Labor Day expert Kevin Glenn explains why this weekend is ‘special’ for the CFL


When it comes to Labor Day weekend in the CFL, Kevin Glenn has seen it all.

The retired quarterback, who has the unique distinction of having been a member of all nine active teams, appeared in all three traditional Labor Day games during his 18-year career (2000-18). He played on both sides of the Saskatchewan Roughriders versus Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Regina, then led the Hamilton Tiger-Cats against the Toronto Argonauts and Calgary Stampeders at home to Edmonton.

Many have said that the CFL season doesn’t really kick off until this long weekend. While Glenn doesn’t go that far, he quickly discovered that the annual rivalry matches are more than just another week on the schedule.

“I think they’re all special in their own way just because of the nature of the event,” said Glenn, now director of community engagement and diversity and football coach at Catholic Central High School in his hometown of Detroit.

“Everyone gets the calendar at the start of the year and it doesn’t matter if you’re a football fan or not, everyone circles that date on the calendar if you’re from one of those cities. It has that kind of meaning and that kind of appeal and that’s what I think makes it so special.

Glenn, 43, discussed the uniqueness of each event for Sportsnet.

Saskatchewan-Winnipeg

Glenn began his CFL career in 2001 with the Roughriders and has vivid memories of his first game of Labor Day weekend, traditionally played on Sunday.

He says if a fan could only choose one Labor Day game to attend, the Prairie fight should be the one.

“The excitement behind it, words can’t explain it,” Glenn said. “You have to experience it. Anything goes. In Saskatchewan, (for) home games, we would stay in a hotel night before a game. I remember Labor Day, Winnipeg fans literally run into hallways, doors slamming, screaming and it’s 1 a.m. It was a frenzy At that point I think the team said we were going to stop staying in a hotel for the game of the labor Day.

Glenn ended up in Winnipeg in 2004 (he was traded first to Toronto and then to the Bombers) – and his first season with the rival Roughriders marked a new tradition.

The Banjo Bowl, a rematch between the teams the following weekend in Winnipeg, came to fruition in 2004 after former Blue Bombers kicker Troy Westwood made infamous comments mocking Roughriders fans. Glenn started the first five Banjo Bowls for the Bombers.

“It just added more fuel to the rivalry, which I think was great,” Glenn said. “It created another story. Maybe it wasn’t necessarily the most politically correct thing to say, but they turned it into something positive to create a bigger buzz around the rivalry and the two provinces and the history of the two organizations.

Both Winnipeg-Saskatchewan games this year are already sold out.

“The competitiveness and the adrenaline that goes through your body when you play in this (Saskatchewan) stadium in front of these fans is like no other,” said Glenn, who returned to the Roughriders in 2017. “I always say every player should have the opportunity to play in front of this type of audience like on Labor Day. It’s a remarkable feeling as a professional athlete to go and play in these type of games. I was inside Michigan Stadium when there are 111,000 fans. That’s what it’s like to play in Saskatchewan.

Hamilton-Toronto


Played most years since 1948, the QEW Showdown takes place in a classic Canadian setting – Tim Hortons Field is in the same residential area as the old Ivor Wynne Stadium. In the distance you can see the steelworks. On game days, the region is a sea of ​​black and gold. It’s great how the whole scene screams Hamilton.

“It’s right in the middle of a community of houses,” said Glenn, who signed with the Ticats in 2009. “If you’re claustrophobic, you’d be scared to come to that game because there were so many people walking around and down the street so much going on fans of different colors sometimes you couldn’t tell if you were in Hamilton or Toronto due to the number of fans coming up the QEW to going to the game. That one was probably the most intense. Very fiery on the pitch and with fans walking around in the street. They were saying things and you were saying ‘are we going to play football or is ‘are we going down the aisle to fight?’

This one can get unpleasant (although 99% of fans are perfectly fine). A Tiger-Cat fan was convicted of biting off part of an Argos fan’s ear after the 2002 game. Former Argos coach Jim Barker and linebacker Mike O’Shea, now l Winnipeg coach, recalled being hit by batteries thrown by fans during an interview with longtime Hamilton Spectator columnist Steve Milton. It’s not often long before you hear an “Argos suck” chant from the stands.

(Two personal childhood memories from Toronto. In 1991, I remember the Ticat mascot ripping shreds off an Argos doll to the delight of the crowd as the previously winless home team shocked eventual champions of the Gray Cup – then a glamorous franchise with Rocket Ismail and Pinball Clemons as stars and Wayne Gretzky, John Candy and Bruce McNall as owners And then in 1996, after taking the bus to the game in Hamilton from downtown Toronto and cheering on the Doug Flutie-led Argos with a friend as a 16-year-old, I remember a Ticat fan telling me I was lucky to be young. a little older, he said, the discussion during a rare Argos victory on Labor Day wouldn’t have been so pleasant — in slightly less family-friendly words).

“It’s not called Steeltown for nothing,” Glenn said. “It’s a ruthless community and it’s their football team. It reminds me a lot of where I come from – Detroit. Detroit fans are die-hard. It’s good when they win, but even when the season doesn’t go their way, they are always ready to fight for the team. Can’t say anything bad about their team. Hamilton fans are exactly the same.

The Ticats have won the last seven Labor Day games against Toronto.

Calgary-Edmonton


The Battle of Alberta is still expected in hockey and football.

Like Saskatchewan-Winnipeg, the Elks and Stamps traditionally meet the following weekend in Edmonton — and for many years that has been Friday night, prompting a quick turnaround (it falls on Saturday this year).

“I remember going through practices in Calgary, we were making plays the first week we were going to play in game two just because of the short time (between games) and we might not have the chance to practice at full speed (after Game 1),” said Glenn, who was traded to Calgary from the Tiger-Cats in 2012. “After that first game, these next two days are a glorified walkthrough.

Glenn said that was what set him apart the most from the matchup with Alberta.

“This (Labour Day game) was a bit more casual (than the others). But you have that kind of right afterwards for bragging rights. Whoever wins qualifies as the best in Alberta. It still had a rich tradition due to the (short) time for this sequence of games.


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