The Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Tim Hortons might be a match made in hoser heaven. Both came from humble origins in the same city, and both have risen to national and even international prominence. Thus, the 10-year partnership announced Friday that will see the team's new stadium named Tim Hortons Field seems like a natural fit, and something that makes the CFL even more Canadian. That was reflected throughout Friday's announcement, which would have been difficult to make any more spectacularly Canadian (well, barring an appearance from Bob and Doug). Famed broadcaster Brian Williams (not the American one) and renowned journalist Stephen Brunt, who both have strong Hamilton connctions, contributed to the ceremony, with Williams serving as the emcee and Brunt writing and narrating a video about the shared history of Tim Hortons and the Tiger-Cats. The ceremony also featured comments from Tiger-Cats' owner (he prefers caretaker) Bob Young and president Scott Mitchell, and it presented a strong case for why this partnership should work. (See this post for video and renderings of the new stadium.)
What's particularly notable is the timing of this move for both the team and the company. The opening of the new field in 2014 should be one of the most significant moments in the long history of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (the team was officially founded in 1950 thanks to the merger of the Hamilton Tigers and the Hamilton Wildcats, but those predecessor organizations' histories stretch back to 1941 in the case of the Wildcats and 1869 in the case of the Tigers). The team has played at the old Ivor Wynne Stadium (built in 1928) for most of its existence, and in recent years, the old stadium's issues made life tough for the franchise on and off the field. The move to a new, modern facility on those same historic grounds should be one of the pivotal moments in this team's history. It also represents a landmark for the company, as 2014 represents the 50th anniversary of the opening of the first Tim Hortons, which was on Hamilton's Ottawa Street and was founded by hockey player Tim Horton and Jim Charade.
Thanks to expansion under Horton, later partner Ron Joyce (another Hamilton guy, who was working as a local police officer when he met Horton) and more recent owners, the company now has over 3,000 stores across Canada, more than any other fast-food chain. The chain has become such a national symbol that Tim Hortons coffee was recently used to welcome Canadian broadcasters Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole to their new jobs in the U.S., and Canada's obsession with the chain has been parodied in such TV shows as How I Met Your Mother (notably in an episode about a Grey Cup in Hamilton). Both Tim Hortons and the Tiger-Cats have come a long way in 50 years, but both retain their Hamilton roots. As Brunt commented in his video, both organizations carry strong ties to the city.
"The Tim Hortons brand, like Heinz to Pittsburgh or Ford to Detroit or Coors to Denver, is indelibly linked to Hamilton," Brunt said. "Now, in the same year as that 50th anniversary approaches, Hamilton gets a new stadium and it won't be just a new stadium. It will host Grey Cups, concerts, international soccer matches. It will be the largest community centre in the city."
Brunt said both organizations are "part of what makes Hamilton Hamilton," and he concluded the video with a line about what that history means.
"It's important to remember where we come from," he said. "It marks us, defines us, and yes, it's where the heart is. This is our home, Tim Hortons and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. This is where we belong."
The partnership goes beyond just naming rights, though, as it will also see Tim Hortons and Cold Stone Creamery products available throughout the new stadium and the two organizations work closely together on a variety of fronts, including donating $1 million to the Tim Hortons Foundation (which helps underprivileged kids attend camp) and the Ticats' Play-Action program (which helps kids play minor football). Young said the partnership's a natural fit given both organizations' Hamilton roots but larger ambitions.
"The theme of the Ticats brand is that Hamilton is so much larger than the geographic area of Hamilton," he said. "When you leave, you take Hamilton with you. ... One of Hamilton's biggest successes...is Tim Hortons donuts, which started on Ottawa street and is now across Canada and is in the process of going across the world. ... Two great brands with a similar theme. We're two Hamilton brands and we're out to conquer the world."