The best Hamilton Tiger-Cats game from each year of the 2010s

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are coming off easily their best game of the season thus far in which they upset the back-to-back Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers by a score of 48-31. Dane Evans threw for a career-high five touchdown passes and the fans at Tim Hortons Field left feeling better about their team than they have in a long, long time.

Though this year has still been disappointing overall, that’s the beauty of professional sports: no matter how bad a season goes, there’s always at least one game that becomes an instant classic.

The Ticats didn’t win any Grey Cups during the 2010s, though it was still one of the best decades in team history. They played in three championship games and six East Finals, hosted seven playoff games, and missed the postseason only twice. That’s not bad considering how rough the previous decade was in Steeltown.

Below I’ve selected one game from each year of the 2010s that I would consider to be the best. This is a highly subjective list, so it’s perfectly fair if Ticats fans out there would choose different games for their own personal reasons. These are simply my picks.

2010: Montreal Alouettes, 3 — Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 40 (Week 17)

Expectations were high entering the 2010 season in Hamilton as the offence was a well-oiled machine featuring Kevin Glenn, DeAndra’ Cobb, and Arland Bruce III and the defence fielded perennial all-stars such as Jamall Johnson, Otis Floyd, and Markeith Knowlton.

Hamilton was flying high and this contest capped a three-game run that saw the Ticats dismantle Edmonton, Toronto, and Montreal by a combined score of 106-17. This was a statement game by the Ticats at the time, showing they could keep up with the league’s best as the Als were coming off a championship and about to win another one.

Honourable mention: Week 12 at B.C. Lions

Photo courtesy: Dave Chidley/CFL

2011: Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 52 — Montreal Alouettes, 44 (East Semi-Final)

This was the last great game of the Marcel Bellefeulle-Kevin Glenn era as both men were gone before the following season. Their final win as a tandem was a signature victory that finally eliminated the team that had been a thorn in Hamilton’s side for the better part of 10 years — the two-time defending champion Montreal Alouettes.

Anthony Calvillo was famously allowed to leave Hamilton via free agency and sign in Montreal where he became arguably the greatest quarterback in CFL history. It left Ticats fans wondering what they would have looked like with No. 13 under centre, which is still a sore spot for some of them to this day.

Not much was expected when the 8-10 Tabbies walked into a capacity crowd at Olympic Stadium on that fateful November afternoon. What resulted was a back-and-forth overtime thriller that remains one of the best games in CFL postseason history. It not only ended Montreal’s two-year title reign but also slayed that ever-present dragon on the biggest stage these two teams had shared since 1999.

Honourable mention: Week 13 vs. Calgary Stampeders in Moncton

2012: Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 18 — Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 28 (Week 18)

This was the final game ever played at Ivor Wynne Stadium. The Ticats were clinging on to faint playoff hopes, which would be dashed the next week in a fantastic game in Toronto, but this wasn’t about that. This was about fans saying goodbye to the only football home they had ever known.

After a tumultuous debate that divided the city, Ticats fans sat in the rain and cold to watch their team win one final game at the historic venue. The celebration afterwards was top notch, the all-time team was announced at halftime and we all said our final goodbyes to the place that gave birth to so many of our Ticats fandom.

Honourable mention: Week 5 at Saskatchewan Roughriders

2013: Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 36 — Toronto Argonauts, 24 (East Final)

A large number of the 35,418 fans in attendance for this game were clad in black and gold in what was the first East Final between Toronto and Hamilton since 1986.

The Argos held a 24-10 lead just before halftime but it was all Ticats after that. The defence was swarming and Henry Burris was masterful in the game’s second half, completing more than 80 percent of his passes and leading four scoring drives. It was undoubtedly his best game in Hamilton and arguably the best game the Ticats played in the entire decade.

Honourable mention: Week 18 vs. Montreal Alouettes

2014: Montreal Alouettes, 24 — Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 40 (East Final)

Everybody knew that Brandon Banks was good heading into this game but this was the first time we saw signs of the speedster being a legitimate future M.O.P. candidate.

