This article is about the Canadian Football League tradition. For the college football rivalry in the Houston area, see Labor Day Classic.
The Labour Day Classic is a particular week of the Canadian Football League (CFL) schedule that is played over the Labour Day weekend (which includes the first Monday in September). Labour Day weekend, roughly 12 weeks into the CFL season, is known for its matchups that do not change from year to year, unlike other "rivalry" weeks of the CFL schedule. Labour Day weekend is also one of typically two weeks (the Thanksgiving Day Classic being the other) in the CFL schedule that the league plays on a Monday. Mark's is the presenting sponsor of the event as of 2014.
The Labour Day Classic began in 1949 and pre-dates the founding of the CFL by nine years. The matchups have remained mostly the same throughout history, except during Montreal and Ottawa's periods of hiatus or due to scheduling conflicts.
During the early 1980s, the Montreal Concordes played the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the remaining three teams (Toronto, Ottawa and BC) rotated each year. Ottawa and BC faced each other during the late 1980s and early 1990s while the league had no team in Montreal.
Because Ottawa had no active team from 1997–2001 and 2006–2013, the Alouettes usually played the Lions during those seasons, creating a "coast-to-coast" rivalry.
Due to scheduling conflicts, the Tiger-Cats temporarily revived its rivalry with the current incarnation of the Alouettes in the Labour Day game for the 2011 season; the change in opponents led Hamilton to dub the game the Labour Day Classique in reference to Montreal's francophone community. While in 2011, this automatically resulted in Toronto and BC facing each other.
Although not directly associated with the Labour Day Classic, the week after Labour Day often has a repeat match-up of the Bombers vs Roughriders (see Banjo Bowl), Stampeders vs Eskimos (see Battle of Alberta), and Tiger-Cats vs Argonauts (a rivalry which began in 1873), with home field advantage now to the team that did not have it during the Labour Day weekend.
As the league has been increasing in popularity in recent years, print ads for the Labour Day Classic try to evoke the tradition of watching Canadian football on the last weekend of summer. Slogans include "Long Live the Rivalries" and "Watch the Team You Love Play the Team You Love to Hate". Some of the teams wear special third jerseys or throwback uniforms if they play at home.
The Toronto—Hamilton Classic is one of the components of the Harold Ballard Trophy, an award given to the winner of the season series between the Tiger-Cats and Argonauts. The trophy is named after Harold Ballard, who owned the Tiger-Cats for much of the 1980s and owned Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment for most of that time. A trophy has been awarded to the winner of the series since 1979.
Hamilton has played and hosted the Labour Day Classic against Montreal (aka Labour Day Classique) nine times in CFL history. According to a Hamilton Spectator article, 2011 marked 25 years since Montreal had battled Hamilton in this Classic at home. In previous years, Montreal has played as either the Alouettes or Concordes. The Classique has been a notoriously one-sided rivalry; Hamilton is undefeated in the Labour Day series, and Montreal is winless, with their best result being a tie in the first Classique in 1962.