Toronto sports

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The Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays and Toronto Argonauts.

The City of Toronto has a long and distinguished history of sport. It is home to a number of storied clubs, including: the Granite Club (est. 1836), the Royal Canadian Yacht Club (est. 1852), the Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club (est. pre-1827), the Argonaut Rowing Club (est. 1872), Toronto Argonauts football club (est. 1873), the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club (est. 1881), and the Badminton and Racquet Club (est. 1924). Toronto has also seen the development of a number of historic venues such as: Christie Pits (est. 1899), Ricoh Coliseum (est. 1921), Varsity Arena (est. 1926), Maple Leafs Garden (est. 1931). Its diversity of teams, passionate fan-bases, and checkered winning-history of the city's top franchises, have defined Toronto as one of the most unique sporting communities in North America.

Clubs[edit]

Professional sports teams[edit]

Club League Venue Established Championships
Toronto Argonauts Canadian Football League Rogers Centre 1873 15
Toronto Maple Leafs National Hockey League Air Canada Centre 1917 13
Toronto Blue Jays Major League Baseball Rogers Centre 1977 2
Toronto Raptors National Basketball Association Air Canada Centre 1995 0
Toronto Rock National Lacrosse League Air Canada Centre 1998 5
Toronto Marlies American Hockey League Ricoh Coliseum 2005 0
Toronto FC Major League Soccer BMO Field 2007 0

Toronto has teams in nearly every major professional sport, including the Toronto Blue Jays (MLB), Toronto Argonauts (CFL), Toronto Raptors (NBA), Toronto Rock (NLL), Toronto FC (MLS), and the Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL). Throughout the sports world, Toronto is perhaps best known for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Although Toronto has not won a Stanley Cup since 1967, the city is undoubtedly renowned as a hockey town, and is sometimes referred to as the "Centre of the Hockey Universe", both disparagingly and as a compliment.

Air Canada Centre (home of the Leafs, Raptors, and Rock) and Rogers Centre (home of the Argonauts and Blue Jays) are located in the downtown core and are within walking distance from one another via Bremner Boulevard. Also, the Rogers Centre is noted for being the first stadium to have a fully retractable motorized roof. BMO Field (home of Toronto FC) and Ricoh Coliseum (home of the Toronto Marlies) are located at Exhibition Place, situated just outside the downtown core, while also being within walking distance from one another.

Semi-professional sports teams[edit]

Club League Venue Established Championships
Toronto Maple Leafs Intercounty Baseball League Christie Pits 1969 8
TFC Academy Canadian Soccer League Lamport Stadium 2008 0
Toronto Croatia Canadian Soccer League Centennial Park Stadium 1956 8
Serbian White Eagles Canadian Soccer League Centennial Park Stadium 1968 1
Toronto Rush American Ultimate Disc League Varsity Stadium 2013 1

Hockey[edit]

The city is famously known for the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League, a team with passionate and fanatical support in the city, and equally fervent detractors throughout Canada. The team's roots stretch back to the Toronto Blueshirts of the National Hockey Association, the predecessor to the NHL, which began play in the 1912 season. It is the most financially successful sport franchise in the country, and is usually featured on Hockey Night in Canada's first game of Saturday night broadcasts. The team built Maple Leaf Gardens, an iconic sporting venue which not only served as the home arena for the Maple Leafs, but was also employed for cultural and other events. Since 1999, they have played out of the Air Canada Centre.

The Toronto Toros of the defunct World Hockey Association first entered Toronto's sports scene in 1973. In an attempt to capture a portion of Toronto's hockey market, they could only attract a fraction of the attendance numbers the competing Leafs drew. In their inaugural season, they played out of Varsity Arena, but played the next two seasons out of Maple Leaf Gardens. It was then where they drew the ire of Leafs' owner Harold Ballard who had recently regained control of the building. He would charge the team excessive rent fees per game, force them to construct their own dressing rooms, and have the cushions from the hockey benches removed for their games. The team played their final game in Toronto in 1976 before relocating to Birmingham, Alabama as the Birmingham Bulls.

In 2003, the Toronto Roadrunners of the American Hockey League played their inaugural season out of Ricoh Coliseum in Exhibition Place. They served as a farm club for the NHL's Edmonton Oilers. After a season of bad attendance, the team relocated to Edmonton, Alberta and folded a season later. The AHL experiment in Toronto seemed to be over.