On a day when S.J. Green torched the Ticats secondary for three touchdowns, it was Banks’ two (that should have been three) punt return scores that everyone remembers. The Ticats cruised to a 40-24 win and punch their ticket back to the Grey Cup for the second consecutive season all thanks to the smallest guy on the field.

Honourable mention: Labour Day Classic vs. Toronto Argonauts

2015: Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 49 — Edmonton Football Team, 20 (Week 9)

Before 2019, the Ticats never looked better in the 2010s than they did in the summer of 2015. This was the team that was going to end the franchise’s long Grey Cup drought. We know why they didn’t — then-franchise quarterback Zach Collaros suffered a torn ACL — but we all know they would have.

The apex of the summer was a Friday night game in Edmonton that saw the Cats absolutely crush the future Grey Cup champions. This victory capped a five-game winning streak for the club that saw them outscore their opponents 204-89, with many of the games being over by midway through the second quarter.

Honourable mentions: Week 8 vs. B.C. Lions, Labour Day Classic vs. Toronto Argonauts

2016: Toronto Argonauts, 36 — Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 49 (Labour Day Classic)

This Labour Day Classic showdown was a classic in every sense of the word. The Argos got out to a 20-point lead that the Ticats spent nearly the entire second half erasing as Chad Owens, the longtime Toronto receiver who defected to Hamilton in the off-season, scored the go-ahead score that put the Ticats on top for good.

Zach Collaros had perhaps his last great performance in a Ticats uniform with over 350 yards and four touchdowns, while C.J. Gable played out of his mind with over 150 total yards. This was probably the final great game of the Kent Austin era, we just didn’t know it at the time.

Honourable mentions: Week 1 at Toronto Argonauts, Week 5 at Edmonton Football Team, Week 18 at Ottawa Redblacks

2017: Toronto Argonauts, 22 — Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 24 (Labour Day Classic)

This contest wasn’t all that great and a two-hour lightning delay didn’t do anything to help it, but this selection is less about the game itself and more about what it signified: a resetting of the franchise.

The Ticats came into this game 0-8 having just replaced Kent Austin as their head coach with June Jones. Jeremiah Masoli was appointed as the new starting quarterback and Brandon Banks became a starting receiver. Hamilton went 6-4 in their remaining games, providing some much-needed optimism heading into the following season.

Honourable mention: Week 20 vs. Montreal Alouettes

2018: B.C. Lions, 8 — Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 48 (East Semi-Final)

The blackout. Logo-gate. Wally Buono’s swan song. Ric Flair. This game had it all and then some in a 40-point postseason bashing.

There was some animosity between the two teams heading into this one as the Lions had danced on Hamilton’s midfield logo prior to the team’s game in late September. The Ticats even paid to bring wrestling legend Ric Flair to town to hype things up and fans were advised fans to wear all black, which most did.

Hamilton was up 28-0 at halftime and on cruise control throughout the second half. Bralon Addison, like Banks four years prior, announced his arrival in a big way. The Ticats got boat-raced by the Redblacks the following week, but the seeds were planted for what would come the following year.

Honourable mention: Week 8 at Montreal Alouettes

Photo courtesy: Ticats.ca

2019: Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 64 — Toronto Argonauts, 14 (Week 2)

This was hands-down the most fun game I have ever attended. From an outsider’s perspective, this game was not very exciting but from a Hamiltonian’s perspective, it might be the greatest game the team has ever played.

The Ticats won this game by a whopping 50 points, ruining Toronto’s home-opener and their celebration of a retired Ricky Ray. Everyone had a day. Jeremiah Masoli remained an Argos killer, Sean Thomas-Erlington ran for over 100 yards, Bralon Addison scored three touchdowns, Brandon Banks scored on a missed field goal return. It was a bloodbath.

This game was also a sign of things to come. The Ticats, despite losing Masoli to injury and being defeated by Winnipeg in the Grey Cup, finished the regular season with a franchise-best record of 15-3.

Honourable mention: Week 5 vs. Calgary Stampeders, Week 9 vs. B.C. Lions

Josh Smith has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.