Zach Collaros avoids being ‘sentimental’ as the winds of Hamilton nostalgia blow before Grey Cup

In true Canadian fashion, when the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Winnipeg Blue Bombers take to the turf at Tim Hortons Field on Grey Cup Sunday there will be a third combatant to account for: the elements.

While it is expected to be sunny and a balmy six degrees in time for kickoff, the wind whipping off Lake Ontario and through the stadium could reach 30 kilometers per hour, with gust of up to 50. That brisk Hamilton wind is known for wreaking havoc on visitors, but fortunately for Winnipeg, their starting quarterback doesn’t seem to mind.

Newly anointed CFL Most Outstanding Player Zach Collaros spent four seasons in Hamilton as the Ticats starter, before injuries ended his tenure there and he’s seen plenty of blustery days. Returning as the visiting pivot for a Grey Cup game, Collaros admitted Saturday that he almost felt himself getting nostalgic during the Bombers’ final walkthrough.

“I try not to be too dramatic and sentimental, especially before a game, but today it just felt like I was walking out to practice three or four years ago, whenever that was, and it was windy and it’s like ‘damn, we gotta throw in the wind today,'” Collaros admitted.

While Collaros’ career will likely be defined by his unlikely resurgence since being run out of Hamilton, including the upset of his former team in the 2019 Grey Cup, many of his greatest earlier career moments came in the Donut Box. That meant braving the icy gale more than a few times, something that may give him an advantage come kickoff.

“I guess it’s good for me that I’ve played in something like that before if that’s what it’s gonna be like tomorrow, but I’m really trying to stay focused on the task at hand,” Collaros said. “All those things about our careers we can reflect on down the road.”

It’s safe to say the quarterback won’t be wasting time by strolling down memory lane there will be another familiar factor that he simply won’t be able to avoid dealing with in his old stomping grounds.

With the Ticats having a chance to break the CFL’s longest active Grey Cup drought on home turf, the crowd Sunday will have a clear rooting interest and those in black and gold won’t be turning down the volume for Collaros for old times sake.

“It’s gonna be an amazing atmosphere. With it being a home game for Hamilton, it’ll certainly be loud and we’ve been practicing different snap counts, so we’ll be ready for anything,” Collaros said. “I think it’s just an amazing week for the CFL and I’m just really happy for the fans that they get to celebrate the season.”

So too for Collaros, who may just be celebrating a second championship win over his old team when all is said and done.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.