'Is this even the same team?' Ticats season ends in Grey Cup heartbreak for fans
'We're diehards, no matter what this city loves the Ticats,' said Dan Bonotti
Hamilton Tiger-Cats fans are wondering where their team was Sunday night.
Sure, there were players in those familiar black and gold jerseys playing for the Grey Cup against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. But the team that took the field at Calgary's McMahon Stadium didn't look anything like the one they'd cheered to a 15-3 season.
The problems started early and the Ticats never seemed to recover. They lost the CFL's championship game 33-12.
"I'm kind of angry right now. Offensively, defensively — they just did not bring their game." said Jason McKenzie outside Tim Hortons Field where he'd come to support the team.
"Is this even the same team? It was like they weren't ready, they weren't prepared. This is THE game. It doesn't get any bigger."
That sentiment was shared among many of the estimated 1,000 fans who braved the cold to come cheer for their team from the same stands where they'd watched them earn an undefeated season at home.
Dan Bonotti was in the front row, decked out in black and gold makeup and a wig and wielding "the Hammer" in one hand and a flag in the other.
He tried to rally some other fans early on, but in the end they found themselves without much to celebrate.
"It didn't look like them," he said of the Ticats. "You watch them all season … they looked like a different team today."
Both teams who played for the cup came into the game hoping to end one of the league's longest-standing championship droughts.
The Ticats last won the cup in 1999, while the Bombers hadn't taken home a title since 1990.
Winnipeg's win means Hamilton is now the team that currently holds the record for the most years without a Grey Cup. It's something Bonotti said will take some getting used to, but he knows fans will still have the team's back.
"We're diehards, no matter what this city loves the Ticats. We're behind them no matter what. It's just going to hurt for a while. It's going to sting."
Bonotti added that the Ticats faithful still have lots to look forward to, including hosting the Grey Cup in 2021.
He'd love to see the team he's followed for years hoist the league's top trophy at home.
"It's tough. But the future is still bright. As long as we keep a team like this it won't be long. We just have to stick by them as a fan base."
Sandy Jury came to watch the big game with a Grey Cup of her own.
She created a homemade version of the silver trophy and wore it as a hat, along with an outfit that featured tiger stripes and team logos from head to toe.
At one point during the game she even pulled on a black pair of pants with the word "BELIEVE" written down the side, but sadly just believing wasn't enough to get the win.
"The Ticats, unfortunately, I didn't think showed up," she said, adding Winnipeg deserved the win.
Jury has a theory about what might have tipped the scales in the other team's favour. When the camera panned over the crowd she noticed an awful lot of Bomber blue and not nearly enough black and gold.
"I wish I was there," she said, explaining she believes having more fans in their corner could have pushed the Ticats over the top.
Still, Jury said she's proud of the team and not planning to giving up on her championship dreams anytime soon.
"This is it. This year is over and we start next year," she added. "I believe all the way and I'll be here every year until the day I die."