Historic Labour Day sees first first-place battles, shows event's significance

55 Yard Line
Toronto Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray (centre, number 15) carries the ball forward against Hamilton Tiger-Cats during first half CFL pre-season action in Hamilton on Wednesday June 13 , 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Chris Young
Toronto Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray (centre, number 15) carries the ball forward against Hamilton Tiger-Cats during first half CFL pre-season action in Hamilton on Wednesday June 13 , 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Chris Young

Labour Day doubleheaders have long been a part of Canadian football, dating back past even the CFL's official formation in 1958. Before the unconventional scheduling circumstances that produced only one game in 2013, there had been two top-tier Canadian football games on the Monday of Labour Day every year dating back to 1949. This Labour Day will be particularly special, though, as these games (Toronto at Hamilton, 1 p.m. Eastern, and Edmonton at Calgary, 4:30 p.m. Eastern) will both see battles for first place for the first time in CFL history. That only further illustrates why Labour Day rivalry games can be a key selling point for the league, and something the CFL should look to maintain going forward.

In the East, the Ticats and Argos are battling for first place on Labour Day for just the second time in history, and it's the first time that they've ever been battling for undisputed possession of first place. Both teams are 6-3 heading into this one, and they've both been very strong this year, but they're each looking to bounce back from poor games. Hamilton suffered their first-ever loss at Tim Hortons Field to Montreal last week, falling 26-23, while Toronto lost 38-15 on the road against Edmonton. The Ticats will be favoured in this one; they're 3-1 at home this season, while the Argos are 3-3 on the road, and perhaps even more importantly, they have a +133 point differential, while Toronto's is -7. The Argos are also 13-30-1 overall on Labour Day in Hamilton. Still, both of these teams have been great this year, and they should be set to give us a good matchup. The recent series has been pretty even too; Hamilton won 13-12 last year, Toronto won in 2012 (there was no game in 2013), and the Argos are 5-4-1 against the Ticats in the last 10 Labour Day clashes. 

Out west, the Labour Day matchup has been more lopsided recently. The Stampeders have won their last 11 games against the Eskimos overall, including three Labour Day games, and they'll be looking to maintain that streak. They're also 7-2 on the year, while Edmonton's 6-3, so they'll still have a share of first place even if they lose here. However, these teams have been pretty similar this season; Calgary's scored 255 points while allowing 190 (+65), while Edmonton's only scored 238, but has only allowed 165 (+73). The Eskimos' defence has been dominant this season, so it will be interesting to see if they'll be good enough to help Edmonton reverse recent history. 

These games look like some of the best on the CFL's schedule this year, but the Labour Day games matter even when the teams involved aren't all vying for first. They're a useful halfway point, and they showcase some of the league's best and longest-running rivalries, which are crucial both for attendance and TV ratings. Labour Day doubleheaders with historic rivalries are an extremely worthwhile tradition for the league to maintain, even when the teams involved aren't great. When they are, though, as they will be this year, it makes these games even more special. 

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