Is 2022 the year the Hamilton Tiger-Cats end their Grey Cup drought?

Depending on how last-minute negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement transpire between the Canadian Football League and the CFL Players’ Association, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are set to open training camp Sunday.

The Ticats are once again holding camp at McMaster University this year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the team to utilize Tim Horton’s Field for their pre-season activities in 2021.

Hamilton finished last season’s abbreviated 14-game campaign with a record of eight wins and six losses, finishing in second place in the Eastern Division.

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The Ticats dispatched the Montreal Alouettes in the Eastern Semifinal before beating their arch-rival, the Argonauts, at BMO Field to cement a return trip to the Grey Cup in Hamilton.

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The 2021 CFL final ended with a gut-wrenching overtime loss for Hamilton at Tim Hortons Field at the hands of the defending champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

All of that is now in the rear view mirror, a popular phrase that was uttered by Ticats players and coaches last season when they were repeatedly asked to reflect on the team’s loss against the Bombers in the 2019 Grey Cup.

The Cats, as all of their fans begrudgingly know, have the longest Grey Cup drought in the CFL, dating back to 1999.

Every team, with the exception of the Ottawa Redblacks, who joined the league in 2016, have won the Grey Cup at least twice in the new millennium.

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Read more: Hamilton Tiger-Cats preparing for a more ‘normal’ CFL season

Three things to watch for at Ticats training camp:

1. Quarterback Dane Evans is the undisputed starter after free agent QB Jeremiah Masoli took his talents to Ottawa. Evans missed four games last season due to injury and left the Grey Cup final with a neck injury. He completed all 16 of his pass attempts for 249 yards and a touchdown in the East Final.

2. Hamilton may have lost defensive lineman Ja’Gared Davis to the Argos, but many of the same personnel are returning for third run straight to the Grey Cup game. That list includes linebacker Simoni Lawrence, Hamilton’s all-time leading tackler, as well as defensive lineman Dylan Wynn, interceptions leader Cariel Brooks and safety Tunde Adeleke.

3. The Ticats lost some talented players in free agency. 2019’s Most Outstanding Player, Brandon Banks, joined Davis in Toronto this off-season, while receiver Jaelon Acklin followed Masoli to the Redblacks. That means there will be some starting jobs up for grabs.

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Hamilton will open the exhibition season on May 28 with a home game against Montreal before they travel to Guelph on June 3 to face the Argos.

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The Tiger-Cats’ regular season opener is scheduled for June 11 in Saskatchewan.

If a new CBA is not agreed upon, Ticats players will be in a legal strike position at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, May 15.

The league has had only one strike in its history, in 1974, but the two sides came together on an agreement before the season began.

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