It’s a football duel 27 years in the making.
For the first time since 1986, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats will joust in a division final with just-down-the-highway foes the Toronto Argonauts.
Both teams are making special preparations for the contest, set for for 1 p.m on Sunday at Toronto’s Rogers Centre.
The Argonauts have announced they will be selling tickets for seats in the stadium’s upper bowl, which are normally blocked off for CFL contests.
“We’re expecting a big crowd,” said Argonauts spokesman Eric Holmes.
He said the Rogers Centre's lower bowl accommodates approximately 33,000 people, and that strong tickets sales could put Sunday’s attendance numbers at north of 40,000 fans.
Scott McNaughton, the Ticats’ director of communication, says he’s working to make sure there a strong contingent of Hamilton supporters at Sunday’s game, the last hurdle his team needs to overcome to win a berth into the Grey Cup.
“Hopefully, we'll get enough fans there to make it a neutral site, a 50-50 split” between Ticats supporters and Argos faithful, he said.
The Tabbies have teamed up with the Cats Claws fan club to organize buses to shuttle Hamilton fans to and from the game.
Club treasurer Irene Teufel says the group is sending six coach buses, with a total of 350 fans, to Toronto.
After the Ticats beat Montreal in Sunday’s East Division semifinal, “right away, our phone didn’t stop ringing,” she said. “We filled up five buses in one day.”
The Hamilton-Toronto playoff clash, Teufel said, is a great way to cap off a season in which Ticats fans had to trek to Guelph for home games while the team’s new stadium was under construction.
As part of the festivities, Ticats fans will have the opportunity to revel at one of three team-organized parties in Toronto in ahead of the big game.
Starting at 11 a.m., the team will be hosting events at three downtown Toronto restaurants. The bashes will include complimentary pre-game snacks as well as giveaways and draws for prizes.
At 12:30 p.m., fans will spill onto John Street and stroll to the stadium ahead of the 1 p.m. kickoff, said McNaughton.
“It’ll be a sea of black and gold as Tiger Town heads to the Rogers Centre together.”
For more information about the pre-game parties, go to the team's website.