Hamilton Tigers (football)

Last updated
Hamilton Tigers
Suspended1916–1918, 1941–1944
Folded1950 (Merged with Hamilton Wildcats)
Based in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
League ORFU (1883–1906)
IRFU (1907–1947)
ORFU (1948–1949)
Team historyHamilton Football Club (1869–1872)
Hamilton Tigers (1873–1949)
Team colorsBlack, gold   
Grey Cup championships5 (1913, 1915, 1928, 1929, 1932)
Home field(s) Hamilton AAA Grounds
Civic Stadium

The Hamilton Tigers were a Canadian football team based in Hamilton, Ontario that played in the Ontario Rugby Football Union from 1883 to 1906 and 1948 to 1949 and in the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union from 1907 to 1947. The club was a founding member of both the ORFU in 1883 and the IRFU in 1907. Throughout their history, the Tigers won five Grey Cup Championships and two Dominion Championships, including the 1908 title, the year before the Grey Cup was first awarded. After struggling to compete on a sound financial level with the Hamilton Wildcats, who had joined the ORFU in 1941 and later the IRFU, the two clubs merged in 1950 to form the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. [1]




The Hamilton Football Club was founded on November 3, 1869 in a room above George Lee’s Fruit Store, where the club adopted the colours of black and yellow. [2] [3] The first game in franchise history took place on December 18, 1869 against the 13th Battalion (now Royal Hamilton Light Infantry) where the final score was not recorded. The club was first referred to as the Tigers in their first game against the Toronto Argonauts at the University of Toronto. In that game, which was won by Toronto by a Goal and a Try to Nil, it was the first time that Hamilton wore black and yellow, hence the nickname "Tigers." [2]

Ontario Rugby Football Union

The "Tigers" of Hamilton, Ontario circa 1906 The Tigers of Hamilton football team.jpg
The "Tigers" of Hamilton, Ontario circa 1906

On January 6, 1883, the Ontario Rugby Football Union was formed to provide a structured league of rugby-football play among teams based in Ontario. The Hamilton Tigers were one of the first 16 teams in this league, which consisted of both club and university teams. The Tigers initially played well, but could not advance to the championship game. It was not until 1888 that they met Ottawa College in the ORFU Final, but lost that game 10-1. After seven years in the league, the Tigers won their first ORFU championship in 1890 over Queen's University by a score of 8–6, bringing the city of Hamilton their first championship team. They would go on to win the ORFU Championship in 1897 over Osgoode Hall 16–8, but would see difficult times at the turn of the century.

In 1898, the Canadian Rugby Union instituted regular season play, whereas the teams would be solely playing a playoff-like structure prior. While it intensified play between the Toronto Argonauts, Ottawa Rough Riders, and Kingston Granites, it also exposed Hamilton as the weaker of the four. However, the Tigers returned to form in 1903 and would proceed to dominate all competition in the ORFU, winning four consecutive championships. There were, however, several disputes with the Canadian Rugby Union and the Quebec Rugby Football Union that prevented the Tigers from competing for a national championship from 1903-1905. It was not until 1906, where the Tigers finally agreed to play the QRFU rules, that Hamilton defeated McGill University anyway, by a score of 29–3, to become Dominion Champions.

Interprovincial Rugby Football Union

The Hamilton Tigers playing an unknown Ottawa team, 1910 Ottawa and Hamilton Tigers football game 5.jpg
The Hamilton Tigers playing an unknown Ottawa team, 1910

The Interprovincial Rugby Football Union was formed on September 13, 1907 in an amalgamation of the Tigers and Toronto Argonauts of the ORFU and the Ottawa Rough Riders and the Montreal Football Club of the QRFU. In 1908, the Tigers would win the last national championship to be awarded before the introduction of the Grey Cup trophy in 1909. The team would face local competition with the newly formed Ontario Rugby Football Union's Hamilton Alerts who, in 1912, won the city of Hamilton its first Grey Cup by beating the Toronto Argonauts 11–4. The Alerts having challenged the authority of the ORFU during that season, would not be reinstated into the union, so many of its players joined the Tigers in the off-season. [2] The Tigers would go on to win their first Grey Cup over the Toronto Parkdale Canoe Club in 1913 by a score of 44-2. They would win their second Grey Cup two years later in the last Grey Cup game to be played before World War I interrupted play for three years.

