Sports in Toronto
The city of Toronto, Ontario, Canada has a long history of sport. It is home to a number of clubs, including the Granite Club (est. 1836), the Royal Canadian Yacht Club (est. 1852), the Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club (est. pre-1827), the Argonaut Rowing Club (est. 1872), Toronto Argonauts football club (est. 1873), the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club (est. 1881), and the Badminton and Racquet Club (est. 1924). A number of heritage venues have developed in Toronto such as: Christie Pits (est. 1899), Ricoh Coliseum (est. 1921), Varsity Arena (est. 1926), Maple Leaf Gardens (est. 1931). Toronto is also the location of the Canadian Football League's headquarters.
- 1 Clubs
- 2 Ice hockey
- 3 Baseball
- 4 Basketball
- 5 Football
- 6 Soccer
- 7 Auto racing
- 8 Tennis
- 9 Lacrosse
- 10 Rugby league
- 11 Rugby union
- 12 Cricket
- 13 Australian rules football
- 14 Ultimate (disc)
- 15 Horse racing
- 16 Multi-sport events
- 17 Sports culture
- 18 References
- 19 See also
Professional sports teams based in the Greater Toronto Area
Toronto has teams in nearly every North American major professional league, including the Toronto Blue Jays (MLB), Toronto Argonauts (CFL), Toronto Raptors (NBA), Toronto FC (MLS) and the Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL).
Scotiabank Arena (home of the Leafs, Raptors, and Rock) and Rogers Centre (home of the Blue Jays) are located in the downtown core and are within walking distance from one another via Bremner Boulevard. The Rogers Centre was the first stadium to have a fully retractable motorized roof. BMO Field (home of the Argonauts and Toronto FC) and Coca-Cola Coliseum (home of the Toronto Marlies) are located at Exhibition Place, situated just outside the downtown core, while also being within walking distance from one another. Rogers Communications operates the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team through Rogers Blue Jays Baseball Partnership and the Rogers Centre (previously known as SkyDome). Canada Inc., a joint venture between Rogers Communications and Bell Canada owns 75% of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, owns the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Toronto Argonauts, and Toronto FC of Major League Soccer, as well as their minor league farm teams, the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League (AHL), Raptors 905 of the NBA G League and Toronto FC II of the USL League One.
Semi-professional or amateur sports teams in Toronto
|Toronto Maple Leafs||Baseball||Intercounty Baseball League||Christie Pits||1969||8|
|Toronto Croatia||Soccer||Canadian Soccer League||Centennial Park Stadium||1956||8|
|Serbian White Eagles||Soccer||Canadian Soccer League||Centennial Park Stadium||1968||1|
|North York Astros||Soccer||Canadian Soccer League||Esther Shiner Stadium||1990||0|
|Toronto Rush||Ultimate Disc||American Ultimate Disc League||Varsity Stadium||2013||1|
|Toronto FC Academy||Soccer||League1 Ontario||KIA Training Ground||2014||1|
|Sanjaxx Lions||Soccer||League1 Ontario||Monarch Park Stadium||2015||0|
|North Toronto Nitros||Soccer||League1 Ontario||Varsity Stadium||2016||0|
- Ryerson Rams (Ryerson University) (est. 1948)
- Varsity Blues (University of Toronto) (est. 1877)
- York Lions (York University) (est. 1968)
- UOIT Ridgebacks (University of Ontario Institute of Technology) (est. 2006)
|University of Toronto||Varsity Blues||Toronto||1827||Public||73,185||$2.38B||1955-56||East|
|University of Ontario Institute of Technology||Ridgebacks||Oshawa||2003||Public||5,000||---||2006-07||East|
|Toronto||Varsity Stadium||5,000||Goldring Centre||2,000||Varsity Arena||4,116||Varsity Stadium||5,000|
|Ryerson||No Football||--||Mattamy Athletic Centre||1,000||Mattamy Home Ice||2,796||Monarch Park Stadium||3,000|
|York||York Stadium||2,000||Tait McKenzie Centre||1,200||Canlan Ice Sports – York||1,700||York Stadium||2,000|
|UOIT||No Football||--||Campus Recreation & Wellness Centre||2,000||UOIT Campus Ice Centre||550||Vaso's Field||1,000|
