Tuesday 23 October 2012

Ivor Wynne Memories: 1998 East Final

With it being the last season of Ivor Wynne Stadium, I said I am going to post some of my personal memories I have of the stadium. This edition will look at my favourite single moment at Ivor Wynne Stadium: Ozzy's kick.

When I decided I was going to write about some of my favourite memories of Ivor Wynne Stadium, there were two games I knew I was going to write about: my first game and the 1998 East Division Final.

If you are a Tiger-Cat fan, you know all about the 1998 East Division Final. The Tiger-Cats, after a 2-16 season in 1997, went west and grabbed Ron Lancaster, Danny McManus and Darren Flutie. The revamped Tiger-Cats went 12-5-1, finished first in the East Division and earned the right to host the East Final against what ended up being the Montreal Alouettes.

I was just 16 in 1998 and purchased tickets to the East Final a few days before the game from a neighbour who couldn't go. If not for the offer, I probably would have watched the game on TV and missed out on one of the greatest moments of my young life.

The seats were great; my friend and I sat in the fifth row of Box E. We were so close that we could interact with players. When Eric Carter intercepted a Tracy Ham pass, we looked him square in the eye and flashed his signature arm cross (he made an 'X' with his arms) and he saw us and did it right back. As a 16-year-old kid who grew up loving the Ti-Cats, this was a really cool moment (to be honest, I still think it is cool).

The game was great, and the Cats took a lead late into the fourth quarter. But Ham led the Als down the field and threw a touchdown with less than 30 seconds to go in the game. I remember the air coming out of the stadium. We were devastated. It looked like the Cats were going to come up short.

By this point in the game, everybody was standing. When McManus drove the Cats into field goal range in 20 seconds, we all held out collective breath as Paul Osbaldiston lined up for the kick. Anyone who watches football knows that a 54-yard kick is not easy. It felt like an eternity waiting for the kick. But Ozzy hit it and he hit it perfectly. The Cats had won and were going to the Grey Cup!

I had never high-fived and hugged so many people in my life. Strangers ceased to be strangers after the kick sailed through the uprights. It was a love fest the likes of which I had never experienced before and haven't since. It was truly something you had to be there to experience. If you were there, you know what I mean.

And thanks to YouTube, we can enjoy this moment whenever we want. It is a video I never get tired of watching and I am sure I am not alone.

For as long as I live, I will remember this moment, this game. It is by far my favourite memory of Ivor Wynne Stadium. Whenever I think about Ivor Wynne Stadium, this is the first thing I think about. I know I will be thinking about it on Saturday when I sit at Ivor Wynne Stadium for the final time.

This is a place that means many different things to many different people and has been around a lot longer than I have, so I would love to hear what some of your favourite Ivor Wynne moments have been. Thanks for going done memory lane with me. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing about it.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this Josh. The 1998 semi-final game kick happened right in front of me, as my buddies and I had end zone season's tickets then. Catching the extra point football from Ozzie's foot at the 1999 Labour Day game is another great memory. I still have the football (I'm looking at it now). It's unfortunate that people have to give back any footballs kicked into the stands now.

    It's also too bad that we can't have the 1998 or 1999 team on the field on Saturday instead of the incredibly frustrating chronic underperformers that we are forced to endure this year - can we get a new team with the new stadium?....