Okay, Toronto is not quite ready to take over the mantle of “City of Champions,” but the city’s long-suffering fans haven’t set the bar too high. There is a certain pleasure to be taken from having a hockey team on the rise and perhaps poised closer to capturing that sport’s holy grail than at any time else in the last 52 years. Then there is a basketball team sitting near the top of its conference while prepping for a long post-season run, a soccer squad recently off a championship, a rebuilding baseball team ready to welcome its best young prospect in decades, and a football team that likes to balance seasons of excellence with seasons of mediocrity. Oh, and let’s not forget the growing popularity of lacrosse and rugby in this multicultural metropolis.
Sports teams can bind together a small town, a major city, even a country – and the city of Toronto has it all. So pack your Leaf’s jersey, TFC pennants, Raptor’s T, Argo’s boxer shorts and Blue Jay’s cap for a FANatical visit to the big city of Toronto, the home of seven professional sports teams and a devoted and passionate fan base. Join the zealous fans in the stadium or the rowdy aficionados at the city’s liveliest sport’s bars for great food and libations.
Here’s your Toronto FANatic Sports Primer.
The Team: It’s Canada! So first and foremost, it’s about hockey and the legendary Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs welcomed home John Tavares this season, and he has responded with career high numbers. Tavares joins young guns Matthews, Marner and Reilly on a talented team on the rise. Tickets can be hard to come by, but watching a game live at Scotiabank Arena is a treat. Otherwise join Leaf Nation celebrations at Maple Leaf square, where up to 5,000 fans can watch the game on a 30 by 50 foot screen.
Waiting for the Game: Stay at the Le Germain Hotel, a hip, modern hotel located in downtown Toronto at Maple Leaf Square. With its 167 hotel rooms and warm atmosphere, it is the perfect host. If you are in need of some sporting apparel check out Maple Leaf Square Sport Chek at 15 York Street for all the shoes, hats, track pants and jerseys you will ever need. If you are already inside the arena visit Real Sports Apparel.
Eat at the Real Sports Bar & Grill located beside Scotiabank Arena in the heart of the city’s sports and entertainment district where the energy is amped up on game day, and the 39 foot HD big screen and 199 HD TVs are a sport’s fanatics dream. Get a selfie with your Leaf heroes at Legends Row outside the arena and then head to the Hockey Hall of Fame, a must for every puck fan. Interactive games are the top draw – visitors can test their skills as both a shooter and goaltender. Not to be missed is the Stanley Cup, which is displayed on the museum’s top floor. Leaf Nation can dare to dream.
We the North
The Team: As Canada’s team, the Toronto Raptors love the hashtag #WeTheNorth. Some even say the team has transformed Toronto into a basketball city. Hoping for a long playoff run, the Raptors have added Marc Gasol and Jeremy Lin, two veterans who will add depth and experience behind stars Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, when the NBA playoffs kick off April 13. Get behind the “We the North” movement at Scotiabank Arena or join the thousands of fans at Jurassic Park just outside the stadium.
Waiting for the Game: This is Canada’s team, so have dinner at Canoe. Their menu reflects Canada’s diverse landscape, history and culture. The restaurant is located high atop TD Bank Tower affording a breathtaking view of the city. Grab lunch at the Rec Room, a new entertainment hotspot that just opened at the old rail roundhouse across from the CN Tower and Rodgers Centre. The Rec Room brings together delectable dining experiences with exciting amusement gaming. Stay at the Chelsea Hotel for its great location (it is five minutes from the nearest metro) and its friendly staff that caters to families.
Let’s Play Ball
The Team: The boys of summer are back and in Toronto that is the Blue Jays. The Jays are also Canada’s team, the only MLB team north of the border. Their home stadium is the delightful downtown Rogers Centre with its all-weather retractable roof. Take the subway right to the ballpark (Union Station) and follow the river of blue and white. Arrive two hours before game time to watch batting practice. The rebuilding squad could very well surprise – with some rising young stars soon to include Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the best young diamond prospect in the league.