The city is known for the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League, a team with passionate support in the city, and the most financially successful sports franchise in the country. The team built Maple Leaf Gardens, a sporting venue which served as the home arena for the Maple Leafs, and was also used for cultural and other events. Since 1999, they have played in the Scotiabank Arena (initially referred to as the Air Canada Centre). The team's roots stretch back to the Toronto Blueshirts of the National Hockey Association, the predecessor to the NHL. The NHA was founded in 1909 without any teams from Toronto. In 1911, the Arena Gardens was being built and Ambrose O'Brien, who had operated four NHA franchises but decided to get out of the business, sold two of his franchises to Toronto-based groups. The Toronto Hockey Club purchased one, which would become known as the Blueshirts, and a second was sold to a group affiliated with the Tecumseh Lacrosse Club for $500 cash and promissory notes for $2,000 which would be called the Toronto Tecumsehs. They were scheduled to begin play in the 1911-12 season, but construction delays led to the two Toronto teams being dropped from the schedule and they instead began play in 1912–13.
After a year of play, the Tecumsehs were sold and renamed the Toronto Ontarios. The following year the team was purchased by Eddie Livingstone, who renamed them the Toronto Shamrocks in January 1915. Later that year, Livingstone purchased the Blueshirts giving him ownership of two NHA teams, but after the Pacific Coast Hockey Association raids left him with only enough players for one team, he transferred Shamrocks players to the Blueshirts and only the Blueshirts competed in the 1915–16 NHA season. When Livingstone failed to sell the Shamrocks, the NHA seized the franchise, which was left dormant for the year before being reactivated in 1916–17, awarding it to a Canadian military team, the Toronto 228th Battalion. When the regiment was ordered overseas in February 1917, the team was forced to withdraw. That left the NHA with an odd number of teams, and as a result, the team owners, who wanted Livingstone out of the league, decided to suspend operations of the Blueshirts for the remainder of the season. Following the end of the season, Toronto was reinstated, with the condition that the club was to be sold within 60 days. However, Livingstone obtained a court order to prevent the sale.
Before the start of the 1917–18 season, the NHA owners announced that the league would not operate in the 1917–18 season. About two weeks later, all of the owners except Livingstone announced that they were creating a new league, the National Hockey League. Livingstone was not invited to participate in the new league. However, the other teams wished to continue a team in Toronto, and also needed a fourth team to balance the schedule. Accordingly, Livingstone's landlord, the Toronto Arena Company, was given a temporary franchise in the NHL and leased Livingstone's Torontos players for the inaugural 1917–18 NHL season. Although the team had no official name, it was made up mostly of former Blue Shirts and as a result, the newspapers still called the team the Blue Shirts or the Torontos, as they always had. The Arena Company had originally promised to return the Toronto players to Livingstone if no transfer could be arranged. Instead, before the 1918–19 season, it formed a new club, which was known as the Toronto Arenas. This new franchise was separated from the Arena Company. The dispute with Livingstone forced the Arena Company into bankruptcy. The Arenas were sold to a group headed by Charles Querrie for $5000, who renamed them the Toronto St. Patricks. In 1927, with the team in trouble financially due to Querrie having lost a lawsuit to former Livingstone, Querrie put the St. Pats up for sale and agreed in principle to sell them for $200,000 to a group that would move the team to Philadelphia. However, Conn Smythe persuaded Querrie that civic pride was more important than money and put together a syndicate that bought the St. Pats. Smythe himself invested $10,000 of his own money and his group contributed $75,000 up front and a further $75,000 due 30 days later, with minority partner Jack Bickell retaining his $40,000 share in the team. The deal was finalized on Valentine’s Day, and the new owners quickly renamed the team the Toronto Maple Leafs.:85–86
