Thursday 8 September 2011

The Importance of Sunday

For the longest time, the Montreal Alouettes had a hex of sorts on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The Als had won 20 of their previous 22 meetings. It was as if there was a mental block that prevented the Ti-Cats from beating the Alouettes.

Then things started to change.

It started last October, when Hamilton handed Montreal one of its most embarrassing defeats in recent memory: a 40-3 pounding that took place in front of a raucous crowd at Ivor Wynne Stadium. The win was poo-pooed by some as meaningless. The Als, having already wrapped up first in the East, had nothing to play for. When Hamilton lost in the East Division Semi-Final, the big win against Montreal just a month prior was long forgotten.

Then in July, the Cats and Als faced off in a somewhat meaningful early-season matchup. Hamilton won 34-26 at Ivor Wynne Stadium in a game that was not as close as the score indicates. Hamilton was clearly the better team and took a 31-19 lead, but Montreal scored a late touchdown to make the game look closer than it was. People took notice after this victory, but doubt was still there.

Maurice Mann scoring on Labour Day
Then Labour Day arrived, and all doubt was seemingly removed. In as complete a game as I have seen the Tiger-Cats play under Marcel Bellefeuille, the Tabbies hammered the Als 44-21 in front of a rambunctious 26,964 fans at Ivor Wynne Stadium. Much like their July matchup, the score of this game also made the Als look a lot better than they actually were. The Montreal Offense could barely muster anything against a stingy Tiger-Cat Defense. Had it not been for two scores by the Alouettes' Defense, the final score would have been just as lopsided as their October game from a year ago.

Despite having won the past three against their division rivals, Sunday's game still holds a lot of importance for this Tiger-Cat team.

The reason for that is because in Hamilton's three victories against Montreal, one thing is constant: they all came at home.

Hamilton has yet to beat Montreal in Montreal. In fact, the last time the Cats went into Molson Stadium and beat the Als was... October 20, 2002! That means that Hamilton is 0-fer in Montreal since Bob Young purchased the team. The last coach to lead the Tiger-Cats to a victory in Montreal: Ron Lancaster. The last Quarterback to win in Montreal: Danny McManus.

Percival Molson Stadium
During Marcel Bellefeuille's tenure as Head Coach, the only "quality opponent" that Hamilton has defeated on the road is BC, winning there in 2009. The Cats have continued their dominance in Vancouver, having won there the last three seasons. That is no small feat, either considering that prior to 2009, Hamilton hadn't won in BC since 2004.

But beating BC is not the same as beating Calgary, Montreal, Edmonton or Saskatchewan. The Cats in the Bellefeuille era are 0-9 in those four places.

Hamilton doesn't tend to get a lot of respect from the CFL media, and part of that is because they haven't consistently beaten upper-echelon teams in their stadiums. This is not a woe-is-me statement, but Hamilton tends to not get the benefit of the doubt. It's somewhat understandable seeing as they have been terrible for the better part of this century.

Two 9-9 seasons followed by two first-round playoff exits does not lead to much respect. But beating Montreal in Montreal? That's a different story.

If the Cats want to finally get some respect, there is no better way to demand it than by beating a quality opponent on the road.

Hamilton has that opportunity on Sunday.

1 comment:

  1. You said it perfectly.
    Nice writing too, Josh.