Ticats mark 150 years of Hamilton football history this season

The Tiger-Cats will celebrate 150 years of Hamilton football this year — starting at their preseason game Thursday night.

Franchise started above a downtown fruit store, team says

A piece of 150 years of football history. Hamilton Tiger-Cats' Mike Filer, who wore #68 leads his team, and children wearing jerseys with Angelo Mosca's #68, onto the field at Tim Horton's Field before CFL football action on August 27, 2015. Tiger-Cat alumnus Angelo Mosca's #68 was retired that night. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The Tiger-Cats are celebrating 150 years of Hamilton football this year — starting at their preseason game Thursday night.

This city has "one of the oldest traditions of football of any city in the country," says the Ti-Cats website. The Hamilton Football Club began on November 3, 1869, it says, in a room above George Lee's Fruit Store downtown.

The team played its first game almost 150 years ago, on December 18, 1869. Their first match was against the 13th Battalion, now known as the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry.

In 1872, the club began playing at the Hamilton AAA Grounds, and three years later they became known as the Tigers.

For the 150 days leading up to the November 3rd anniversary, the Ti-Cats will post archival moments and stories online, and show anniversary videos at halftime. 

'20 years older' than oldest NFL team

There were two football teams in the city between most of 1900 to 1950, the website says — the Hamilton Tigers and a string of teams that ended in the Hamilton Wildcats. But when the teams merged in 1950, the Tiger-Cats were born.

Hamilton's team is "one of the oldest continuing professional sports franchises in any sport on any continent," the team said in a press release.

"It means the Tiger-Cats are the oldest gridiron football team anywhere – more than 20 years older than the oldest team in the National Football League in the United States."

The Ti-Cats have released an anniversary logo to celebrate the 150th anniversary. (Hamilton Tiger-Cats)

"The business has evolved from a true start-up above a grocery store to today's established national brand," said Bob Young, caretaker of the Tiger-Cats, in a press release.

"The game has evolved from an exclusively running and blocking game to today's wildly entertaining and highly sophisticated run and shoot offenses."

To recognize the milestone, the Ticats also have a 150th anniversary logo, which will be on merchandise and giveaways.

The team will give away commemorative coins during Thursday's game against the Toronto Argonauts.

The game starts at 7:30 p.m. at Tim Hortons Field.

Read the Tiger-Cats' full history on the team's website here.

Football has a long history in Hamilton, the team says, starting above a grocery store downtown. (Peter Power/The Canadian Press)