When the World Hockey Association, a rival league to the NHL, awarded Doug Michel an Ontario-based franchise in 1971 for $25,000 to play in the WHA's inaugural 1972–73 season, Toronto was one of several cities under consideration as home for the team. Harold Ballard, owner of the Maple Leafs and Maple Leaf Gardens, offered to rent the arena to the team, but Michel found the rent excessive. He then tried to base the team in Hamilton, but the city did not have an appropriate venue. Michel settled on Ottawa and the team became the Ottawa Nationals. However, after a season at the Ottawa Civic Centre, the team decided to relocate and played their home playoff games at Maple Leaf Gardens. During this time, the team was referred to as the Ontario Nationals. The team moved to Toronto permanently for the following season after being sold to John F. Bassett, son of former Leafs part-owner John Bassett. Future Leafs owner Steve Stavro was a minority shareholder. They were renamed the Toronto Toros in June 1973. However, they could only attract a fraction of the attendance numbers the competing Leafs drew. In their inaugural season, they played out of Varsity Arena, but played the next two seasons out of Maple Leaf Gardens. The team played their final game in Toronto in 1976, after which a drop in attendance and onerous lease terms at the Gardens forced them to relocate to Birmingham, Alabama as the Birmingham Bulls.
In the early 1980s, Ballard and the owner of the Edmonton Oilers discussed to possibility of the franchise swapping home cities with the Maple Leafs, with Ballard receiving $50 million to compensate him for relocating to the smaller city, but the deal fell through.
There have been numerous attempts to establish a second NHL team in the Greater Toronto Area or nearby Hamilton. The latter briefly had the Hamilton Tigers in the NHL from 1920, when local interests purchased and relocated the Quebec Bulldogs, until 1925 when they folded.
In 2003, the Toronto Roadrunners of the American Hockey League played their inaugural season out of a renovated Ricoh Coliseum in Exhibition Place. They served as a farm club for the NHL's Edmonton Oilers. After a season of bad attendance, the team relocated to Edmonton, Alberta. However, with the Ricoh Coliseum vacated, a new tenant for the facility was found with the Maple Leafs relocating their AHL farm team, the St. John's Maple Leafs, from St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador to Toronto as the Toronto Marlies in 2005.
Toronto has also hosted various international hockey tournaments: hosting parts of the 1972 and 1974 Summit Series; parts of the 1976 and 1991 Canada Cups; parts of the 2004 World Cup of Hockey & all of the 2016 edition; and parts of the 2015 & 2017 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships.
Participation in minor hockey is very popular. The Greater Toronto Area is home to the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL), the largest minor hockey league in the world, and the North York Hockey League.
The Greater Toronto Area has also been home to several women's hockey team including the professional Canadian Women's Hockey League's (CWHL) Markham Thunder and Toronto Furies. However, the league ceased operations in 2019.
Professional baseball has had a presence in the city at the minor league level since 1896 with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the AAA International League. It was in a game against the Leafs on September 4, 1914 at Hanlan's Point Stadium where Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run while also pitching a complete game one-hitter for the visiting Providence Grays. Hall of famer Sparky Anderson was also a member of the Leafs as both a player and a manager.
Toronto interests long pursued a major league team for the city. Toronto was proposed as the home for a National League (NL) team by Albert Spalding when he was established the league in 1876. Exhibition games were played by both the NL and American League (AL) of Major League Baseball (MLB) in Toronto in the 1910s. Member of Parliament Bernard Rickart Hepburn was granted a Toronto franchise by the Federal League, a rival major league to the NL and AL, for its inaugural season in 1914, after the franchise was revoked from Cleveland. After speculation the franchise would be returned to Cleveland or moved to Cincinnati, it was transferred to Brooklyn to become the Brooklyn Tip-Tops prior to playing a game in Toronto. Hepburn cited his inability to find a park to play at in short notice as the reason the team didn't launch. However, he secured an agreement with the league which granted him the rights to a team for the following season. Though Toronto would be proposed as the new home to the Kansas City Packers Federal League franchise for the 1915 season, no team ever came to fruition in the city.
