The Hamilton Tiger-Cats will host the Toronto Argonauts in the annual Labour Day Classic on Monday afternoon at Tim Hortons Field. The Argos are point favourites.
Under normal circumstances, this would be a simple game to handicap. The reigning champion Argos are the team to beat this season. They have the league’s best record at 8-1; sport the CFL’s top-scoring offence, averaging 34.1 points per game; the league’s fourth-stingiest defence, giving up an average of 22.9 points per game; and employ the frontrunner for Most Outstanding Player in first-year starting quarterback Chad Kelly.
If that wasn’t enough, the Double Blue have owned this rivalry since the Ticats staged a miraculous second-half comeback in the 2021 East Final. In the six games played since then, the Argos have won five of them — all by double digits, including both matchups this season.
There is no good reason to believe the 4-6 Tiger-Cats will be able to match up with the potent Argonauts and on any other day this would be a no-brainer pick.
But Monday is Labour Day and history shows us that on this day, the Tiger-Cats are king.
The Labour Day Classic between the Ticats and Argos began in 1950 and in the 51 games contested between the two sides, the Ticats sport a 34-16-1 all-time record. They have also owned this series of late, winning nine of the last 11.
Neither of these two teams has seen sustained success year over year in the last couple of decades but regardless of where the two teams sit in the standings, the Tiger-Cats emerge victorious more often than not. Some of the worst Hamilton teams of the past 30 years still managed to get the ‘W’ on Labour Day.
In 1993, the Tiger-Cats entered the game on a six-game losing streak but snapped their skid by winning 23-21 on Labour Day.
In 2005, the Ticats were 1-8 and dispatched the 6-3 Argos 33-30. Hamilton would go on to finish 5-13 while the Argos would end the season tops in the East Division with an 11-7 record.
In 2017, the Tabbies entered the game winless at 0-8 and were less than a month removed from a humiliating 60-1 loss. That mattered not on Labour Day, where not even a two-hour-long weather delay could stop the Black and Gold from notching their first win of the season. The Ticats would miss the playoffs while the Argos would go on to capture their 17th Grey Cup championship.
Then of course there is perhaps the most famous Labour Day upset of all time when the star-studded 1991 Argos, with Matt Dunigan, Mike “Pinball” Clemons and Raghib “The Rocket” Ismail, sauntered into Hamilton with a 6-2 record only to get obliterated by the 0-8 Ticats, 48-24. Toronto would also win the Grey Cup that year while the Tabbies would win just two more games the rest of the season.
The Argos won on Labour Day last year for the first time in a decade. In the entire history of the Argos-Ticats Labour Day Classic, Toronto has only managed to win consecutive matchups twice, when they won three in a row from 1994-1997 and again from 2006-2008.
All the data from this season points to a resounding Argos victory. They are by far the better team and a legitimate title contender, while the Ticats will be lucky to scrape into the playoffs. But Labour Day is a different animal and because of that, I am taking the home side to not just cover the 8.5 points but to also win outright. I also think both teams will put on an offensive show so I will take the over on total points.
Spread: Ticats +8.5 (-110)
Moneyline: Ticats (+285)
Total points: Over 50 (-110)