For sports fans, this time of the year can feel like Christmas; especially if you reside in the GTA. The Toronto Raptors & Toronto Maple Leafs are about to head into playoffs, the Toronto Blue Jays home opener series is this week and the Toronto FC season has officially kicked off. It’s amazing to see how far the Toronto teams have come in recent years; especially since in 2012, Canada’s largest metropolis was ranked by ESPN as the worst sports city in all of North America. In similar surveys between 2013 and 2015 the Toronto’s Maple Leafs were ranked 122nd out of 122 North American sports teams. We’ve sure come along way since then, with these 4 teams all being playoff contenders within the past year (and hopefully again this season).
Toronto Maple Leafs
Breaking up those years of basement-dwelling was the club’s lone playoff appearance within 10 years. We can all remember how that ended… the Leafs giving up a 4–1 lead with 12 minutes to play, only to lose 5-4 in overtime to Boston.
Fast forward 3 years and insert #1 head coach Mike Babcock and rookies Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, the Leafs find themselves heading into playoffs again. Finishing 1st, 3rd and 4th in rookie scoring respectively, these kids are MUST WATCH players for many years to come. Round of applause to the other Canadian teams making the playoffs as well – Ottawa Senators, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens and the Calgary Flames.
Many believed that the Raptors would be in rebuild mode due to past playoff blunders but GM Masai Ujiri never lost faith in his team. After winning two clutch game sevens last year, the Raptors lost to the eventual NBA champions, Cleveland Cavaliers in the semi-finals of the Eastern Conference. This year hasn’t been easy however as the team has faced quite a few injuries – especially with the Raptors losing superstar PG Kyle Lowry to wrist surgery for most of the season. The team was led by Demar Derozen, to their 4th consecutive playoff appearance. With Lowry back in the lineup and Ujiri adding defensive monster P.J Tucker and shot blocking guru Serge Ibaka, the Raptors are a force to be reckoned with.
Toronto Blue Jays
Coming off playoff runs the past 2 years, fans are hoping that the 3rd time is a charm. Despite the fact we’ve had the worst season start in years, fans are still hopeful that the team can turn things around with such a long season ahead. Though the heartbreak of losing Encarnacion is still fresh, the team is relying on Bautista, Donaldson, Osuna, Sanchez and Pillar to pull out all the stops this summer.
Last year was quite the year for the TFC Reds, almost winning the MLS Cup, only to lose in a shootout (though how a team can win in shootouts when they had no shots on goal the ENTIRE game is mind-boggling). Toronto FC fans are already out in full force to support their team in what is hoped to be another strong year lead by captain Michael Bradley. Currently sitting 9th in the Eastern Conference, there’s still plenty of soccer to be played to get us back on top.
Whether you are a hockey, basketball, baseball or soccer fan, it’s time to bleed blue and red. After all, it really does seem to be Toronto vs. Everybody.