The 2016 Canadian Football League season will begin and end at BMO Field.
The Toronto Argonauts will host their arch rivals, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, at their new home to kick off the campaign June 23. And the season will end at the refurbished stadium with the 104th Grey Cup game Nov. 27, the first time since '82 since the CFL championship will be played outdoors in Toronto.
Toronto moves to BMO Field this year after 27 seasons at Rogers Centre.
This will mark just the second time since the formation of the CFL in 1958 that the Argos and Ticats have been featured in the league's season-opening game in Toronto. Hamilton earned a 24-15 victory on July 12, 1989.
Veteran receiver Chad Owens will make his Hamilton debut in Toronto. Owens spent six seasons with the Argos, earning league MVP honours in 2012 and helping the club win the 100th Grey Cup game at Rogers Centre, before signing with the Ticats last week as a free agent.
"This is what sports is about, it's about rivalries, it's about the passion of the fans, loving your home team and hating your rival," said Argos president Michael Copeland. "It's never more pronounced than it is with Argos and Ticats.
"We think that rivalry is going to be fuelled even more this year and in years to come than in the past because the Argonauts as an organization are on a steep upswing and as are the Ticats with all the developments they've made with their stadium and organization."
Toronto last hosted the CFL championship in 2012 when the Argos beat Calgary 35-22 at Rogers Centre in the historic 100th Grey Cup game. But Copeland said that doesn't put extra pressure on the club this season.
"We want to win the Grey Cup every year, to be honest," he said. "If we can do that at home, all the better."
Copeland said the Argos are eager to provide their fans with a positive experience at BMO Field.
"The stadium is intimate, the sight lines are fantastic and every seat is great," he said. "The entire experience is going to be different … we're going to surprise some people, I think."
The opening weekend will also feature a Grey Cup rematch with the Ottawa Redblacks visiting the Edmonton Eskimos on June 25. Edmonton defeated Ottawa 26-20 in last year's final in Winnipeg.
Other opening contests feature the Montreal Alouettes visiting the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on June 24 and Wally Buono making his return to the B.C. sidelines June 25 when the Lions host the Calgary Stampeders. Buono, the club's general manager, assumed head-coaching duties following the off-season resignation of Jeff Tedford.
Buono has the most wins as coach in CFL history with 254 regular-season victories. A four-time winner of the league's coach-of-the-year honour, Buono served as B.C.'s head coach and GM for nine seasons, winning Grey Cups in 2004 and 2011 before giving up his coaching duties to concentrate on being the club's full-time GM.
Buono will mark his return to the sidelines facing Dave Dickenson, the former Lions starter who'll make his head-coaching debut with Calgary. Dickenson replaces John Hufnagel, the Stampeders' GM and president who retired from coaching after last season.
Dickenson will coach his first home game July 1 against Winnipeg.
Other key dates:
- Hamilton and Toronto will meet Labour Day at Tim Hortons Field but the kickoff will be at 6:30 p.m. ET rather than in the afternoon.
- Calgary will host Edmonton also on Labour Day while Winnipeg and Saskatchewan will square off the day before.
- The CFL will also hold doubleheaders on Canada Day and Thanksgiving and complete the regular season Nov. 5 with a triple-header.
- The Saskatchewan Roughriders will play their final season at Mosaic Stadium this year, their last regular-season game at the venue scheduled for Oct. 29 against B.C. Head coach/GM Chris Jones, who served as the Eskimos' head coach last year, makes his return to Edmonton on July 8.
- New Eskimos coach Jason Maas, who served as the Redblacks' offensive co-ordinator last year, returns to Ottawa on Aug. 6.