However, with the Ricoh Coliseum vacated, the Maple Leafs found a new tenant for the facility by relocating their AHL farm team, the St. John's Maple Leafs, from St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador to Toronto as the Toronto Marlies in 2005. It is the Leafs' hope that an AHL team affiliated with the Leafs would beget attendance figures that would not be as severe as it was with the Roadrunners.

Toronto has also hosted various international hockey tournaments, hosting parts of the 1972 and 1974 Summit Series, parts of the 1976 and 1991 Canada Cups, and parts of the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.

Baseball[edit]

Inside the Rogers Centre. A game between the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays.

Professional baseball has had a presence in the city at the minor league level since 1896 with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the AAA International League. It was in a game against the Leafs on September 4, 1914 at Hanlan's Point Stadium where Babe Ruth hit his first ever professional home run[1] while also pitching a complete game one-hitter for the visiting Providence Grays. Hall of famer Sparky Anderson was also a member of the Leafs as both a player and a manager.[1]

Toronto interests long pursued a major league team for the city. Toronto was proposed as the home for a National League (NL) team by Albert Spalding when he was established the league in 1876.[1] Member of Parliament Bernard Rickart Hepburn was granted a Toronto franchise by the Federal League,[2][3] a rival major league to the NL and American League (AL) of Major League Baseball (MLB), for its inaugural season in 1914,[4][3][5] after the franchise was revoked from Cleveland.[6][7] But after speculation the franchise would be returned to Cleveland[8][7] or moved to Cincinnati,[9][10][11] it was transferred to Brooklyn to become the Brooklyn Tip-Tops prior to playing a game in Toronto.[12][13] Hepburn cited his inability to find a park to play at in short notice as the reason the team didn't launch.[3] However, he secured an agreement with the league which granted him the rights to a team for the following season.[3] Though Toronto would be proposed as the new home to the Kansas City Packers Federal League franchise for the 1915 season,[14] no team ever came to fruition in the city.

In 1922 a Toronto group attempted to purchase the Boston Red Sox to relocate them to Toronto.[15] The owner of the Boston Braves, Lou Perini, tried to sell his team to Toronto interests in the early 1950s before relocating them to become the Milwaukee Braves.[16] While owning the Maple Leafs baseball team, Jack Kent Cooke set his sights on bringing MLB to Toronto. He made a bid on the St. Louis Browns in 1953,[17] but the team was sold to a competing group which relocated them to become the Baltimore Orioles the following season.[18] The AL considered Toronto as a potential home for the Philadelphia Athletics before they became the Kansas City Athletics in 1955,[19][20] after Cooke bid on them,[21] but the city's lack of a major league venue was an obstacle to acquiring a team.[19][18] Cooke unsuccessfully bid on the Detroit Tigers in 1956,[21][22][23] reportedly to move them to Toronto.[16] In 1957 he submitted a bid for a NL expansion team for Toronto.[21][24][25][26] In 1958, Cooke offered to withdraw from Toronto if the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were considering relocating, moved to the city, in exchange for partial ownership of the club.[27][28][29][30] That same year it was reported that Toronto was one of the cities that the owner of the Washington Senators was considering relocating his team to.[31] In 1959 Cooke became one of the founding owners in the Continental League, a proposed third major league of baseball, getting a team for Toronto for a fee of $50,000,[32] but the league disbanded a year later without ever staging a game. Cooke later applied to the AL for a Toronto expansion team in 1960, but found the expansion terms too onerous,[33][34][35][36] and considered purchasing the Cincinnati Reds for Toronto in 1961 after their owner died.[37]

In 1967, with mounting losses, the owner of the baseball Maple Leafs sough a buyer to keep the team in Toronto.[38][39] Maple Leaf Gardens Limited, owner of the Maple Leafs of the NHL, considered purchasing the team,[38][40][39][41] but the deal ultimately fell apart due to concerns about the team's home, Maple Leaf Stadium, which needed up to $250,000 in repairs and whose owner wanted $4 million to purchase it.[40][39] Harold Ballard, part owner of MLGL, said that the company's interest was due in part to help position themselves to go after a MLB franchise for Toronto.[40][39] The team was subsequently relocated out of Toronto to Louisville, Kentucky. In the 1970s, Ballard bankrolled a group, headed by Hiram Walker Distillers vice-president Lorne Duguid, intent on bringing MLB to Toronto.[42] According to Duguid, Ballard had been willing to pay as much as $15 million for the San Francisco Giants, even though the franchise was only worth around $8 million.[43]

