I woke up in a bad mood this morning. Nothing happened to me; I’m just a Toronto Maple Leafs fan. That’s how I usually wake up.
The first thing I read when I looked at my phone was that Toronto wasn’t getting the 2017 NHL Draft in the Leafs’ centennial year.
Next I read that Leafs forward Nazem Kadri got fined for making a throat-slashing gesture in a league where you can have a disagreement someone and fight them three times in the same game.
I was prepared to go grumpy the whole day. Then I saw reigning NBA MVP Steph Curry send a tweet that he was in Toronto.
Oh, right. Toronto is hosting the 2016 NBA All-Star Game. All of the NBA’s biggest stars will be in town and the eyes of the basketball world will be watching. That’s actually pretty sweet.
Whatever. No. Must stay grumpy.
Then my wife came downstairs and asked to use the laptop.
“Tickets to the Blue Jays’ home opener go on sale in a few minutes,” she said. “We have to go!”
It’s easy to forget about baseball when it’s -17 outside, but she was absolutely right. I started thinking about last season’s excitement, the bat-flipping carnival that was Game 5 of the ALDS against Texas, and getting tickets to see Marco Estrada and the Blue Jays beat the Kansas City Royals 7-1 in my first-ever live playoff game of any major professional sport.
And then the coffee kicked in.
You know what? The last year has actually been awesome for Toronto sports.
The Blue Jays are the obvious one. The trades, the incredible regular season path of destruction, going to the ALCS and legitimate playoff and championship excitement in the city of Toronto. It was an awesome experience and it looks like the Blue Jays should be en route to another strong season.
So how about some love for the Raptors, too?
Granted, winning another division title doesn’t seem nearly as cool after being swept in the first round by the Washington Wizards last spring. That was last year though. This season, the Raptors have a 35-17 record and sit in second place in the Eastern Conference, just three games back of LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers. This might be the best team the Raptors have ever put on a court.
It’s nice that Toronto, and Canada for that matter, are hosting the NBA All-Star Game. It should be a lot of fun, it’s cool seeing fans rally behind Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, and it’s nice seeing American media outlets mentions “Canada” and “basketball” in the same sentence and not feel obligated to mention Vince Carter or Steve Nash.
Once all the All-Star fun is over, this is a team that will be in the playoffs, hopefully go deep, and after that, you never know.
The Leafs are… interesting.
As this rebuilding season wears on, it’s starting to look more and more possible that the Leafs could lose a seven-game series to their own farm team, the Toronto Marlies. If there is one redeaming factor for the Leafs, it’s that they’re actually doing what they said they would be doing, which is rebuild.
The Leafs have fired almost everybody from their previous management regime including coaches and scouts. They rolled a Brinks truck of money up to Mike Babcock’s front door and signed one of the best coaches in hockey to an eight-year deal. They supplemented a young and crafty, but inexperienced, front office with 73-year-old Lou Lamoriello, whose nickname is “Loophole Lou.”
None of these things seemed possible a year ago when David Clarkson was on the second line.
Finally, let’s end on TFC… actually, no, I can’t do it. I’d talk about TFC’s one-game MLS playoff debut as a victory, but my Scottish father-in-law, who is a season-seat holder, would never forgive me.
The ongoing success of the Blue Jays and Raptors has me optimistic. The Leafs finally sticking to a plan and following through on their promises has me optimistic, too.
Sure, I’d rather have a few championships instead of optimism, but Toronto hasn’t had either in a long time.