Published May 23, 2023 6:00 PM ET
Updated May 24, 2023 5:24 PM ET
Toronto Maple Leafs fans react as they gather at Maple Leaf Square to watch the second round of NHL Stanley Cup playoff hockey action against the Florida Panthers in Toronto, Wednesday, May 10, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov
Hey Toronto sports fans: don’t let disappointments, underperformance, and uneasy times with your city’s professional teams get you down.
At least the champion Gray Cup Argonauts will be back in action soon. The CFL club seems to be the only bright light in Toronto’s current sporting landscape.
Discontent was rife across most franchises in the Ontario capital throughout the spring.
Maple leaf? High hopes for NHL teams were not met and now there is front-office drama.
Raptors? Mediocrity is the norm throughout the NBA season for an organization seeking a head coach.
Blue Jays? Boasts one of the best young cores in Major League Baseball, but sits last in their division.
“I think the most upsetting part is that no one really seems to have an answer to it,” Toronto area veteran sports writer Michael Traikos said Tuesday. “The worst part is that no one knows exactly where this is going now.”
The Toronto team further down the sporting pecking order also faces challenges.
Toronto FC? It is the shadow of the team living in the basement that was once the powerhouse of Major League Soccer.
Arrow? The Major League Rugby side is last in the conference with one win in 12 games.
Rock? Made the National Lacrosse League playoffs, but Toronto’s name is only because the team is based in Hamilton.
“It’s bad timing, it’s all happening at once,” said longtime Toronto-based CBC broadcaster Scott Russell. “It’s like a perfect storm. I think it’s a fluke.”
Coincidentally or not, those heady days of yesteryear seem like a distant memory to many Toronto franchises. And things may get worse before they get better.
The Leafs, who last won the Stanley Cup in 1967, are waiting after the recent departure of GM Kyle Dubas. The NHL draft is imminent and free agency is only a month away.
Rumors of a rare first-round series win have raised existential questions about the team’s core.
“I’ve been covering the Leafs for over two decades,” says Traikos, managing editor at The Hockey News and host of the “HockeyVerse” podcast. “I’ve covered one playoff round win.
“To say I’ve covered one win (draw) in (almost) 20 years is embarrassing.”
The Raptors, meanwhile, were riding high in 2019 when Kawhi Leonard led them to their first NBA title. They have won one playoff series since then.
The Blue Jays haven’t won a World Series since 1993 and last won a playoff game in 2016. It’s early days this season, but the team has lost seven of eight heading into Tuesday night with a game against the division leader on tap next week.
Toronto FC reached the MLS finals in 2016 and won the title the following year. The club table has fallen this season and players are starting to voice their frustration.
“This is the oddity of professional sport,” said Russell. “Is your team united? Is it a team? Is there the right chemistry to be a competitor every time?
“Sometimes things don’t work out that way.”
There are some positives of course.
The tabloid headline writer has had a busy day in Toronto’s slump. There’s no shortage of content for sports radio call shows. And non-Toronto fans across the country—those who can’t stand the so-called “Center of the Universe” and his team—are unquestionably enjoying every moment.
But for many supporters of the long-suffering city, it is simply more pain, hopelessness and uncertainty.
“This is a sports city comparable to what Buffalo has been through (with the NFL Bills and the NHL Sabers) where you’re just waiting for the next big loss or big disaster,” Traikos said.
“Until that changes, I don’t blame the fans for feeling the way they feel.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 23, 2023.
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