Friday 12 March 2010

The Greatest Tiger-Cats of My Lifetime

Everyone has their favourite players from their favourite teams. Ask me my favourite Knicks and I'll tell you Patrick Ewing and Larry Johnson. With the 49ers it's Jerry Rice, Steve Young and Joe Montana. With the Maple Leafs, it's Doug Gilmour, Wendel Clark and Ed Belfour. I guess having admitted I'm a Ti-Cat/Knick/Niner/Leaf fan, I've just outed myself as a masochist. In any event, my favourite Tiger-Cats of all-time can't be shrunk down to a list of two or three players. So many guys have come through town and donned the Black & Gold that I think the only way to properly get them all in is with the tried and true "Top 10" list.

Let me lay out some ground rules that made me decide who to place in the Top 10. First, they must have played during my lifetime. To make it a nice round number, this list will only encompass the past 30 years (1980-2010) of Hamilton Tiger-Cats football. Angelo Mosca, Bernie Faloney and the like will not be on the list. Not to take anything away from any of them, but since I never had the opportunity to watch them, I don't feel as if I can accurately judge them.

Second, I will only take their time in Hamilton into consideration. Where they played before or after means nothing to me. What they helped the Tabbies achieve is the only part of their careers I will use to measure them. That's why you won't see guys like Matt Dunnigan, Damon Allen or Dieter Brock on this list. Their time in Hamilton was too short for them to be considered.

Third, I am only choosing players. As much as I'd love to put former coaches Ron Lancaster, Ralph Sazio or Al Bruno on the list, I don't think it would be fair to judge players with coaches and coaches with players. Let it be known that I have nothing but the utmost respect for those three former Head Coaches.

Finally, I did not consider anyone who is currently on the team. Not that some of these players might not one day make the list (Dave Stala is quickly ascending the ranks) but no one who is currently a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats has accomplished anything with the team. I believe it would be unfair to judge the current players' accomplishments with that of players who have retired.

I will unveil one player each day for 10 consecutive weekdays beginning on Monday, March 15, 2010. Each player will be revealed at 12PM EST. I will begin with #10 and work my way up to #1.

However, before we kick things off with the Top 10, I figured I could give some space to a few Honourable Mentions (which will be listed in alphabetical order):

Archie Amerson
A CFLPA All Star in 2002, Archie Amerson was Mr. Everything when he played for the Tabbies in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He could run, catch and return, and he did all of them greatly. He was also a key member of the 1999 Grey Cup Championship team. While he would later sign with Toronto, Amerson still received a hero's welcome when he returned to the Cats. Leaving Amerson off wasn't easy, but since he was never a dominant player I feel justified in not having him in my Top 10.

Less Browne
A member of the 1986 Grey Cup Championship, and twice named All-Eastern and All-Canadian during his time in Steeltown, Less Browne is one of the all-time great Canadians to play for the Ti-Cats. Browne played 5 stellar seasons at DB for the Tabbies during his Hall of Fame career. Omitting Less Brown from the list was one of the toughest decisions to make, but when it came right down to it, he was never an All Star with the Tabbies, and he won more championships with other teams than he did with Hamilton. Less Browne was a great player, but he does not make my list.

Mike Kerrigan
A 2-time CFL All Star and the 1986 Grey Cup MVP, Mike Kerrigan was one of the best QBs in Tiger-Cats history. He led the team to the 1986 Grey Cup and came within a whisker of winning another one in 1989, losing it in what many consider the greatest Grey Cup game of all-time. No one loved Mike Kerrigan more than I did growing up, but he was never a truly dominant QB, so his omission is justifiable.

Ben Zambiasi
An 8-time All Star and the CFL's Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 1979, Ben Zambiasi was a key component of the Tiger-Cat teams in the 1980s. Zambiasi was voted into the Tiger-Cats Wall of Honour in 2002 and the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2004. He was a key member of the 1986 Grey Cup Championship team. All the accolades make him a perfect candidate for the list, but he falls just short, mostly due to my age. I know that seems rather unfair for a guy who was an 8-time All Star, but I was very young when Zambiasi played, and I don't recall many of the things he did. His greatest season was before I was born, so while I feel uneasy about leaving him off, I decided to do so anyway.

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