Toronto interests put forward a bid to buy the Washington Nationals to move them to Toronto in 1918 when there was discussion of the team relocating. The following year it was reported that there were plans for the Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees, which were dissatisfied with the President of the AL Ban Johnson, to break away and form their own new major league, which would include Toronto. In 1922 a Toronto group attempted to purchase the Boston Red Sox to relocate them to Toronto. The owner of the Boston Braves, Lou Perini, tried to sell his team to Toronto interests in the early 1950s before relocating them to become the Milwaukee Braves. While owning the Maple Leafs baseball team, Jack Kent Cooke set his sights on bringing MLB to Toronto. He made a bid on the St. Louis Browns in 1953, but the team was sold to a competing group which relocated them to become the Baltimore Orioles the following season. The AL considered Toronto as a potential home for the Philadelphia Athletics before they became the Kansas City Athletics in 1955, after Cooke bid on them, but the city's lack of a major league venue was an obstacle to acquiring a team. Cooke unsuccessfully bid on the Detroit Tigers in 1956, reportedly to move them to Toronto. In 1957 he submitted a bid for a NL expansion team for Toronto. In 1958, Cooke offered to withdraw from Toronto if the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were considering relocating, moved to the city, in exchange for partial ownership of the club. That same year it was reported that Toronto was one of the cities that the owner of the Washington Senators was considering relocating his team to. In 1959 Cooke became one of the founding owners in the Continental League, a proposed third major league of baseball, getting a team for Toronto for a fee of $50,000, but the league disbanded a year later without ever staging a game. Cooke later applied to the AL for a Toronto expansion team in 1960, but found the expansion terms too onerous, and considered purchasing the Cincinnati Reds for Toronto in 1961 after their owner died.
In 1967, with mounting losses, the owner of the baseball Maple Leafs sough a buyer to keep the team in Toronto. Maple Leaf Gardens Limited, owner of the Maple Leafs of the NHL, considered purchasing the team, but the deal ultimately fell apart due to concerns about the team's home, Maple Leaf Stadium, which needed up to $250,000 in repairs and whose owner wanted $4 million to purchase it. Harold Ballard, part owner of MLGL, said that the company's interest was due in part to help position itself to go after an MLB franchise for Toronto. The team was subsequently relocated out of Toronto to Louisville, Kentucky.
In 1967 a Toronto group was one of six to submit a bid for a NL expansion team. In 1971, Howard Webster, chairman of The Globe and Mail, made an offer to purchase the San Diego Padres and relocate them to Toronto but it was refused. In early 1974, MLGL announced plans to build a new baseball stadium in Toronto, but the city ultimately decided to renovate Exhibition Stadium to make it suitable for baseball. Later that year a group called Canadian Baseball Co. led by Sydney Cooper submitted an application to both the AL and NL for a franchise. Cooper had previously been part of Webster's group. At the time it was reported that there were at least four groups bidding for a Toronto team, including ones led by Labatt Brewing Company, MLGL and Robert Hunter, the former President of the International League Maple Leafs, in addition to Canadian Baseball Co. Lorne Duguid, vice-president of Hiram Walker Distillers and MLGL executive, led MLGL's bid.
In 1975, the owner of the Baltimore Orioles stated that he was in negotiations to sell his team to a Toronto group. The following January, San Francisco Giants owner Horace Stoneham agreed to sell the team for $13.25 million to a group headed by Labatt intending to relocate it to Toronto. The team would have begun play in the 1976 season at Exhibition Stadium, and be called the Toronto Giants. However the plan to move the Giants was quashed by a U.S. court. The MLGL group also bid on the Giants, with Ballard stating that they had offered $15 million for the team, after having previously negotiated with the owners of the Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians and Oakland Athletics in their attempt to acquire a team for Toronto.
