3 Games in 3 Days
By: Stephen Safinuk (@Safimod)
As I sit back in Regina, watching the rain pour down from the heavens, I think back to the amazing trip I just got back from. Before I get into the article, I want to thank a few people who helped make this trip a reality. First, my wife Krystal. Thanks for being amazing and letting me set off on this short whirlwind adventure under the pretense of “Piffles business”. As always, I couldn’t do it without you. To Rob Scott (@RobScott_24) – thank you for a place to crash, as well as the company as we made our way around Hamilton and Toronto. To Cliff Pine (@CliffyD) and Manon (@Manon1331) – thank you for your hospitality in and around Montreal. Thanks to you, I will find it hard to look at poutine in Regina the same. (Please send a brisket from Schwartz Deli to my home ASAP). Finally, Lucas Barrett for getting me setup at BMO Field in Toronto. You are all great people, and #3Gamesin3Days isn’t a success without you. Now that I’ve gotten the mushy stuff out of the way, let’s talk a little football.
To me, the best part about the CFL is the fans, and this trip had no shortage of them whatsoever. I got to meet a huge chunk of people that I interact with regularly, at each of the 3 tailgates. In the coming days, I will post a photobucket link with all the pictures from my trip, and I will make sure and share it with all of you.
My one regret from this trip, is I didn’t take very many pictures at all from Tim Horton’s Field or the tailgate area. As we drive in from Toronto and head for the tailgate area around 4pm for a 7pm pickup, and the first thing I notice is the great tailgate setup that they’ve got compared to Saskatchewan (warning, this is going to become a theme). You drive in to a gated area, and the first thing you see are BBQs and tents, with meat grilling in every direction. We got there 3 hours before kickoff, which is my norm for tailgating, and already there were beers flowing and people chatting. The Box J Boys were there already, as was Spencer Moore’s family.
For the game itself, one of the best parts about Hamilton, besides the people, was the view. To one side, you have a decent view of a little mountain (and I use that term because, to a kid born and raised in Regina, it was a mountain), and to the other, you have a nice video screen. I love the fact that they don’t show advertisements on the screen during replays/game video. The gigantic Canadian flag, which they lent us for our home opener, is always cool to see. Like some stadiums, after the game they allow people to go on to the field after the game, which I gladly took advantage of. Unlike Regina, it wasn’t limited to season ticket holders who used their points. Anyone and everyone could go on to the field and run around. They even handed out little Ticats squishy footballs to people who wanted one. Great idea to get people out and involved in the game day experience. Getting to do our regular on field post-game show, but with Josh Smith from Podskee Wee Wee, was great. Side note: If you have kids, Tim Horton’s Field actually has a little playground area to take your kids if they need to burn off some steam during the game/halftime.
Toronto gets knocked a lot for not being a good CFL city, but this trip certainly showed me otherwise. The first thing that surprised me was the tailgate area was sold out. We were unable to get tickets at the gate, so had to turn around and park across the street and saunter in. With Toronto, we got there about two hours before kickoff, and the entire parking lot where the tailgate was setup was pumped up and lively. There was food grilling everywhere, with rows upon rows of fans dressed in double blue, with $4 beers in their hands. Right from the get go, you could feel an electricity that I honestly thought would be missing from Toronto. As I made my way into the stadium, I was pleasantly surprised with the number of people joining me on the way in. Over 13,000 made their way through the gates at BMO, but you wouldn’t have guessed it from the noise. BMO field is absolutely built to be loud. 13,000 seemed like 20,000 when things got amped up. The metal floor beneath the seats probably had something to do with the added noise, but it sure made for a fun experience. If they ever get 20,000 people into that place, that stadium will be crazy.
Without a doubt, the coolest part about Toronto’s gameday experience is that the home team walks from their locker room, down a path leading towards the field. On the walk, they pass through the stands, allowing fans to be a big part of the intro experience. Fist bumps for players all the way through as they ran past the fans was great. This was something I had hoped to see with the new stadium in Regina.
I liked Montreal’s setup the most, mostly because it was a very convenient end for me to meet some of the folks from #RNation who made the trip down. The setup for the tailgate that Cliffy and Manon go to (hosted by Les Gars Qui Vivent) is amazing. One of their people brings homemade beer every game, and through ample taste-testing I can confirm that they are great at brewing beer. Every year, the Rnation Invasion parks right next door to these guys, a little distance away from the main tailgate area for the rest of the Alouettes fans. The two groups definitely do their share of mingling amongst one another and make for a great pre-game atmosphere. Of the 3 games I got to this weekend, this was the closest I came to a “rivalry game” and you could feel it in the air heading in to the stadium. Much like Toronto, the team has to go through the stands to get to the field from their locker room, allowing fans to be part of that intro/pump up experience. Unfortunately, Durant’s start bled any kind of excitement out of the home crowd. For a while, the only sounds you heard were boos that rained down in DDs direction. Followed shortly by the Bronx cheer that Drew Willy got after completing Montreal’s first pass of the game (for a loss of two yards). This game was never particular close, but the crowd still seemed to have fun. I certainly want to head back to Montreal for a game when their team is good – I have a feeling it will be an even better experience. I may have to wait a while though (sorry Cliffy).
I highly suggest anyone who is considering making this trek, to do so. There is something very CFL about catching 3 or 4 games in a 3 or 4 day span, on a trip all by yourself, while never truly feeling alone. You will meet a great array of some of the best fans in sports. Plus, it’s always great to see how people do gameday outside of your home stadium, because they just might have some fun ways to improve yours.
I want to hear your stories. What is your favourite moment from a stadium outside of your team’s home digs?
Outside of the games, I got to spend an extra day in Montreal. Between Notre Dame Basilica (which was beautiful), Old Montreal (which was cool), and the view from the top of Mont Royal at night (stunning), the one thing that stands about above all others? Getting to see my first wild trash panda aka racoon! (I told you this would make it into my article Cliffy).