Being a Sports Fan In Toronto: A Look Back at The Last Decade

Paul TaylorCorrespondent IDecember 28, 2009

OTTAWA, ON - NOVEMBER 17:  Two lively fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrate a goal against the Ottawa Senators in a game at Scotiabank Place on November 17, 2009 in Ottawa, Canada. (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)
Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images

During 2006-07, I spent 12 months living and working in Toronto and had the time of my life.  I was in a world-class city, which offered everything you needed.  And to top it all off, there were a wide range of professional sports teams on my doorstep.

Whether it was going to see the Raptors, Blue Jays, or Argonauts, you were guaranteed to have an entertaining time, win or lose.  However, one thing which came to light throughout it all was the sports fans in Toronto appeared to have a natural feeling of impending doom.

I never fully appreciated this at the time. How could I? 

During my time in Toronto, the Blue Jays finished second in their division, (ahead of the Boston Red Sox no less) with 87 wins; the Raptors won their first-ever divisional title and went to the playoffs for the first time in five years, and the Argonauts and Rock both qualified for the postseason.

On top of this, the Maple Leafs just missed out on a playoff spot by one point, and Toronto FC debuted in the MLS as professional soccer came to Southern Ontario.

I realise that each of these scenarios could have been better, but, overall, it didn’t seem like a bad return. 

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And yet, the average Toronto fan had a glass-half-empty mentality about what was happening in their city. It is only now that I appreciate why.

Since leaving Toronto, the Raptors and Argonauts' win totals have steadily declined year by year, the Maple Leafs and TFC have failed to make the playoffs, the Rock have gone three seasons without a winning record, and the Blue Jays have continually failed to deliver on the promises made by J.P. Riccardi and company.

And this point has really been rammed in recent months: The Maple Leafs suffered their worst ever start to a season with only one win in the first 13 games.  

Toronto FC, on the verge of a first playoff spot in team history, suffered their biggest-ever defeat on the final day of the season to the worst team in the MLS.

The Argonauts secured the worst record in the CFL, finishing a league-low 3-15 after a 2-2 start. 

The Raptors have been as erratic as ever, and the Blue Jays have just lost the services of their one bona fide superstar.

Finally, I have come around to the average Toronto sports fan’s way of thinking that any degree of success has to be accepted with a certain amount of caution and suspicion.  It’s like they know that something is going to go wrong.

With all this said, it seemed like a good idea to find out how (un)successful Toronto’s professional teams have been during the last 10 years as we approach the end of the decade. 

(NB:  Raptors / Maple Leafs statistics compiled for seasons 1999/00 to 2008/09 & Maple Leafs / Argonauts ties and overtime losses placed together.)

Overall Record (Win Percentage)

  1. Rock:              91-63               (59.1%)
  2. Blue Jays:       805-814            (49.7%)
  3. Maple Leafs:   365-267-106     (49.6%)
  4. Raptors:          372-448            (45.4%)
  5. Argonauts:       80-96-3            (44.7%)
  6. TFC:                25-41-24          (27.8%)

Playoff Appearances—Divisional Titles—Championships     

  1. Rock:                 8—6—4
  2. Argonauts:         6—2—1
  3. Maple Leafs:      5—1—0
  4. Raptors:            5—1—0
  5. Blue Jays:          0—0—0
  6. TFC                   0—0—0

Average Home Attendance (Win-Loss Record) 

  1. Blue Jays:        24,581             (441-370)
  2. Argonauts:       24,120             (45-44-1)
  3. TFC:                20,183             (19-12-14)
  4. Maple Leafs:     19,328             (192-122-55)
  5. Raptors:           18,551             (220-190)
  6. Rock:               15,467             (51-27)

It’s clear that the Rock have had the most success during this decade, with the Argonauts the only other team to take home a championship.

No doubt a lot of people are thinking "Lacrosse and Canadian Football don’t count."  How hard is it to win a championship in leagues with only eight to 12 teams?’

However, remember that the Maple Leafs were winning their Stanley Cups back in the days when the NHL only had six teams. 

This is not an attempt to stir things up; just be happy that Toronto has had some winners over the last 10 years.

Overall, most of Toronto’s sports teams have had a certain amount of success during the last decade, making the playoffs at least five times, with the exception of TFC and the Blue Jays. 

TFC can be excused to a certain extent, as a result of only playing three seasons in the MLS to date.

Apart from this, the main thing that stands out is the home attendances and the win-loss records. 

When you think that Toronto has more professional sports teams than anywhere else in Canada and indeed a lot of North American cities, the people of Southern Ontario should be proud of themselves.

Each of the six franchises has a very respectable average, and I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that every team won more than they lost during the last decade.

Hopefully, despite the recession, these attendance figures can continue well into the next decade. 

Who knows? Maybe Toronto can also transfer this success to the playing field as well, where, of late, both the Raptors and Maple Leafs have finally begun to show signs of life.

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