The Labatt group then pursued a NL expansion team, but when the NL only agreed to consider expanding in March 1976, while the AL voted to grant Toronto a team, they switched gears. A second Toronto group backed by Carling O'Keefe also applied for the AL expansion team. Less than a week later, the AL awarded the team to the Labatt group, which included Webster, and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), for $7 million. A few days later the NL had their own vote on expanding to Toronto and Washington, but while receiving a majority support of 10-2 it failed to pass due to lack of unanimity and was put off for two weeks. The NL objected to the AL's expansion in to Toronto, arguing that the NL was a better match for the city with a natural rivalry with the Montreal Expos, and asked baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn to intervene so they could reconsider their own expansion plans. Kuhn requested a moratorium on the AL's expansion plans, but a second non-unanimous vote by the NL on expanding to Toronto left Toronto uncontested to the AL. The Toronto Blue Jays' inaugural campaign was in 1977 with Exhibition Stadium chosen as the site for the team's home games. Built in the 1950s, it was rebuilt in 1976 to satisfy the requirements for baseball. In 1989, the team moved to the newly built SkyDome (now known as the Rogers Centre). Although the team performed poorly, placing last in the American League East for each of its first three years, successful drafting and team management resulted in improved performance that led to the team's first pennant in 1985, and culminated with consecutive World Series victories in 1992 and 1993.
Basketball is among the fastest growing sports in Toronto and is the most popular sport among the city's youth and millennials. Although not as historically entrenched in Toronto culture as other sports, basketball does have significant milestones in the city. The first major professional basketball game in the city was an exhibition between the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons and Rochester Royals of the National Basketball League at the Gardens in 1946. The first game of the professional Basketball Association of America, forerunner of the National Basketball Association (NBA), was contested at Maple Leaf Gardens (MLG) between the Toronto Huskies and the New York Knickerbockers on November 1, 1946. However, the Huskies folded after the league's inaugural season following losses thought to total $60,000. Numerous exhibition and regular season NBA and American Basketball Association (ABA) games were held at both MLG and SkyDome over the years, including a total of 16 regular season Buffalo Braves games at MLG from 1971-75 in an attempt to gauge the city's interest in a full-time team.
Ruby Richman, the former coach of Canada's national basketball team, working with the head of Maple Leaf Gardens Limited (MLGL) Harold Ballard, pursued a number of existing ABA and NBA teams to relocate to the city in the 1970s. Richman had a tentative agreement to purchase both the Miami Floridians and Pittsburgh Condors of the ABA with the plan to merge them into a single Toronto-based team, but the deal fell through. Later Richman held negotiations with the Detroit Pistons, which were seeking $5 million for the franchise, but pulled out when the price was raised to $8.25 million. MLGL attempted to purchase the Braves for $8.5 million and relocate them to Toronto in 1974, and again several times later, with Carling O'Keefe also considering purchasing the team in 1976, but the owners eventually chose to move the team to San Diego.
When Toronto was awarded an expansion NBA franchise in 1974 for the 1975-76 season MLGL was one of three groups to bid for the rights to the team, but the club never materialized since no group was able to secure funding for the expansion fee of at least $6.15 million. MLGL attempted to purchase and relocate the Houston Rockets in 1975, which were seeking $8 million for the team, but the teams lease ultimately prevented a relocation. In 1976, MLGL attempted to buy the Atlanta Hawks. In 1979, a Toronto group which included Balard again pushed for an expansion franchise, but lost out to the Dallas Mavericks.
