Toronto is seen as a hotbed of professional sports culture in Canada because in many cases, including basketball and baseball, Toronto is home to the only pro team in the country, making the spectator atmosphere in the city particularly intense.
Whatever the season, there’s bound to be a home game of some sort coming up fast, and heading to the rink, arena, or stadium is a popular pastime whatever your athletic preferences may be. Let’s exploce A Professional Sports Tour of Toronto below.
A Professional Sports Tour of Toronto
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs were one of the “Original Six” teams of the National Hockey League (NHL), founded in 1917. They are part of the Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference of the NHL. The historic Maple Leaf Gardens was the home of the Leafs from 1931 to 1999; today, the team calls the Air Canada Centre home.
The Maple Leafs have won 13 Stanley Cup championships, making them second only to the 24 championships of their main rivals: the Montreal Canadiens. Despite the fact that the Leafs won their last championship in 1967, which makes their 48 season gap between championships the longest in the NHL, Torontonians remain very loyal to their team.
The Marlies compete in the American Hockey League (AHL). The top affiliate of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, the Marlies play at Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto. With origins in Atlantic Canada, the first incarnation of the team was founded in New Brunswick in 1978.
Canada’s Team: That’s what the Toronto Raptors are now, hence, the hashtag #wethenorth. Some even say the team has transformed Toronto into a basketball city. The National Basketball Association expanded outside the U.S. for the first time in 1995 and into Canada with the founding of the Toronto Raptors. A huge array of fans from all walks of life are especially devoted to the underdog team, which struggled to develop in the early years.
But nowadays things are looking up for DeMar “DeRozan and the boys,” as they’re affectionately called, and the team is clearly on the upswing. The “Raps” made the NBA playoffs in 2015-16 and again in 2016-17, pushing emotional Raptors followers into the ecstatic zone. The question is: What’s next. Games are at the Scotiabank Arena from October to April.
Best place to watch: The Loose Moose. It’s close to the arena, has a huge list of draught beers, and a menu with better than the usual fare like tacos and poutine. Plus, you’ll feel like one of the gang seated at the long communal picnic tables. Arrive early if you want to sit down, though, as this spot is a rowdy favorite. With its own sound system and multiple screens streaming live, The Contender in Dundas West is also sports central. The official fan gathering spot is the cul de sac right behind the arena cleverly named Jurassic Park.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the American League (AL) East Division. Founded in 1977, the team plays its home games at the Rogers Centre in downtown Toronto. Like the Raptors, the Jays are currently the only Canadian based team in the MLB. After initial struggles, the team had its first winning season in 1983, and in 1985, they became the division champions.
From 1985 to 1993, they won five division championships in nine seasons, including three years in a row from 1991 to 1993. During this time, the team also became back to back World Series champions in 1992 and 1993. After 1993, the Blue Jays didn’t qualify for the playoffs for 21 consecutive seasons, until finally having more successful seasons in both 2015 and 2016.
Toronto is proudly multicultural, so understandably, soccer is huge here mirroring the international scene. Toronto Football Club is the homegrown Major League Soccer (MLS) team the first Canadian based one, born in 2007 with regular matches at BMO Field March to October. These pros were the Eastern Conference champs in the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs and are six time Canadian champs.
Toronto FC is known for its impressively loyal fan culture and oft sold out stadiums, and red and white are the colors if you want to join the ranks. Don’t miss the high intensity on-field action of all time leading scorer and MVP Sebastian “Seba” Giovinco or a match with arch rival Montreal Impact. Best place to watch: The Football Factory in the Entertainment District. Diehard footballers meet here and during the season’s prime time. There are private rooms for soccer parties in this classy, upscale lounge bar, 13 HDTVs, and elevated Euro bistro fare.