After the Great War, the Tigers struggled to return to the title game, while only qualifying for post-season play twice in the following seven years and losing to Queen's both times. It was not until 1927 that Hamilton once again reached the Grey Cup by defeating Queen's, but losing to the Toronto Balmy Beach Beachers. However, their fortunes would change as they played the Regina Roughriders in the first radio play-by-play broadcast Grey Cup game in a 30-3 victory for the Tabbies. The Tigers would again post victories over the Roughriders the next year in 1929 and again in 1932 in convincing fashion. However, the Tigers would earn the dubious distinction of becoming the first team to lose to a team based in Western Canada, to the Winnipeg 'Pegs in the 23rd Grey Cup. After their loss to Winnipeg, the fortunes of the Tigers waned as they did not have a winning record in the next five years. In 1941, the Hamilton Tigers suspended operations due to many of its players joining the army to fight in the Second World War. [4]


After the Tigers folded, a new team was formed in 1941 to begin play in the ORFU named the Hamilton Wildcats. [4] The Wildcats enjoyed success in Steeltown after having won the Grey Cup in 1943 and having outstanding regular season records. The Tigers resumed operations in 1945 along with the rest of the IRFU, but, due to poor play by the Tigers and superb play by the Wildcats, the Tigers found it difficult to compete in the Hamilton market. More importantly, the Tigers were experiencing monetary disputes with the IRFU over allocations of revenue. After signing Frank Filchock, who had been suspended by the NFL due to gambling issues, the Tigers felt that the other teams in the IRFU should share in the payment of his high salary because they were benefiting from higher attendances when he was playing in their cities. [4] After the IRFU refused, the Tigers made an arrangement with the ORFU and transferred to that league, with the Wildcats switching to the IRFU on April 9, 1948. [5]

The switch proved to be a costly one as Filchock left to join the Montreal Alouettes in 1949 and the Tigers were left out of the IRFU. Not only that, but both the Tigers and the Wildcats were struggling to compete for fan support and the financial repercussions started to mount. As a result, local prominent citizens including Ralph W. Cooper, Frank M. Gibson, C.C. Lawson, and Sam Manson decided that the two clubs should amalgamate and operate as one entity. As such, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats football club began play in 1950 in the IRFU as the singular representative of the city of Hamilton. [1] [6]


National Championships

Canadian Dominion Football Championships: 2 (1906, 1908)

Grey Cup championships: 5 (1913, 1915, 1928, 1929, 1932)

Ontario Rugby Football Union

Champions: 6 (1903, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1948, 1949)

Regular season titles: 6 (1903, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1948, 1949)

Interprovincial Rugby Football Union

Champions: 8 (1910, 1913, 1915, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1932, 1935)

Regular season titles: 14 (1909, 1910, 1913, 1914, 1915, 1923, 1924, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1932, 1934, 1935)


Canadian Football Hall of Famers

Canadian Sports Hall of Famers

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  1. 1 2 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-06-05. Retrieved 2008-09-14.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Tiger-Cats History
  2. 1 2 3 2009 Canadian Football League Facts, Figures & Records, Canadian Football League Properties/Publications, Toronto, Ontario, ISBN   978-0-9739425-4-5, p.282
  3. "Tiger-Cats History". Archived from the original on 2012-06-05. Retrieved 2008-09-14.
  4. 1 2 3 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-03-10. Retrieved 2013-10-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Hamilton Tiger-Cats
  5. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-04-10. Retrieved 2008-06-14.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CFL 1940s
  6. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-12-13. Retrieved 2014-12-01.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CFL 1950s