Jeff Kawamoto said Tuesday felt like 1972.
That was the last time the Hamilton Tiger-Cats played for the Canadian Football League’s (CFL) Grey Cup at home.
“I know it’s been battered and broken and fixed, and I think it’s beautiful,” the 60-year-old said.
Forty-nine years later, he stood among a crowd of at least 100 and marvelled as two Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CH-146 Griffon helicopters descended upon a snowy Bayfront Park and delivered the CFL’s prized possession ahead of the championship game Sunday.
Hamilton isn’t isn’t just hosting the big game — the Tiger-Cats will also play in front of the home crowd at Tim Hortons Field. They’ll face the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who beat them in 2019. It’s the last year the Grey Cup happened because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two RCAF members, wearing black helmets, carried the shiny silver trophy to a podium for all to see.
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie said getting the Cup to Hamilton, after being unable to hold a championship game last year amid the pandemic, was a testament to everyone’s resilience.
“It may be almost perfectly fitting to be in Hamilton for this Grey Cup, for all this city stands for,” he said.
“There’s a little rumour out there we may be back for 2023.”
He commended the work of Ticats caretaker Bob Young and the rest of the staff for building the team into a championship contender.
He also said kind words about late Ticats legend Angelo Mosca.
“Who you’re seeing today is 12-year-old Bob Young,” he said, literally jumping with joy while standing next to the cup.
“How much better does it get for a community, for a league, for our players than to play at home in the Grey Cup?”
Haudenosaunee leader Leroy Hill, Mayor Fred Eisenberger and former Ticat Andy Fantuz also addressed the crowd, expressing excitement about the Grey Cup game.
Lauren Johnson, 15, said she’ll be at the final with her younger sister Lexis and their mother Chantal.
“It’s amazing to see the whole community come together for something,” Lauren said.
She said she and her sister and mother are all watching for one thing on Sunday: “A Ticat victory.”