HAMILTON--When they take down Ivor Wynne Stadium early next year, they'll be removing a bit of Bill Kyle's heart.
He and his wife, Connie, had four season seats here since 1950, sharing the ins and outs of the Tiger-Cats through Grey Cup wins, the ignominy of this century's first decade and the fun of beating up on the Toronto Argonauts.
So dedicated were they, there are plaques on their seats, a half-dozen rows up from the 50 yard line on the North side.
Connie is gone now, passed away this spring, but Bill, who seems the nicest of men, is determined to take a piece of the place with him, having asked the city to make sure he can have those four seats cut out so they can be placed in the back yard of his daughter and son-in-law's house.
That's a real fan.
The best story about this hard-rock old place, built in 1928, actually has nothing to do with football.
It was June 28, 1975, and Pink Floyd was just finishing up a North American tour when it pulled into the Steel City to rock out the neighbourhood. That's literally, by the way, because this little stadium is surrounded by a working class area in three directions.
Just at the end of the concert, as the band was finishing up its encore "Echoes", the pyro crew decided it would be a terrific idea to fire off the last of the fireworks as a tour-ending barn burner.
hey accidently blew up the scoreboard in the east end, breaking a number of windows in the houses on Balsam Avenue below. And scorching the Astro-turf.
You can't buy memories like that, but you can buy a new stadium and that's what will happen seven regular season (and, they hope, a playoff contest) from now when Ivor Wynne is torn down to be replaced by a new place in time for the 2015 Pan Am Games. Over 44 years of watching the CFL from young Argonaut fan to old fart, the emotion that most invades the soul is one of man's simplest - hate.
We hated this place. All Argo fans hated this place. That was one of the reasons why Hamilton fans loved it so, because those #$%$# down the QEW despised it.
Toronto fans called it I Never Win Stadium, and for good reason, because the Double Blue of the 1960s and 70s just couldn't succeed here. It was either huge poundings, or worse, close losses where something weird would happen.
It was humiliating. "Argos Suck" would rain down. You'd look at the schedule, see "at Hamilton" coming up and want to go hide for the weekend.
Never forget Dave Hodge and Mel Profit calling a game in the late '70s on CFRB where the Big Zee, star punter Zenon Andrusyshyn, was trying to kick the ball down the field and it was landing 10 yards behind him because the wind was screaming in.
Only the bravest of Argo fans came here for games - with a hard hat. Section 5 was known for the occasional bonk off the head by a mickey bottle that somehow "slipped" out of a Cats' fan's hands.
Because the sun set in the eyes of a QB looking west, the home team always seemed to find a way to be going the other way when the Argos were in town. It was like the coin toss was fixed.
Angelo Mosca played here for the Cats. Hated him.
Joe Zuger played here. Despised him.
Garney Henley played here. Super nice guy. Really great human being. Paragon of the community. Hated him (sorry).
But something changed over the last 15 years or so. First of all, the drunks were removed, and rightly so.
The Cats were so bad for so long that it sucked much of the life out of this place. Oh, they still hated the Argos, but not with the same physicality.
And Toronto found success here finally, especially winning the 1996 Grey Cup (best ever) in the driving snow with Doug Flutie at the helm.
Looking out of the press box now, you can still see Dofasco, off to the right, the massive Stelco in front of you.
But to the left, where Studebaker used to build cars, and International Harvester its combines, and Otis its elevators, there are mostly closed factories, waiting for someone to tear them down and start anew.
That's what this new stadium will be - a renewal, bringing renewal with it. Ivor Wynne will go north-south, instead of east-west, to take the wind and the setting sun out of the equation.
And the coin toss.
They had fireworks at halftime on Friday night. The scoreboard survived.
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