In 1971, Howard Webster, chairman of the Globe and Mail, made an offer to purchase the San Diego Padres and relocate them to Toronto but was refused.[16][44] In January 1976, San Francisco Giants owner Horace Stoneham agreed to sell the team for $13.25 million to a group headed by Labatt Brewing Company intending to relocate it to Toronto. The team would have began play in the 1976 season at Exhibition Stadium, and be called the Toronto Giants.[45] However the plan to move the Giants was quashed by a U.S. court.[46]

Later that year the Labatt group applied for a NL expansion team, but the expansion vote of 10-2 failed to pass due to lack of unanimity and was put off for two weeks.[47][48] Labatt then submitted an application for an AL franchise, and a second Toronto group backed by Carling O'Keefe also applied for an AL team.[49][47][50] The AL approved expanding to Toronto in March 1976 and awarded the team to the Labatt group, which included Webster, and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), for $7 million.[51][52][50][53] However, the NL objected and asked baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn to intervene so they could reconsider expanding to Toronto.[48] Kuhn requested a moratorium on the AL's expansion plans,[54][55] but a second non-unanimous vote by the NL on expanding to Toronto[56][57] left Toronto uncontested to the AL. The Toronto Blue Jays inaugural campaign was in 1977 with Exhibition Stadium chosen as the site for the team's home games. Built in the 1950s, it was rebuilt in 1976 to satisfy the requirements for baseball. In 1989, the team moved to the newly built SkyDome (now known as the Rogers Centre). Although the team performed poorly, placing last in the American League East for each of its first three years, successful drafting and team management resulted in improved performance that led to the team's first pennant in 1985, and culminated with consecutive World Series victories in 1992 and 1993.

The city is also home to the Toronto Maple Leafs baseball club of the Intercounty Baseball League.

Toronto has also hosted parts of the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

Basketball[edit]

Although not as historically entrenched in Toronto culture as other sports, basketball does have significant milestones in the city. The first professional game of the Basketball Association of America, forerunner of the National Basketball Association (NBA), was contested at Maple Leaf Gardens (MLG) between the Toronto Huskies and the New York Knickerbockers on November 1, 1946.[58] However, the Huskies folded after the league's inaugural season. Numerous exhibition and regular season NBA and American Basketball Association games were held at both MLG and SkyDome over the years,[59][60][61][62][63][64] including a total of 16 regular season Buffalo Braves games at MLG from 1971-75[65] in an attempt to gauge the city's interest in a full time team.[66] Maple Leaf Gardens Limited (MLGL) attempted to purchase the Braves for $8.5 million and relocate them to Toronto in 1974,[67][68] and again in 1976[69] and 1978,[70][71] with Carling O'Keefe considering purchasing them in 1976 as well,[72] but the owners eventually chose to move the team to San Diego.[73][74] Toronto was awarded an expansion NBA franchise for $6.5 million in 1974 for the following season,[75][76] with MLGL one of three groups bidding for the team,[77][78] but the club never materialized due to an inability to secure funding for the expansion fee.[67] MLGL attempted to purchase and relocate the Houston Rockets in 1975, and the Atlanta Hawks in 1976.[69][76] In 1979 a Toronto group which included Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard again pushed for an expansion franchise, but lost out to the Dallas Mavericks.[79][80]

Toronto interests considered purchasing and relocating the Kansas City Kings in 1979.[81] In 1983, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Ted Stepien stated that "the chances are 999-to-1" that his team would be relocated and renamed the Toronto Towers, playing their games in MLG,[82] with Carling O'Keefe thought to be involved financially in the deal,[83] but he ultimately sold it to a local group.[84] A Toronto group which included Bill Ballard, son of Harold, and Basketball Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain submitted an application and $100,000 deposit for a NBA expansion franchise for MLG in 1986, but of the six cities to apply[85][86] Toronto was not one of the four which were successful.[87] Larry Tanenbaum attempted to purchase and relocate the Denver Nuggets to Toronto in 1992, but ultimately decided to pursue an expansion franchise.[88]

It wasn't until the NBA awarded an expansion franchise to John Bitove, over Tanenbaum's group which had partnered with the Maple Leafs,[89] and the Toronto Raptors joined the NBA for the 1995–96 season that the city once again had a team of its own. The franchise was one of two Canadian expansion teams announced by the NBA in 1993, the other being the Vancouver Grizzlies, which moved south of the border to Memphis after the 2000–01 season.

