It was a chilly Spring afternoon, and it seemed we were walking forever from our parked car off of Landsdowne Ave in Hamilton. My father and uncle’s giant steps interrupted the pitter-patter of my six-year-old feet. I was on cloud nine, while for them it was just another trip to the historic Ivor Wynne Stadium. That was in 1986.
As we walked through neighbourhoods, past houses marked with “Park Here – $5” signs, I was eagerly anticipating my first Tiger-Cats game as a season ticket holder. One man yelled something about Tigers eating something raw, while another shook a beer around from the safety of his front porch, taunting the passers-by. We were nearing the stadium as I began to hear the distant P.A. announcer informing the crowd of something I couldn’t quite make out.
As the stadium came into view, and the throngs of people waiting to gain admittance were revealed, I was hooked. It’s funny that, now, as a 33-year old man I don’t remember a single snap from my first game as season ticket holder. I do, however, remember the drunkard behind me spilling his beer on my head, and my mother’s reaction when my father brought me home. We’ve shared a few laughs over that over the years. It became part of our history of Ivor Wynne Stadium.
See, sports isn’t just about the 48, 60 or 90 minutes of regulation time. Sports is a lifestyle, a release, comradery at its finest. We grow with our teams and fellow fans, and they become our families. The stadiums in which they play become our vacation homes. We build memories to last a lifetime.
Humour me for a minute. Close your eyes. Even if you’re in your office, classroom or at home while the little ones are playing with their Lego, close your eyes. Picture your favourite sports team, the one you’ve seen most often. Really think of all the memories you’ve had over the years. We take a lot for granted, right? Perhaps I’m just having a sentimental moment, or maybe I’m onto something.
When I read the announcement from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in regards to celebrating the final season the football club will play at the 84-year old stadium (the Tiger-Cats didn’t play there until 1950), it was bitter-sweet to say the least. The prospect at losing my “vacation home” is a tough pill to swallow, however, I think the club is doing an admirable job at saying goodbye to this historic site.
First, the team has announced it will hold an “All-time Tiger-Cats Team”, which will be chosen by fans starting in June. As one of the oldest professional sports teams, dating back to 1869 and long before any NFL team, it will be a daunting task to say the least. The team will also have two large commemorative logos displayed on the field, as well as in their marketing plans. Former legends will also be on hand at each home game to pose for pictures, give autographs, and mingle with fans. While my boyhood idol, Steve Stapler, is unlikely to be there, I am sure I will find a few DiPietro’s, Zambiazi’s and Winfield’s to satisfy my mingle with the players I grew up watching. On the day of the team’s last home game, there will be a special ceremony to acknowledge the rich history of football in Hamilton, specifically at Ivor Wynne. Finally, the team is excited about its partnership with Tim Horton’s, which opened its first store in Hamilton on Ottawa St., and are going to be featuring Ti-Cats cups at all area locations.
The fact that you are reading this means that sports is very likely an important part of your life, as it is mine. For whatever reason you fell in love the game, you have a lifetime of memories that transcend a stadium. For me, though, the stadium just happens to be what I first fell in love with.
…and that is the last word.