No matter the outcome, April 25 will be known as a historical day to be a fan of Toronto Sports.
With a Leafs game seven against the Bruins, a Raptors game five against the Wizards and TFC playing in the CONCACAF Champions League all happening in the span of a few hours of each other, it’s time we realize that we are living in the golden age of Toronto sports.
In terms of games that have an implication on the city, there hasn’t been a day like this probably in Toronto’s history. In terms of the Leafs, they get a chance to come back from 3-1 down to silence their demons from 2013. For the Raptors, a win would make them one step closer to beating the Wizards. And in the case of TFC, a second leg win could potentially crown them as the North American soccer champions.
And if you were to tell any fan from these teams about this day about in 2012, they wouldn’t have believed you.
This was a dark time to be a sports fan in Toronto. Albeit six years ago now, a lot has changed since then. And a large part of this change in mindset and culture was started Tim Leiweke.
Although his stay was brief — he only served as CEO and President of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment from 2013-15 — Leiweke laid the ground work for these franchises to make a massive change.
For the Leafs, gone are the days of Ron Wilson, Brian Burke and the disastrous 2011-12 season that saw the team miss the playoffs for the seventh straight year. Instead, Leiweke hired Brendan Shanahan as the club’s President and created the Brain Trust that currently has molded the team into one of the most exciting franchises in the league.
In terms of the Raptors, Leiweke embraced a franchise that was lost after Chris Bosh decided to become a member of the Miami Heat. To turn things around, he hired Masai Ujiri as the team’s General Manager in 2013, made Drake the team’s global ambassador. Although one move might be bigger than the other — sorry Drake fans — these two changes ignited the current basketball-crazed-culture in Canada and turned the Raptors from an afterthought into NBA title contender.
Toronto hasn’t always been a soccer city. When Leiweke came, he devoted a lot of his time to shaping the city’s newest franchise. In 2012, they were the league’s worst team, and had yet to make the playoffs. But after being instrumental in the signings of the Reds designated players Michael Bradley and Sebastian Giovinco, Leiweke was one of the first people mentioned after TFC won their first MLS cup in 2017.
Although Toronto might not have the history of championships like Boston or the allure of a city like Los Angeles that will always help them bring in free agents, these past few years have established Toronto as a free-agent destination.
The fans who watch in Maple Leaf Square, at a bar, or at home have left opponents at a loss for words. In 2016, they made a King take notice to how special this city is.
Whether you’ve been inside the Air Canada Centre, Rogers Centre, BMO Field or have seen it on TV, there’s a special atmosphere that surrounds the current Toronto sports landscape.
For the first time in a long time, there’s a buzz present everywhere. For most fans who didn’t grow up with the ’92-93 Jays and the Golden-Era of the Leafs, they haven’t experienced anything like this.
I wish there was a word, phrase or saying that could describe this electricity, but honestly, none would do justice right now. Rather than try to define it, we should sit back, relax, and enjoy what we have. It doesn’t come around all that too often.