My First CFL Game: Calgary Stampeders Vs. Hamilton Tiger-Cats At Tim Hortons Field
Growing up near the Canadian border I have been familiar with Canadian Football for most of my life. Over the years I’ve had a casual interest in the league, watching games whenever they were on ESPN or CBC which we could, as a border city get on our cable system. I remember John Candy and Wayne Gretzky becoming co-owners of the Argos and Rocket Ismail. I also remember Doug Flutie and is eventual return to the NFL with my Buffalo Bills. At some point, and like other teams I have filed as a child I don’t remember exactly when or how, I took a liking to the Calgary Stampeders. I think as a kid who loved the combination of red and black, took to the red and black uniforms and cool horse logo. As the years went on I would watch on and off and try to keep track of the Grey Cup. I remember knowing teams could still score a point when they missed a field goal.
In the last four or five years though, with the increase of coverage in the States on ESPN I have transitioned from casual fan to into an enthusiastic big fan who follows the rosters, coaching changes and offseason moves. It makes sense, given my obsession with football and a need to fill that NFL offseason hole. I now get excited when CFL camps start and the season begins in June. I watch pretty much every game with my ESPN+ subscription which gives me to access to every game. It’s so much fun seeing the high scoring, wild games, with all the unequally Canadian flair that the game offers.
This year after having about it for years, I decided to up my CFL fandom and actually attend a game in person. Something that for some reason I had never done, despite living a 90 minute drive or so from two CFL teams. Oddly, I didn’t choose either of those teams as my favorite, which was logistically speaking a bad move.
I decided to jump right in with a three pack of Hamilton Tiger-Cats games for the 2019 season. It was incredibly affordable and would allow me to see my Calgary Stampeders as well as a couple other games against the Blue Bombers and Argos.
My First Game
On Saturday July 13th 2019, I attended my first CFL game. It is kind of neat that as a person in his late 30s, I can still have a first when it comes to attending a sporting event. I have probably been to close to 150 NFL games in person over the years, but i was still super excited to see this CFL game. What could beat seeing a football game in the middle of July? The first game would be against the Stampeders, who are having a down year and missing their starting QB Bo Levi Mitchell, but I still expected an exciting game.
The Stadium: Tim Hortons Field
the Ti-Cats started playing in their new stadium in 2014. It was built on the site of their old stadium, Ivor Wynne Stadium. While the stadium has had some issues in its first five season, I thought it was a really great facility. Size-wise, it is probably equivalent to a mid-major NCAA football stadium. THF has great sitelines, even with the bigger Canadian field. The seating was spacious and comfortable with wide plastic seats. The amenities that I was able to access with my standard ticket seemed adequate and the prices were great. The stadium also is the new home of the Canadian Football Hall Of Fame, which is located on the club level and accessible to club ticket holders during the game and all other fans twenty minutes after kickoff. I didn’t get a chance to explore it this time around, but I hope to during one of my next trips there later in the season. The only downside to the stadium that I could see was the parking. There isn’t a lot of parking around the stadium. Instead the City of Hamilton has free shuttles for fans to and from the stadium. I parked at one of the three malls that had a shuttle pickup. The ride to and from was fairly smooth sailing, other than it being a bit crowded on the way back.
The game didn’t go my way as far as the results for the Stampeders, but all in all it was pretty exciting. I got to see a single, a blocked punt for a TD, a 110 kickoff return TD and a missed field goal return for a TD. A couple of those things are either rare or impossible in the NFL. The fans were pretty great too. They were enthusiastic, and for the most part friendly, even though I was rooting for the visiting team. We were actually thanked for coming by numerous people when they learned we came up from the States. It was a lot of fun seeing the game in person and I can’t wait to go back in a couple weeks!
With two more games to attend this season, I figured it would be a good idea to get some gear for the next game. The Tiger-Cats store was well stocked and had a great selection of items. I of course, was looking for helmets. They had some mini helmets, but ultimately I decided i could find a better deal online. I did find a Pocket Pro Ti-Cats helmet which was pretty exciting. The CFL Pocket Pros were discontinued and as far as I can see impossible to find. I would love to collect all nine teams, but there just isn’t any available anywhere, unless you pay the premium to have someone make you a custom. I might have to give it a try myself some time. I also got a 150th Season pennant, a shirt and a a cool wristband.