year.
Labour Day means different things to different CFL fans. If you are in Saskatchewan and Winnipeg or Calgary and Edmonton, it is about those rivalries. In the Golden Horseshoe, it’s all about Ticats and Argos. We have gone without the Battle of the QEW in the past due to venue unavailability — the Rogers Centre in 2011 and Alumni Stadium in Guelph in 2013 — but this year is different.
There not only won’t be a Labour Day Classic in Hamilton and Calgary (and Labour Day-ish Classic in Saskatchewan), but there won’t be any CFL this year. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the league to announce the cancellation of the 2020 season a few weeks back, and while it definitely stung when it was announced, the true impact of no CFL in 2020 didn’t really hit me until this weekend.
As a lifelong Hamiltonian, nothing beats going to see the Ticats beat the snot out of the Argos on Labour Day. While the double blue have won some battles, this was almost always the Ticats’ day.
In 1991, the Ticats entered the contest 0-8 and mollywhopped an Argos team who would eventually win the Grey Cup. There was Earl’s big night in 1988 when The Pearl recorded over 400 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns in a 56-28 spanking by the hometown team. In 2004, Troy Davis rushed for a franchise-record 233 yards in an unlikely 30-30 tie. The Ticats almost always gave it their best on Labour Day even in the grimmest of times, which is reflected in their 35-13-1 all-time record in the Classic.
Ticats fans of a younger vintage almost don’t know what it’s like to see the Ticats lose on Labour Day. Hamilton has won the last six Labour Day meetings and eight of the last nine, with the lone loss coming in the 2012 edition that was the last one played at Ivor Wynne Stadium.
The opening of Tim Hortons Field in 2014 came on Labour Day, which also marked the Ticats’ first win in their new digs. The 2017 game marked the beginning of Brandon Banks’ ascension from a star returner to an all-time great receiver. Labour Day just means a little more here.
“Around here folks like to say Christmas might as well come on Labour Day.” It isn’t just a great line from an Arkells song, but it might be one of the truest statements about life in Hamilton ever written, spoken or sung.
When next year comes around and, hopefully, we are back to some semblance of normalcy and enjoying the CFL once again, we won’t dwell on the fact that we missed out on the 2020 Labour Day Classics.
But right now, knowing it is Labour Day without any CFL to watch really sucks.