A recent trip to Toronto was a welcome return to a city that I hadn’t visited for over 10 years. Rich in food, culture, and the arts, Toronto is also a decidedly a sports town. No matter which way I turned I saw a stadium, museum, or people enjoying the sporting life of the city.
The sports culture of Toronto dates back to the 1800s when the city boasted the Granite Club, Royal Canadian Yacht Club, Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club, the Argonaut Rowing Club, and the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club. The Toronto Argonauts football was established in 1873 and is still around today.
Professional sports continue to develop and change, depending on the popularity of the particular sport and the success of the franchise. Here’s a current list of Toronto’s professional sports scene – something for everyone.
Hockey – If the city is known for one thing it is the Toronto Maple Leafs, the most financially successful sports franchise in the country. Toronto has hosted several international hockey tournaments, and is home to the Hockey Hall of Fame (in photo below) which opened in 1961. Hockey is the heart and soul of the city, earning it the title of the “Hockey Capital.” The Maple Leafs take to the ice at Air Canada Centre. Those guys on the ice make skating look effortless. If you want to give it a try – and learn that it’s really not that effortless – Natrel Rink has outdoor skating in the winter.
Baseball – Baseball has been popular in Toronto since the 1890s with the minor league team the Toronto Maple Leafs. On September 5, 1914, Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run and pitched a complete game one-hitter at Hanlan’s Point Stadium against the Maple Leafs. The city’s current team, the Toronto Blue Jays, started in 1976, and placed last in the American League East for the first three years. The team began to get better and won consecutive World Series’ in 1992 and 1993. They play at Rogers Centre.
Football – The Toronto Arognauts are the oldest professional football club in North America, having won the Grey Cup Championship 15 times. The Argonauts have the highest per-game attendance of any sports team in Toronto and have the second highest per game TV ratings of any Toronto sports team after the Maple Leafs hockey team. There have been several attempts to bring American football to Toronto, but it’s always been opposed. In 2008, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed a plan for the New York Buffalo Bills to play several games at the Rogers Centre over the next five years – and that may just be the only way American football heads north. Toronto also has seven different Australian rules football teams: Broadview Hawks, High Park Demons, Central Blues, Etobicoke Kangaroos, Lakeshore Rebels, Toronto Downtown Dingos, and the Toronto Eagles.
Soccer – Toronto know boasts another kind of football team with Toronto FC playing major league soccer. The team plays at BMO Field located in Exhibition Place.
Basketball – The Toronto Raptors joined the NBA with the 1995-1996 season, one of the two expansion teams that season. The other team, the Vancouver Grizzlies, has since moved to Memphis, Tennessee. The Raptors play at Air Canada Centre.
Lacrosse – The Toronto Rock, which play in the National Lacrosse League, were founded in 1998 as the Ontario Raiders, and moved to Toronto the following year. They have since become a dynasty, finishing first every year from 1999-2005, winning the league championship in five of those seven seasons. They play at Air Canada Centre.
Auto Racing – Every July, Toronto hosts the Honda Indy Toronto, a street circuit race running through Exhibition Place and Lake Shore Boulevard. Toronto also hosted the 1958 Jim Mideon 500, a NASCAR Spring Cup Series in which legendary Lee Petty defeated his son Richard (in his Cup Series debut) to win the race.
Tennis – Every other year Toronto is also home to the Canada Master tennis competition, which alternates between Toronto and Montreal. Matches are held in Rexall Centre.
Horse racing – Horse racing is held at Woodbine Racetrack, which hosts two of the three legs of the Canadian Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing.
What’s your favorite sporting event or team in Toronto?
Photo credit: author’s personal collection