(The Canadian Press)HAMILTON — Four weeks before the Hamilton Tiger-Cats played their final regular-season game at Ivor Wynne Stadium, The Tragically Hip played a concert there dubbed Farewell to Ivor Wynne. Midway through the show, a no-doubt disgruntled Ticats fan was overheard saying "This is the best performance I've seen in this stadium all year."
Turns out, the hometown football team did have one last good performance in them. Hamilton's 28-18 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Saturday kept the Ticats' slim playoff hopes alive, and temporarily kept the 84-year old stadium in business.
The 6-11 Tiger-Cats have not lived up to expectations this season. Their revamped offence has been one of the league's best, but the defence has been among the CFL's worst all season. Still, Saturday's win kept their playoff hopes alive.
Update: The Argonauts beat the Roughriders later Saturday afternoon. The win meant the Argos clinched second in the East and will host a playoff game. So while Ivor Wynne is now closed for good, the Ticats still have an outside chance at the final playoff spot.
[Slideshow: Final game at Ivor Wynne Stadium]
Hamilton quarterback Henry Burris threw first-half touchdown passes to Chris Williams and Andy Fantuz, matching a career high with 39 touchdown passes on the season. Williams' touchdown was his 15th of the season, matching a franchise single-season record. The Hamilton defence knocked Bombers QB Buck Pierce out of the game in the first quarter. Joey Elliott filled in, and scored a third-quarter touchdown, and a late touchdown made the score more flattering, but the Bombers were inept on both sides of the ball for most of the day.
With the outcome never really in doubt, it allowed the team and 29,722 fans to celebrate the final game at Ivor Wynne Stadium. The stadium will be torn down on December 1, and a brand new stadium built at the same location.
Heavy rain and cold temperatures put a bit of a damper on an otherwise festive day. The Ticats revealed their All-Time Tiger-Cats team, a roster of all-time greats as voted by fans. Fans shared their favourite Ivor Wynne memories in messages played on the video scoreboard. Two fans did their best to honour the stadium by jumping a gate in the fourth quarter and running the length of the field. A third went for a short run later and was tackled hard by police, to the delight of fans.
Most of the crowd stayed in their seats for a special closing ceremony. Hamilton mayor Bob Bratina, former kicker Paul Osbaldiston, and 'caretaker' Bob Young all spoke with video tributes honouring the past and future in between.
"In 1959, Hamilton got a [refurbished] stadium and we all know what they did in the 60s," Young said, alluding to the three Grey Cup championships the Ticats won in the decade. "In 2014, we will have a new stadium again — let's see what we can do in the next decade."
As Ivor Wynne signed off and everyone looked ahead to 2014, one big question remained: Where will the Tiger-Cats play in 2013 will the stadium is under construction? There has been no word from the team and no announcement appears to be imminent. Playing at McMaster University is not an option after the team and university couldn't come to an agreement.
Many options, from Guelph to London, have been proposed, but time is running out.