Published August 28, 2019


HAMILTON, Ontario — Canada is a popular tourist destination for many Americans during the summertime. While sports fans in the U.S. have to wait until September for football, visiting fans can go see the Canadian Football League in action.

The CFL features nine teams and, due to its harsh winters, starts their season in mid-June. The season runs until late November when the Grey Cup championship game is played. Just about all of the games, until September comes, are night games.

In July, I took a trip to Niagara Falls and, before I left for my vacation, noticed that the Hamilton Tiger Cats had a game the first night I was there.

Hamilton is only 45 miles away from Niagara Falls and it is all highway miles on the Queen Elizabeth Way once you cross the border.

THE HAMILTON Tiger Cats kick off to the Calgary Stampeders during a regular season game at Tim Horton’s Field in July. (Stephen Martellucci Photo)

I left two hours before kickoff just to give myself some extra time. The border guard asked me why I was going to Canada and when I told her it was for a CFL game actually quizzed me on who the Tiger Cats were playing.

I was told beforehand that Hamilton is the Pittsburgh of Canada and when I got off the highway at Industrial Avenue, I saw why as I drove by the oil refineries, smoke stacks and steel mills on my way to the stadium.

The stadium, Tim Horton’s Field, is in the residential area of Hamilton. It is five years old and it was built on the site of the old stadium as the Tiger Cats had to play at a college stadium for a year while it was being worked on.

I paid $20 for parking at a hardware store nearby and walked down Prospect Street where people were tailgating at their homes and making a few extra bucks by allowing fans to park in their yards.

I got my ticket (I paid $40 for a $65 seat from a scalper) and sat at the 20-yard line in the upper level 12 rows up. Tickets for CFL games are a lot cheaper than the NFL and much more affordable for vacationing families looking for a night out. With a strong America dollar (one dollar American is $1.33 Canadian) is makes it even cheaper.

Due to the fact that there is homes on one side and a road on the other side of Tim Horton’s Field, there is really little end zone seating while the sidelines feature a double deck on both sides of the field.

The Tigers Cats hosted the defending Grey Cup champions, the Calgary Stampeders.

In a game that featured three special-teams touchdowns, the Tigers Cats won, 30-23, to go to 4-1 at that time while Calgary fell to 2-2 (entering this week Hamilton is in first place in the Eastern division at 8-2 while Calgary is in fourth place in the Western division at 5-4).

There was a near sellout crowd of 22,921, as capacity is 23,218.

There are some differences between Canadian and American Football.

Some CFL games have been shown on ESPN2 for years so I knew the major rules difference from the American game. Here are some the big differences: The CFL field is 110-yards long and the end zones are 20-yards long. It is also 12-yards wider.

Instead of 11 on 11, it is 12 on 12. The offense has only three plays to pick up a first down but the defense must line up one-yard behind the line-of-scrimmage each play.

The goalpost are on the goal line and the play clock is only 20 seconds.

Offensive players can be in motion before the snap meaning the receivers can get a running start as long as they don’t cross the line of scrimmage before the ball in snapped.

There is no fair catches on punts and the kicking team must give the returner a five-yard buffer to catch or pick up the punt.

Teams can score a single point when a punt returner cannot make it out of his own end zone. A missed field goal that goes out of the end zone or a missed field goal that the returner cannot get out of the end zone is the two other ways a single can be scored.

Also 21 of the total 44 players must be from Canada.