Waiting for the Game: During baseball season, the Toronto Marriott City Centre Hotel is directly attached to the Rogers Centre and has 70 rooms looking right out onto the field. Grab some lunch at the new Sportsnet Grill. The new 220-seat sports bar overlooks the Rogers Centre field and for those who don’t have a window seat, there are 12 televisions. As a pre-game warmup or a post-game distraction, take a tour of the Steam Whistle Brewery set in the historic locomotive roundhouse and then head to BATL to enjoy the thrill of indoor axe throwing. For better results you can even imagine the night’s home plate umpire as the target! If you are really brave and want a truly upper-deck view of a Jay’s game, how about an edge walk at the top of the CN Tower getting a sky high glimpse of the action from 356 metres through the open roof of the Rogers Centre.
The Team: Toronto is proudly multicultural and the excitement of soccer has an international feel. Toronto FC is known for its impressively loyal fan culture and sold-out stadiums. Dress in red and white to join the ranks. In 2017, Toronto FC won the domestic treble with the MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield and Canadian Championship, and set the all-time MLS regular season record for points with 69. They are also seven-time winners of the Canadian Championship and were runners-up of the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League. This year’s new star is the Spanish attacking midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo, who will help fill the offensive void left by the departure of Victor Vazquez and Sebastian Giovinco.
Waiting for the Game: Liberty Village, the trendy neighbourhood with lots of cafes, restaurants, and boutique shops, is about a 15-minute walk from BMO Field. Grab some lunch at Liberty Commons at Big Rock Brewery, a modern brewpub and BBQ joint. Stay at Hotel X located beside BMO Field, with spectacular views of the Toronto city skyline or Lake Ontario from every room. Staying with the international flavour of the sport, LOB is Toronto’s first indoor bocce course, featuring a 9-Track bocce-golf course, 80 seat restaurant and sports bar.
The Team: Locally it’s about the Canadian Football League and one of the city’s oldest sports franchises, the Toronto Argonauts, founded back in 1873. The regular season kicks off in June and goes until November with home games at BMO Field. After winning the Grey Cup in 2017, the Argos had an injury-plagued off year last season. Expect the “Double Blue” to rebound in 2019.
Waiting for the Game: Head to the Ballroom Bowl in the Entertainment District, a sports bar and bowling alley, or to the Distillery District, a national historic site that includes 44 heritage buildings and numerous brick-lined courtyards. The pedestrian-only village is a cool place to shop, visit art galleries and stroll the brick walkways through Victorian architecture. Enjoy dinner here at Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie, a neo-Parisian bistro unique in both its design and menu. Afterwards check out the Aviary , a new family friendly brewpub and sports bar.
Let’s Rock and Join the Pack!
Two teams, quickly gaining in popularity, are the Toronto Rock, the city’s professional box lacrosse franchise playing in the National Lacrosse League with home games at Scotiabank Place and the Toronto Wolfpack, a professional rugby team that plays in “The Den,” Lamport Stadium. The two franchises offer great family value and an exciting game-day experience, which has allowed them to build passionate and solid fan bases.
MORE ABOUT TORONTO
Tourism Toronto: www.seetorontonow.com
Tourism Toronto Team Roundup: https://www.seetorontonow.com/attractions/professional-sports
Le Germain Hotels in Toronto: https://www.legermainhotels.com/en/toronto
Getting Around Toronto: The best way to get around Toronto is by public transportation, subway, bus and streetcar. A single adult transit fare for the subway or bus costs $3.25. A Day Pass ($12) on the Toronto Transit Commission is a great deal, and a Family Day Pass ($12) is available on weekends and holidays – good for two adults and up to four youths (19 years old or younger). The subway also connects the city to the Toronto Pearson International Airport, or you can fly into Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.