Labour Day in Hamilton is steeped in great moments of CFL history, even the years that featured some rather horrid Ti Cat and Argo teams always seemed to bring out the best in both teams.
Labour Day 2004 though provided one of those games for the ages, a 60 plus minute testimony to smash mouth football that featured everything a football fan could ever ask for. Fights, expulsions, injuries, star debuts and record setting performances and even Overtime; Ivor Wynne stadium saw it all in one thoroughly entertaining game.
The Argos and the Ti Cats took to battle as though two armies were fighting inch by inch for valuable turf in a final battle. This was a knockdown, drag them out fight that lasted until the last man was standing, and in this case both teams would pull themselves up from sure defeat and rally back, taking it to the final play of the game, a goal line dash for a tying touchdown that snatched victory from the jaws of the rabid fans of Ivor Wynne.
For the second game in a row the Tiger Cats sold out the stadium and responded to the adulation of their fans with a gutsy and hard fought game, one that highlighted the running skills of Troy Davis. Davis rewrote the Ti Cat record book this Labour Day with 233 rushing yards, routinely turning carries of three yards into major scrambles for eight or nine yards. In addition to his valuable runs, Davis put six points on the board with a four yard drive for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to set up the overtime, he then ran in another TD this time in the second overtime drive, which at the time seemed to be just enough to guarantee a Tiger Cat win.
But then Michael Bishop went to work for the Argonauts, engineering a drive that was aided by a pass interference penalty, culminated in three attempts from the one yard line, the final try the successful run to the right that sent both teams to the dressing room with a 30-30 tie.
Andre Rison’s debut as an Argo was successful as he made some key catches and showed a little bit of the form that made him an NFL legend, still not quite in midseason form, he was only supposed to ease into the line up on this day, but the Argo expulsions of the first quarter made him a regular contributor through the game. Arland Bruce the Third also returned to the CFL and provided some highlight material for his first game back.
The Hamilton defence played like Ti Cat defences of old, mean, unforgiving and brutally violent at times. Each play in the game, matched at times punch for punch, hit for hit by the Defenders of the double blue. The term Labour Day classic seems to get overused, sometimes more wishful thinking than actual fact, and for two of the games this weekend “classic” probably could have been removed from the graphics preceding the game. But Monday night in Hamilton, Classic was a perfect fit.
Stephen Brunt in Tuesday's edition of the Globe and Mail, captures perfectly the atmosphere and results of a game that fittingly featured intense Labour for a Labour Day Monday. And to think the two teams get together and do it all over again on October 21st! The Argos will take a week off now to nurse their wounds and rest their bones, the battered and bruised Ti Cats however get back to work quickly, as they travel to Montreal for a key game against the Alouettes on Sunday.
Over the years, the CFL has provided Canadians with some great football moments, Monday night in the trench warfare at Ivor Wynn Stadium; we added one more page to the memory book. May our little national treasure provide us with many, many more!