Toronto has also hosted parts of the 1994 FIBA World Championship.

Football[edit]

Toronto is home to the oldest professional football team in North America, the Toronto Argonauts, who have won the Grey Cup championship a record 15 times. The team was founded in 1873 by the Argonaut Rowing Club, and is referred to as the Boatmen in honour of that heritage. The team is also known as the double blue because of the franchise colours (Oxford blue and Cambridge blue); the colour blue has become emblematic of the city and most of its sport franchises. The Argos also draw the highest per-game attendance of any sports team in Toronto and draw the second highest per-game TV ratings nationally of any Toronto based sports team (after the Maple Leafs hockey club). In the early 1970s, Maple Leaf Gardens Limited announced plans to apply for a second Canadian Football League team to be based in Toronto which would play at Varsity Stadium, but the proposal never went anywhere.[90][91][92] During his tenure as owner of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Ballard repeatedly threatened to move the franchise to Varsity Stadium,[93] but the move was vetoed by the Argos.[94]

There have been several failed attempts to establish a professional American football franchise in Toronto in the past, including the Toronto Rifles of the Continental Football League, the Toronto Northmen of the World Football League and a United States Football League franchise. Plans for the latter two were dropped after pressure from the Canadian government, which wished to protect the Canadian Football League from competition and went so far as to propose the Canadian Football Act, a bill that was never approved but would have banned US football leagues from playing in Canada.[95][96] The Arena Football League brought the Toronto Phantoms to the city in 2001 after relocating from Hartford, Connecticut as the New England Sea Wolves, but the team lasted only two seasons before folding. Toronto Blue Jays president Paul Godfrey has occasionally campaigned to bring a National Football League franchise to Toronto, but is opposed by Toronto Mayor David Miller.[97][98] News media refer to the idea as "just a dream."[99] There has also been talk about the possibility of the NFL's Buffalo Bills moving to Toronto in the future. The owner of the Buffalo Bills, Ralph Wilson, presented plans to play one preseason and regular season game per year in Toronto in an effort to expand its market. On February 1, 2008, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed that a plan for the Bills to play five regular season games and three pre-season games at the Rogers Centre in Toronto over the next five years, received approval from NFL owners.[1] An official press conference to announce the new Bills Toronto Series took place five days later at the Rogers Centre.[2]

Toronto has also played host to the Grey Cup Championship 46 times, the most out of any host city. The last Grey Cup they hosted was the 100th Grey Cup on November 25, 2012, which was won by the home town Toronto Argonauts.

Toronto has also hosted the Vanier Cup Championship 41 times, the most out of any host city, serving as its exclusive host from its inception in 1965 until 2003. In 2004, Canadian Interuniversity Sport began accepting bids from other cities to host the event. Since then, Toronto has won 2 additional bids to host Vanier Cup Championships in 2007 & 2012 to coincide with both the 95th & 100th Grey Cups being played during the same weekend in the city.

Toronto was also host to a series of NCAA football bowl games called the International Bowl between 2007-2010.

Toronto was granted an expansion team in the Lingerie Football League, called the Toronto Triumph. The Triumph began in 2011 and played their games at the Ricoh Coliseum. The league is legitimate indoor football, played by women dressed in lingerie.

Soccer[edit]

Crowd celebrating at BMO Field after Toronto FC score the club's first goal.

The popularity of soccer reflects the city's demographics; Toronto is a multicultural city with a large immigrant population that has long-established roots with the game.

The Toronto Falcons played a single year in the original North American Soccer League (NASL), the first division of soccer in the United States, during its inaugural season in 1968. Subsequently, the Toronto Blizzard joined the league in 1971 and played until the NASL folded in 1984. In 1994, then part owner of the SkyDome Labatt considered purchasing a team in Major League Soccer (MLS), the new top US league, to play at the stadium.[88] In 2007, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment launched Toronto FC in MLS as its first international team. Toronto has also had two professional indoor soccer teams, the Toronto Shooting Stars and Toronto ThunderHawks of the National Professional Soccer League

Toronto hosted parts of the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup. Toronto also hosted the 2010 Major League Soccer championship match between FC Dallas and Colorado Rapids (Colorado defeated Dallas 2-1). It was the first time the MLS cup took place outside of the United States.

