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Naylor’s Kickoff: Ticats, Bombers aiming to end title droughts

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TSN Football Insider


There’s nothing like a championship drought in sports to ramp up the angst at playoff time.

Especially in the Canadian Football League, where, with just nine teams, there’s a reasonable expectation that fans should be able to enjoy a year-end celebration at least once every decade or so.

But for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats it has been two full decades.

That’s recent enough that you still see all kinds of Ticats jerseys around Tim Hortons Field with names like McManus, Flutie and Hitchcock across the back. But there’s been an awful lot of water under the Burlington Skyway since the Ticats defeated the Calgary Stampeders in Vancouver and head coach Ron Lancaster put his hands around the Grey Cup.

Since that great event, the franchise has gone bankrupt once, built a new stadium, gone through eight head coaches and suffered two Grey Cup losses.

The Tiger-Cats reached the championship game in both 2013 and ‘14, losing once in a blowout and once by a hair. But neither of those teams were juggernauts, one coming off a 10-8 regular season and the other a record of 9-9.

But this season has always had the feel of something special, of a team that’s peaking while its best players are still in their primes.

This the best Tiger-Cats team in a generation. With a regular season record of 15-3, it might be the best one ever.

The Winnipeg drought goes back to 1990 and names like Tyrone Jones, Bob Cameron and Chris Walby. To when the head coach was a young man named Mike Riley, just 37 years of age, who would go on to become a coach in the NCAA and the NFL.

But an awful lot of water has passed through the Red River since that hallowed event.

Since then, the Bombers have experienced the CFL’s U.S. expansion era, changed divisions several times, built a new stadium and witnessed the city’s National Hockey League franchise depart and then return.

The drought was almost 15 years old when CFL all-time great Milt Stegall played his first game in Winnipeg. But he spent his entire 14-year Hall-of-Fame career in Winnipeg without ever putting a ring on his finger. Not a single player on the current Blue Bombers roster was alive the last time the Blue and Gold were victorious.

Winnipeg has enjoyed four consecutive........