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Hogan: Argonauts vs. Tiger-Cats rivalry renewed

Mike Hogan
10/3/2013 7:09:12 PM
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They have met on 216 occasions in the regular season, plus many more times in the playoffs.

The Rogers Centre and the site of the new Tim Hortons Field in which the two gridiron competitors call home are a mere 70 kilometres apart.

It's one of the best rivalries in Canadian sport. It's the Toronto Argonauts and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The long-time foes meet again Friday at the Rogers Centre (TSN and TSN Mobile TV at 7pm et/4pm pt) in a game that is a must-win for the visitors if they want to keep their hopes alive for home-field advantage against the Argos, should they meet in the playoffs.

Argo head coach Scott Milanovich is a relative newcomer to the hostility between the two clubs. He joined the double-blue last year and guided them to a Grey Cup championship; a fact that drives die-hard Ticat fans insane. Milanovich has an extensive playing career in the NCAA, NFL , XFL and CFL before beginning his coaching career in NFL Europe, then moving back to this country. Despite all of these stops, he realizes this series is something special.

"This would be the biggest rivalry I've been a part of" the coach told TSN.ca. "I've only been here for a year and a half, but this rivalry goes back. I think we've developed a little bit of a rivalry with Montreal, but this one is fun."

Milanovich was only able to experience one Labour Day Classic at Ivor Wynne Stadium, a game in which the Argos scored 22 fourth-quarter points and won 33-30 on a last-minute field goal by Swayze Waters. The thoughts of that game obviously brought a smile to the coach's face.

"The Labour Day game was an interesting atmosphere," said Milanovich. "One that I haven't really experienced in the CFL before."

Milanovich was a star quarterback at the University of Maryland before turning pro. His memories of his biggest rival there aren't as pleasant as those of the Battle of Ontario.

"I'd probably have to say (Maryland's biggest rival was) West Virginia" said Milanovich before starting to laugh when he added, "we weren't very good, so good rivals were hard to come by."

Chad Owens has been a part of the Argo-Ticat tradition for the last four seasons. He loves these games and is pumped about potentially getting back into the lineup for Friday's game after missing the last month due to injury.

"It's big, we're neighbours" chuckled last year's CFL Most Outstanding Player. "It's a big game for both sides. It's a game that could potentially (with help from Edmonton) clinch first place in the East, so there's a lot riding on it."

Owens' favourite memory from the games he's been a part of was a post-season game.

"My first year here was pretty special, when we went into Hamilton and won in the semis, to go on to the Eastern Final. That was a big win for us; the crowd was amazing and it was a great game."

The Argos were major underdogs going into 'The Hammer', but would pull of a 16-13 upset win to move on to the Eastern Final in Montreal.

Centre Jeff Keeping is in his eighth season with the Boatmen and recalled several memorable moments in the battles with Hamilton. He eventually settled on his favourite, somewhat fitting considering the amount of animosity that has been produced over the years.

"I remember one game in '05 and our kick returner Bashir Levingston ended up getting into it with somebody in the stands," said the native of Uxbridge, Ontario. "They were throwing stuff down at him and then he had a moment of poor decision making and ended up throwing his helmet at them and things got heated from there."

Things got heated after the helmet was thrown into the stands. That describes the intensity of the rivalry in one sentence. That said; Keeping loves the tradition of the Labour Day Classic.

"I've got to give them their due credit. That's a hostile environment and the rivalry there - it's been heated on the field, off the field, fans in the stands clashing - that's got to be the one for me."

This week's game isn't at Ivor Wynne Stadium. Sadly, there won't be any more games at the old Balsam St. facility. But when the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats run onto the field to play each other for regular season game number 217, the odds are pretty good that something interesting is going to happen.

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