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Hamilton’s sports teams preview

Sports fans in the Hamilton area will have plenty of opportunities to cheer on their local teams this summer, with the return of the city’s beloved Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the debut of both the Hamilton Honey Badgers and Forge FC. Come September, the Hamilton Bulldogs will be back as they look to rebuild their team to the championship levels they were at just a few years ago.

Let’s take a closer look at what fans can expect this season from the city’s most prominent sporting teams.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Sport: Football
League: Canadian Football League (CFL)

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are Hamilton’s most beloved team, with their origins dating back to 1869. They have encompassed the city’s blue-collar attitude throughout their history and continue to do so into the 21st century.

This year’s team promises to be one of the most exciting in recent memory, with legitimate championship aspirations. Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto – the other three teams in the East
Division – appear to be weaker than the Tiger-Cats on paper.

With a little luck, this year will see the end of the 20-year Grey Cup drought.

Leading the way is a slew of returning players who have shown themselves to be among the best in the league. On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker and motivational leader Simoni Lawrence is back to lead a strong core that includes former New Orleans Saints cornerback Delvin Breaux, defensive tackle Ted Laurent, and McMaster graduate Mike Daly.

The offensive side of the ball will be interesting to watch this season, with the departure of offensive coordinator June Jones and his ‘run and shoot’ strategy that leaned on wide receiver Brandon Banks’ speed to expose bad defensive matchups. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was a divisive figure amongst Tiger-Cats fans last season, with some loving his wide-open style and others holding him responsible for the team’s failures. Either way, he’ll be returning as the face of the team for this season with high hopes placed on his shoulders.

Hamilton Honey Badgers

Sport: Basketball
League: Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL)

We’ve seen Canadian basketball leagues come and go in recent years, but with a strong foundation and goals of growing the game across the country, the CEBL should be a home for some of Canada’s prospective talent for years to come.

Amongst the teams that are hoping to establish themselves during this first season is the Hamilton Honey Badgers. Playing out of the FirstOntario Centre, the Honey Badgers’ roster is filled with NCAA standouts that hardcore basketball fans may be familiar with. Derek Cooke Jr was a standout at the University of Wyoming before joining the Toronto Raptors’ farm team — Raptors 905.

McMaster’s Connor Gilmore brings some hometown flare to the team. After four years as a forward at McMaster, Gilmore was selected second overall in the first round of the 2019 U Sports draft. Gilmore averaged 16.6 points per game with McMaster, making him one of their most impressive offensive threats.

MiKyle McIntosh, a product of the University of Oregon and the Raptors 905 team, has shown the ability to play at both the NCAA and G League, and will bring that skill to an already stacked front court for the Honey Badgers.

Forge FC

Sport: Soccer
League: Canadian Premier League (CPL)

It seems as though you can’t go anywhere in Hamilton right now without seeing an orange billboard featuring one of the prominent members of Hamilton’s new professional soccer team, Forge FC.

The team brings with it a lot of excitement as they are considered a front runner to compete for the inaugural CPL championship. Hosting the first game in the league’s history, its clear that Forge FC will be a big part of this league moving forward.

Leading the way will be Toronto FC veteran midfielder Kyle Bekker, who brings a plethora of Major League Soccer experience with him to the CPL. Upfront, Forge FC has arguably the most dominant offensive presence in the league. Anthony Novak and Emery Welshman both have a big physical presence that works well in this league, while the speed of forward Kadell Thomas and midfielder Tristan Borges have also shown to give teams trouble in the early part of the season.

One of the league’s rivalries will be the 905 Derby, taking place between Forge FC and Toronto’s York 9 FC. The two teams met on the opening day of the season, resulting in a 1-1 draw. Expect to see a lot more of this rivalry in the coming years as the league continues to develop and grow.

Hamilton Bulldogs

Sport: Hockey
League: Ontario Hockey League (OHL)

The Hamilton Bulldogs impressed the junior hockey world by winning the OHL Championship in the 2017-2018 season. With many of their top players having moved on, they dropped to an eighth place finish this past season, going 29-34-3.

The rebuilding process will continue this upcoming season. Potentially losing leaders like MacKenzie Entwistle, Matthew Strome, and Brandon Saigeon will likely leave the team near the bottom of the standings again, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to be excited about.

First round OHL draft pick Ryan Winterton is a 6’0 right-winger who promises to be a strong part of the team’s next push towards an OHL Championship. Christian Williamson, a puck-moving defenseman out of Toronto, was the team’s second-round pick and he too will have to be a part of any success the team finds in the coming years.

Tiger-Cats photo courtesy of @RyanMPhotograph

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