5 most popular Hamilton sports stories of 2021

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Published December 23, 2021 at 11:09 am

2021 was one of the biggest years in Hamilton sports history.

The last 12 months have produced some of the biggest sports stories in Hamilton history.

Tim Hortons Field took centre stage nationally on multiple occasions, FirstOntario Centre finally got some love, Forge FC — still only a baby — continued to turn heads and gain international recognition, and Hamilton fell back in love with the Tiger-Cats after COVID-19 called the Canadian Football League’s entire storied existence into question.


These are intheHammer’s five biggest sports stories of 2021:


Forge FC of Hamilton earn spot in 2022 CONCACAF Champions League

Being the back-to-back Canadian Premier League (CPL) championships is more than enough to get the country’s attention, but Forge FC set its sights even higher with historic wins outside of Canada.

The third-year Hamilton pro soccer club became the first CPL side to earn a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League. At Tim Hortons Field, Forge won 3-0 against Santos de Guápiles to prevail 4-3 on aggregate in a CONCACAF League quarterfinal on Nov. 2.

Forge FC played a role in the 5 best Hamilton sports stories of 2021

The CONCACAF League feeds up to the region’s Champions League, which is the flagship club competition in North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Forge FC’s foray into the 2022 CONCACAF Champions League, however long it may last, may include playing a match in Mexico’s largest stadium.

Hamilton drew Cruz Azul, one of the most successful clubs in Liga MX, in a Round of 16 matchup in the 16-team club competition. Forge will host the first leg of tie at Tim Hortons Field between Feb. 15-17. The second legs are to be played from Feb. 22-24.


Master agreement ratified for Hamilton entertainment precinct plan

FirstOntario Centre has long been Hamilton’s white elephant. Build for an NHL team that never came and opened in 1985, the arena is too large for its own good and badly outdated.

In June, the master agreement to renovate Hamilton’s downtown venues was ratified. City councillors approved the agreement setting out the privately funded $500-million plan to revitalize the downtown’s entertainment precinct. The proposal, which the Hamilton Urban Precinct Entertainment Group (aka The Precinct Group) brought forward last summer, calls for modernizing the FirstOntario Centre, renovating FirstOntario Concert Hall and the Hamilton Convention Centre, and building three highrises, one of which could be home to the Art Gallery of Hamilton. The Precinct Group would cover the costs.

FirstOntario Centre is part of the 5 best Hamilton sports stories of 2021

The lower bowl will be renovated and the upper bowl balcony will have a new curtaining system, while the concourse between the bowls would be expanded.

The arena is home to the Ontario Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs and the Hamilton Honey Badgers of the Canadian Elite Basketball League. The Toronto Rock of the National Lacrosse League moved to Hamilton in 2021.


NHL announces Hamilton will host Heritage Classic between Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres at Tim Hortons Field

Hockey fans south of Toronto and west of Buffalo have been waiting more than three decades to read this: The National Hockey League is coming to Hamilton.

No, the city won’t be getting its long-awaited NHL team, but the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres will take the yet-to-be-installed ice at Tim Hortons Field. The home of the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Forge FC of the Canadian Premier League will host the 2022 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic on Mar. 13, 2022.

The 2022 NHL Heritage Classic announcement is part of the 5 best Hamilton sports stories of 2021

The Sabres will be the designated home team despite a predictably sizable pro-Leafs crowd taking over the stadium that’s expandable to 40,000 seats.

Puck drop is scheduled for 3 p.m. and the game will air live on Sportsnet in Canada and TNT in the United States.

The irony isn’t lost on many as the two teams that played roles in blocking Hamilton from getting an NHL team are participating in one of the most hyped sporting events in the city’s history.


Hamilton to host 2021 and 2023 CFL Grey Cups

The Canadian Football League made some major announcements on Oct. 14 and they all pertained to Hamilton. Not only did the CFL announce general ticket sale dates for this year’s title game, but it also revealed that Hamilton will host two of the next three Grey Cups.

The 108th Grey Cup game scheduled for Dec. 12, in Hamilton was allowed to operate at full capacity under Ontario’s COVID-19 re-opening framework, however, that number remained at 24,000. Tim Hortons Field is expandable to 40,000, but that was not be done this year.

The 2021 and 2023 Grey Cups are part of the top 5 Hamilton sports stories of 2021

The pandemic impacted this year’s Grey Cup festivities. The major concert series and other large-scale fan events did not take place leading up to the game.

However, Hamilton will get a second crack after the CFL’s Board of Governors voted this week to also award the city the 2023 Grey Cup.

We weren’t going to bring it up, but it should be noted that the host Hamilton Tiger-Cats lost the icy-cold 108th Grey Cup in overtime against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Dec. 12. It was the latest date the CFL’s title game had ever taken place on.


Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton will host Canada-USA men’s FIFA World Cup qualifier

Canadian soccer has never been this good and this popular. So the announcement that Hamilton would be hosting one of the most important matches in the men’s program’s history was as big a sports story the city’s ever seen.

Canada Soccer made it official on Nov. 25. Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton will host the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifiers match between Canada and the United States on Jan. 30, 2022.

Canadian soccer is part of the 5 best Hamilton sports stories of 2021

It comes in the middle of a three-match FIFA window for the Men’s National Team who will also face Honduras on Jan. 27 and travel to El Salvador for a Feb. 2 fixture.

Still questioning whether Canada is a soccer country? The match sold out during the pre-sale and re-sale tickets are listed for 1,000 per cent over face value.


 

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