Lacrosse[edit]

The Toronto Rock, which operate in the National Lacrosse League, were founded in 1998 as the Ontario Raiders in Hamilton. The following year, the team moved to Toronto, and became a dynasty, finishing first every year from 1999 to 2005, and winning the league championship in five of those seven seasons. The city previously had a team, the Toronto Tomahawks, in the original National Lacrosse League in 1974.

In 2009, the Major League Lacrosse franchise the Rochester Rattlers moved to Toronto, and formed a team called the Toronto Nationals. In their inaugural year in Toronto, the Nationals went on to win the Steinfeld Cup. In 2011, the team relocated to Hamilton, Ontario.

Australian rules football[edit]

Toronto currently has seven different Australian rules football teams called the Broadview Hawks, High Park Demons, Central Blues, Etobicoke Kangaroos, Lakeshore Rebels, Toronto Downtown Dingos, and the Toronto Eagles. There are two more Ontario Australian Football League teams in the surrounding areas, the Hamilton Wildcats and the Guelph Gargoyles.

Auto racing[edit]

The city hosts the Honda Indy Toronto in July which is a street circuit that runs through Exhibition Place and Lake Shore Boulevard. Historically, the city played host to the 1958 Jim Mideon 500, a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing event. Legendary NASCAR athlete Lee Petty won this race defeating his son Richard in his Cup Series debut.

Mosport International Raceway, located approximately 100 km east of Toronto in the community of Bowmanville, hosts an American Le Mans Series race yearly, along with various other events. The track also hosted Formula One's Canadian Grand Prix from 1961 to 1977 (except for 1968 and 1970).

Tennis[edit]

The Canada Masters, currently sponsored as the Rogers Cup, is an annual tennis tournament held in Canada. The men's competition is an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) tour. The women's competition is a Premier 5 event on the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) tour. The events alternate from year-to-year between the cities of Montreal and Toronto. In odd-numbered years, the men's tournament is held in Montreal, while the women's tournament is held in Toronto, and vice-versa in even-numbered years. The competition is played on hard courts.

Ultimate (disc)[edit]

Bizzle.jpg

Ultimate is a team sport played with a flying disc. The object of the game is to score points by passing the disc to members of your own team, on a rectangular field approximately the size of a soccer field, until you have successfully completed a pass to a team member in the opposing teams end zone. In the 1970s, Ken Westerfield introduced disc ultimate north of the 49th parallel at the Canadian Open Frisbee Championships and by creating the Toronto Ultimate League (Club).[100] As of 2012, Canada is currently ranked number one in the Ultimate World Rankings according to the World Flying Disc Federation.[101] In 2013, as a founding partner, the Toronto Ultimate Club presented Canada's first professional ultimate team the Toronto Rush, [102][103] to the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL). They finished their first season undefeated 18-0 and won the AUDL Championships.[104][105][106]

Horse racing[edit]

Horse racing is currently done at the Woodbine Racetracks. Woodbine Racetrack in the northwestern suburb of Rexdale in Toronto, Ontario is the only horseracing track in North America which stages, or is capable of staging, thoroughbred and standardbred horseracing programs on the same day. Woodbine hosts two of the three legs of the Canadian Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing—the opening Queen's Plate on its Polytrack synthetic dirt course, and the closing Breeders' Stakes on grass.

Sports culture[edit]

In Toronto, hockey is unarguably the sports team that stirs the most passion and interest (hence the moniker, hockey capital). A championship win by any major sports team is considered to be worthy of the highest celebration, including a parade for the victorious team.

Due to their geographic locations, Toronto has an intense sports rivalry with many cities around the Great Lakes. For football, Toronto has a rivalry with Hamilton (begun in 1873[107] and is heightened during the Labour Day Classic), Ottawa (however currently suspended) and as far as Montreal. In hockey, Toronto's biggest rivals are the Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators (often dubbed the "Battle of Ontario"). Toronto's lesser rivals include the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues, and Buffalo Sabres.

References[edit]

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See also[edit]