HAMILTON - With the CFL’s best win-loss records at home this season, the Ticats are trying to transport some of that Ivor Wynne Stadium essence to Atlantic Canada.
Hamilton is the home team of record when they take to Moncton Stadium's grassy field Sunday for the Scotiabank Touchdown Atlantic game against the Calgary Stampeders.
They’re bringing along Pigskin Pete who leads the iconic Oskee-Wee-Wee cheer, its cheerleaders, the scoreboard video intro, and the gigantic field-sized Canadian flag.
Several of the players also came to town in the off-season and during their August bye-week to hold various community events and meet the fans – hoping to bring the locals on-side when the game starts.
But there are still some tangibles that will play against them enjoying real home-field advantage.
“You have a bipartisan crowd,” listed head coach Marcel Bellefeuille. “You have both teams playing in a different place, obviously, on a different terrain, a different field, a different environment. You don’t get to sleep in your own beds and get that extra rest, so you do lose a little bit. But the other side of it is we get to take part in a pretty special event.”
Hamilton is now up against the wall with a 5-6 record having lost the last two games, including a 38-23 loss to Edmonton at home last week.
It is third in the East Division and trying to catch Montreal in second spot while holding off a crossover charge. While its home record is tied for tops in the CFL at 4-2, its road record is a paltry 1-4.
“Mentally, it’s kind of tougher. It’s a challenge,” said veteran receiver Dave Stala about playing in Moncton. “You’ve never been out there. You don’t know what to expect. You don’t know the type of field. It’s a grass field and we don’t normally play on grass. It’s a lot of variables.”
But he said the team has to focus on playing football after a couple rough outings, including last week’s home loss where the Hamilton fans loudly voiced their displeasure.
“It’s another challenge for our team and we’ve got to get going here,” said the Hamilton native. “We’ve got seven games left, so we’ve got to get some wins. It’s been tough the past couple of weeks because we haven’t been playing well. But once we start playing well, everyone’s going to be back on our bandwagon.”
While they are desperate not to lose three straight, the numbers suggest Hamilton will have its hands full against a team that beat them earlier in the year 32-20.
Calgary (7-4) is tied for first in the West Division with Edmonton but is coming off a 32-19 loss to B.C. last week. The good news for the Stamps is that they are on the road, where they enjoy a 5-0 record.
“They have a very potent offence and a very mobile quarterback and you’ve got to always deal with mobile quarterbacks differently than pocket quarterbacks,” said Bellefeuille. “I think they have some receivers that are very explosive and we have to be able to manage that situation.”
Calgary quarterback Henry Burris is the CFL’s second-leading passer this season, behind Montreal’s Anthony Calvillo, with a 62.7 per cent pass-completion rate for 3,094 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Hamilton’s Kevin Glenn is ranked sixth in the league right now, but his numbers aren’t much different: a 61.4 per cent pass-completion rate for 2,639 yards, 15 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.
Glenn continues to lead the league’s second-best offence in points scored and touchdowns, however, it is ranked second-to-last in net offensive yards.
Its 5-6 record may also have to do, in part, with the defence coughing up an average 28 points per game, second worst in the league and ahead of only Toronto.
Another challenge will be the possible loss of all-star centre Marwan Hage for the third-straight game. He was still questionable as of Wednesday’s practice and the team leaves on Thursday. Hamilton has not won since he has been out of the line-up and has given up seven sacks in the last two games – five last week against Edmonton.