Landry: Ready for the magic of Labour Day Weekend

Here’s to you, Labour Day. And to the bounty of Canadian football passion you bring; a non-stop lightning storm that first gathers in the hearts of the faithful in the stands and then leaps to the field where it courses through the veins of the players, making them feel that somehow, someway this mid-season affair – that would otherwise be just another game, really – means absolutely everything.

When the Alouettes host Ottawa, when the Roughriders host Winnipeg, when the Ticats host Toronto and when the Stampeders host Edmonton on this OK Tire Labour Day Weekend, middle of the season games, with concretely nothing more on the line than two points in the standings – just like the ones that preceded them – will nevertheless have a vibrant, playoff day feel to them.

That’s something else, ain’t it?


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Labour Day gives us our first annual taste of what we know lies ahead in November and I think that is partly why we love it so. I’ve heard fans of every team say things like ‘I want us to win this more than anything’ or ‘I’d trade a Grey Cup for a Labour Day win’ and I think to myself ‘no you wouldn’t.’ But I do get the point. Or, two points really. The first being that your team’s Labour Day game is a big, big deal to you and the second being that you hold a monumentally stone-cold disregard for the other guys.

There will be extra-crispy nerves in the stands and at home. There will be spiked intensity on the field. There will be a feeling, for players and for fans, that these games mean so much more to their esteem and their season’s prospects than do the games that have led up to this point.

Why does Labour Day make you feel the way it does? Because you decided it would that’s why. And it’s to your credit.

Some of the reasons are tangible, others are what you might call abstract, maybe even spiritual.

At the midway mark of the season, many feel we should be able to form a clear picture in our heads about just what each team’s identity is. If you’re a diehard fan of any CFL team, it is at this point where you feel you ought to be able to see just what your side has on offer when it comes to its abilities in contending for the big November prize. Just how big-game-ready they are. With an eye on the not so distant playoff run, the Labour Day game gives you a look at how much work might need to be done and being poised to find that out can be nerve-racking.

But there’s something much more than that involved, I think.

Zach Collaros and his Bombers will look to get the best of the Riders this week (Jason Halstead/

The Labour Day games are situated at an intersection of great meaning for Canadians. It’s the unofficial end of summer, the final long weekend of the season, with kids heading back to school and an annual carefree run of fun and frivolity coming to a close. There’s a strong sense that there is one last chance to celebrate the season and so a kind of ‘use it or lose it’ mentality exists, meaning Labour Day Weekend is primed for whatever fun you’ve got planned.

And football games already provide a sense of occasion for fans. We see it all through the summer before Labour Day even crosses our minds. Whether it’s Friday Night Football or a Saturday afternoon, the regalia and the excited mood are there, fans embracing the big event as they mingle and bake on sun-splashed parking lots, tailgate smoke wafting through the air. Stack that sense of occasion on top of that of the last wing-ding long weekend of the summer and that of a clash with your arch rival, and you have a triple-threat recipe for excitement.

Then, when you add that feeling that this game is somehow more important than the ones that have come prior to it – and that it offers a tangible measure of where your team stands at a critical juncture of the campaign, you have all the magic that you need to make Labour Day an annual rite worthy of celebration.

There can be no doubt that the pressure-cooker atmosphere that comes part and parcel with the annual clashes comes directly from the fans and it comes from the stands. I’ve talked with so many players over the years and almost all of them have attributed the the thrill of competing on Labour Day to the supernova intensity and energy flowing from the moment they walk out onto the field for warm-ups.

For the home teams – for the Ticats, the Stampeders, the Roughriders and the Alouettes – there will be a very real feeling that expectations are as sky high as the moon when they emerge from the tunnel. They will feel it from the fans and they will know that those fans are completely invested, certain that they are as much a part of what will happen on this day as will the players in uniform.

Their duty to protect home field, players say, is always of paramount performance but on this day? This day is something different, they’ll tell you. And the visitors – the REDBLACKS, the Blue Bombers, the Argos and the Elks – they’ll tell you that the revulsion they feel being directed towards them, one they’re always aware of when visiting their rival’s lair, is palpably elevated on Labour Day Weekend. Each side is primed to the maximum. There is energy in being seen as the hero at home. But there is also energy in being seen as the villain on the road. Players eat that up.

Jake Maier will get to feel the excitement of a Labour Day game this weekend against the Edmonton Elks (Kevin Sousa/

Labour Day football is special to Canadians not simply because it exists to do so. It could not have happened that way. It is special because passionate lovers of the great northern league and of their favourite team have made it so, investing vast pools of emotion and creativity to make it this way.

Yes there have been incredible players doing incredible things on Labour Days past for decades now. Those highlights get stacked and stacked and stacked again in building Labour Day lore. And there have been games that have delighted and excited and quickened pulses with incredible endings. The players certainly do their part. But it is the fans who spur them on to these things at these games, sending a very clear message that you had better take Labour Day seriously. Because they certainly do.

The special mid-season football oasis we call Labour Day Weekend has been built brick by brick and nail by nail by fans through years of willing it to be this way. And by backing up that will with the actions that bring it to glorious life. With vocal cords pushed to the breaking point and with jerseys carrying familiar names and numbers on their backs. Names from your grandparents’ team, and your parents’ team and now your team. With colourful costumes and faces painted blue or red or green & white or black & gold. With all that and with noisemakers of every description building the din, this Labour Day Weekend will once again be the mid-season marvel it has been for so many years now.

Why does Labour Day Weekend feel so special?

Because football fans decided it would.

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