Well, okay, there isn’t really a National Football League team here, but the Buffalo Bills play two games a season at the Rogers Centre and there are the Toronto Argonauts, historically the Canadian Football League’s most successful team. Football is definitely covered in Canada's largest city.
But I digress. Toronto has eight professional sports teams, on a par with, or better than, the 14 American cities that have teams in the NFL, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League.
Unfortunately, this creates a weird competition amongst the teams as they vie for fans attention. I was reminded of this weeks ago when a friend of mine from senior school posted on Facebook “So glad the Leafs suck more than the Raps. At least the Raps have upside”.
Of course, this was before the Raptors embarked on a Cavaliers-esque 13-game losing streak, but the comment got me wondering: what is the best team in Toronto? Which team does the best job of representing a city spoiled for choice?
Here are all of the city’s professional sports franchises, in order of winning percentage over the past two years.
|Team||This season||Last season||Cumulative|
|Rock||.667 (4-2)*||.562 (9-7)†||.615|
|Blue Jays||.525 (85-77)||.463 (75-87)||.494|
|Marlies||.470 (24-20-7)*||.413 (33-35-12)||.442|
|Nationals‡||.250 (3-9)||.583 (7-9) †¥||.417|
|Maple Leafs||.426 (23-26-5)*||.366 (30-38-14)||.396|
|Raptors||.269 (14-38)*||.488 (40-42)||.379|
|Argonauts||.500 (9-9-0) †||.167 (3-15-0)||.336|
|Toronto FC||.300 (9-13-8)||.333 (10-11-9)||.317|
Notes: * - Season currently underway.
† - Made the playoffs.
¥ - Won championship.
‡ - It was announced in the offseason that the Toronto Nationals have moved to the bustling metropolis of Hamilton, Ont., for 2011.
What’s most apparent in this chart is that it’s good to be a fan of lacrosse in Toronto. Especially if you live in the western part of the Greater Toronto Area, since Major League Lacrosse’s Toronto Nationals – the most recent champions in the city – are moving to nearby Hamilton.
But if you want to see a Toronto-based team do well in the regular season and go deep in to the postseason, you’d better pick up the nuances of lacrosse. The Rock are the best team in the NLL this year after losing a close game in the league championship last season.
Further, six of Toronto’s last nine championships have come from lacrosse teams, with the Rock contributing five and the Nationals bringing home the Steinfeld Cup two summers ago. The other three are all thanks to the Toronto Argonauts winning the Grey Cup in 1996, 1997 and 2004.
It’s also worth noting that attendance is seemingly unaffected by a team’s success.
Most Torontonians would immediately twig to the fact that the Maple Leafs, the city’s fifth best team, remain the most popular franchise while the Blue Jays – ranked second – had serious attendance problems last summer.
But what I find most striking is that Toronto FC, the team with the most passionate fans, has the worst record of Hogtown’s professional sports franchises.
In any event, I think this is an interesting exercise that would test perceptions of Toronto’s sports teams. Tell me: were there any surprises on this chart for you?
During the final day of the World Hockey Summit it became abundantly clear that Hockey Canada, USA Hockey and especially the National Hockey League need to become more proactive in the growth of women’s hockey.
It’s something that has been at the back of my mind since the Winter Olympics in Vancouver last February – how can an exciting game like women’s hockey only really be seen on TV every four years? What can be done?
Outside of the collegiate game in the United States and Canada there is no forum for elite women’s hockey. Even at the amateur level there are many municipalities that don’t have leagues for female players, and at the World Hockey Summit there were stories of towns that won’t let women use the arenas, period.
Further, there is no junior hockey for ladies - although women are allowed to play in the three leagues that comprise the Canadian Hockey League.
At the professional level there have been several attempts at running leagues, including the Canadian Women’s Hockey League that has teams in Montreal, Mississauga, Burlington, Brampton, Vaughn and Ottawa.
The CWHL competes for the Clarkson Cup against teams from the Western Women’s Hockey League. The WWHL has franchises in Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Strathmore and Minnesota.
Although I admire these leagues ambitions, they’re unstable with teams folding or relocating constantly. Other leagues like them have collapsed under the financial and administrative strains of running a professional association.
This is where the NHL needs to step in, and form a WNHL, much like the National Basketball Association’s WNBA, to market and promote a high-calibre female version of hockey.
Like the WNBA model, all the teams could be owned by the NHL or its franchises at first, and as they become more solvent be sold to third parties. Every team would be associated with an NHL or American Hockey League franchise to guarantee cheaper access to facilities and to enable cross promotion.
It would be an easy sell to have a NHL/WNHL double-bill in several traditional hockey markets like the Original Six, in the six Canadian NHL cities and a few other hotbeds like Minneapolis.
Further, when I threw it out to my Twitter followers last week, reader @katylalonde pointed out that there are several locations begging for hockey like Winnipeg, Kitchener, Hamilton and Quebec City. It would be a smart move for all four municipalities to invite a WNHL franchise to their rinks and prove that their arenas are viable venues for professional hockey.
Of course, such an initiative would have to be supported at the amateur level. Hockey Canada, USA Hockey and regional associations would need to do more to promote the women’s game at the amateur level. But with professionals serving as role models, it shouldn’t be too hard.
This is the kind of program that is prime for implementation - all it would takes is a motivated NHL willing to capture the interest of a whole new market of hockey fans.
Patrice Cormier has had a change of heart, and all it’s going to cost him is what little credibility he has left.
The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and Cormier announced yesterday that they would be appealing the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s season-long suspension of the 19-year-old forward.
“He could serve up to 48 games, that's too much,” said Huskies coach and general manager Andre Tourigny.
“I respect the decision of the QMJHL even if I find it too severe. I deeply regret the circumstances surrounding this event and I wish Mikael Tam a speedy and full recovery. Thanks for your attention,” said Cormier in a short statement read to the Canadian Press by telephone.
This is a departure from his statement Tuesday morning: “I fully respect the Quebec Major Junior League's decision regarding the Mikael Tam incident.”
Earlier this week I had criticized that particular statement by Cormier because there was no actual apology to Tam. He still hasn’t apologized and this appeal is much worse, adding insult to injury.
Cormier could have continued his career in, as Tourigny said, just 48 games. If he had accepted his punishment, acted contrite whenever asked about the incident and worked hard on the ice to develop as a player, he’d likely make the NHL within two years.
But now he’s rubbing some salt in the wound, and not winning over any supporters.
Although I felt that the suspension was a fair punishment for what was clearly a malicious hit, other corners were calling for a lifetime ban. I can only imagine the ink that will be spilled if Cormier’s suspension is shortened.
That said, I do understand the team’s motivation behind the appeal. Rouyn-Noranda paid a hefty price to acquire Cormier. Specifically, they sent two promising players in Michael Beaudry and Alexandre Mallet (both just 18 years old) as well as three first round draft picks and one second round draft pick to the Rimouski Oceanic for Cormier and Jordan Caron.
To lose one of those players to suspension for the rest of the season – and possibly for the rest of his junior career if he moves on to the NHL or AHL next year – cripples the Huskies playoff chances. Rouyn-Noranda’s playoff window is closing, and Tourigny knows that he gave up the team’s future is bleak without those four picks.
The problem is, of course, that although Cormier might not play again this season, he’ll definitely be playing somewhere next year. The same can’t be said for his victim, Mikael Tam.
Although Cormier’s suspension is a bitter pill to swallow, it did give him the opportunity to move on. The same can’t be said for Tam. Cormier should be counting his blessings, not the number of games he’ll be missing.