HAMILTON -- There’s nothing quite like Labour Day.
To the unsuspecting eye, it may not mean anything more than a regular holiday weekend, or for kids, that the summer’s over and it’s time to go back to school.
|Labour Day History|
With the Argos and Ticats set to renew hostilities on Labour Day Monday, here's a look back on the last 10 Labour Day classics.
» 2010: HAM 28, TOR 13
» 2009: HAM 34, TOR 15
» 2008: TOR 34, HAM 31
» 2007: TOR 32, HAM 13
» 2006: TOR 40, HAM 6
» 2005: HAM 33, TOR 30
» 2004: HAM 30, TOR 30
» 2003: TOR 19, HAM 11
» 2002: HAM 22, TOR 14
» 2001: HAM 26, TOR 13
But in one city in Southern Ontario – Hamilton, to be exact – the first Monday of September feels almost like Christmas.
It represents one of the greatest rivalries in professional sports: one that’s about more than the teams on the field or a couple of points in the standings, but two fan bases that hate one another.
It’s about bragging rights.
The two franchises have met on Labour Day 44 times, dating back to 1948 when the Toronto Argonauts beat the Hamilton Wildcats 14-7.
After a one-year hiatus in 2011, the game is back in Hamilton, and this year’s edition, as if it were even possible, has a little more meaning than usual.
With Ivor Wynne Stadium set to close at the end of the season to make room for a brand new stadium for the Ticats, one of the league’s most storied venues is making its last round.
Angelo Mosca and Bill Symons, Ticats and Argos legends respectively, will be on hand Monday to watch their former teams do battle in this special game for the final time. They know quite well what the rivalry means for both fans and players.
“From the way I’ve looked at it, it was like the city slicks coming over here to the nasty boys,” says Mosca, who anchored the Ticats’ defensive line from 1963 to 1972. “That’s the way I always looked at it, we were the bad boys and they were the city slicks.”
Symons, who played for the Argos in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s and became the first running back to break the 1,000-yard plateau in franchise history, agreed that it was the clash of two very different cities in such close proximity that made the rivalry so big off the field.
“They always played up the fact that Toronto was big and spoiled, they were the rugged, poor sister team down the road,” says Symons. “But there were a lot of things the two towns could play against each other that made it a lot of fun.”
While Mosca tries to make it to every Labour Day game between these two teams and continues to be an avid Ticats supporter, he also has fond memories of suiting up and going to battle against the Boatmen in front of a wild Ivor Wynne crowd.
“It was always fun – they made it easy for us, always behind us,” says Mosca. “When you’ve got 27,000 people or so cheering for you it’s always a good thing, and a fun thing too.”
For the visiting team, it’s not always so easy. But, it does get everyone on the field riled up.
“In Hamilton it was easy to get up because the stands were so close, it was a great stadium to play football in because everybody was right there on top, from a standpoint where you could see the game,” says Symons.
The Ticats now hold a 29-14-1 edge on Labour Day, with the Argos failing to win a single one of those contests in the ‘60s. Mosca and the Ticats’ dominant defence played a huge role in protecting their home turf.
While Symons and quarterback Joe Theismann finally helped the Argos capture bragging rights in the ‘70s, it was all Ticats before that.
“In the early years we had some great football teams, and we were lucky that we always beat the Argonauts as it was probably 8-10 years before they won a game over here,” says Mosca.
“There was a lot of pride,” he added. “Defensively we had great pride – there were guys that we played together for 10, 12 years so there were a lot of veterans on those teams. And we were proud to play together and win together.”
Symons was one of the players who helped crack the Ticats Labour Day winning streak, when he took the Argos from their own five-yard-line and ran 105 yards for a touchdown.
Well-removed from his playing days and now running a farm in Hockley Valley, the former Argo running back doesn’t remember the specifics. Instead, he recalls the intensity on the field whenever these two teams met on Labour Day.