Toronto interests considered purchasing and relocating the Kansas City Kings in 1979. In 1983, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Ted Stepien stated that "the chances are 999-to-1" that his team would be relocated and renamed the Toronto Towers, playing their games in MLG, with Carling O'Keefe thought to be involved financially in the deal, but he ultimately sold it to a local group. A Toronto group which included Bill Ballard, son of Harold, and Basketball Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain submitted an application and $100,000 deposit for a NBA expansion franchise for MLG in 1986, but of the six cities to apply Toronto was not one of the four which were successful. Larry Tanenbaum attempted to purchase and relocate the Denver Nuggets to Toronto in 1991, but the team could not get out of its lease at the McNichols Arena. Tanenbaum later pursued the New Jersey Nets and San Antonio Spurs unsuccessfully. Ultimately, the NBA awarded an expansion franchise to John Bitove, over Tanenbaum's group which had partnered with the Maple Leafs and a third group led by Bill Ballard and Michael Cohl, and the Toronto Raptors joined the NBA for the 1995–96 season, giving the city its own team once again. The franchise was one of two Canadian expansion teams announced by the NBA in 1993, the other being the Vancouver Grizzlies, which moved south of the border to Memphis after the 2000–01 season.
The Toronto Tornados of the minor league Continental Basketball Association played in the city from 1983-85 before being relocated to Pensacola, Florida in the middle of their third season to become the Pensacola Tornados.
Toronto has also hosted parts of the 1994 FIBA World Championship.
Toronto hosted the 2016 NBA All-Star Game weekend February 12–14, 2016.
Toronto Raptors won their first NBA Title on June 13, 2019.
Toronto is home to the oldest professional football team in North America, the Toronto Argonauts, who have won the Grey Cup championship a record 17 times, most recently in 2017. Toronto has also played host to the Grey Cup Championship 48 times, more than any other city and most recently the 104th Grey Cup in 2016. The Argos were founded in 1873 by the Argonaut Rowing Club and is referred to colloquially as the Boatmen in honour of that heritage. The team is also known as the double blue because of the franchise colours (Oxford blue and Cambridge blue); the colour blue has become emblematic of the city and most of its sports franchises. The Argos also draw the highest per-game attendance of any sports team in Toronto and draw the second highest per-game TV ratings nationally of any Toronto-based sports team (after the Maple Leafs hockey club). In the early 1970s, Maple Leaf Gardens Limited announced plans to apply for a second Canadian Football League team to be based in Toronto which would play at Varsity Stadium, but the proposal never went anywhere. During his tenure as owner of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Ballard repeatedly threatened to move the franchise to Varsity Stadium, but the move was vetoed by the Argos.
Toronto also has a long history with American football. The first professional U.S. football team to play a home game in Toronto was the Los Angeles Wildcats of the American Football League of 1926, the first major competitor to the National Football League for the dominance of professional football. While the Wildcats nominally represented Los Angeles, California, frequent travel to the west coast still posed a major obstacle so the team was instead a traveling team based in Illinois and played most of its games in the home stadiums of its opponents, with the exception of the Toronto game. The Wildcats lost the regular season game to the New York Yankees (which would join the National Football League (NFL) the following year) 28-0 in front of 10,000 fans at Maple Leaf Stadium on November 8, 1926. The NFL has had a presence in Toronto since 1959 when the Argonauts hosted three NFL teams in a three-season span. The nearby Hamilton Tiger-Cats also hosted a game against the Buffalo Bills, then an American Football League team. Several decades later, the American Bowl and later the Bills Toronto Series brought both preseason and regular season games to the Rogers Centre.
There have been several failed attempts to establish a professional American football franchise in Toronto in the past. A Toronto group submitted a bid for an American Football League expansion team for the city in 1960, the expansion fee set at $125,000, with plans to play in the league's second season in the following year. Toronto interests continued pursuing an AFL team for several years, with the league naming the city as a potential expansion market in 1965. In 1964 a Toronto group applied for a United Football League franchise, but ultimately withdrew their bid for a team. Following the season, a Toronto group attempted to purchase the Canton Bulldogs of the UFL to relocate them to Toronto. When the Continental Football League was established for the 1965 season with former UFL teams, the Quebec Rifles of the UFL were admitted and transferred to Toronto to become the Toronto Rifles due to a lack of a suitable facility in Montreal. The Rifles competed in the Continental League from 1965–67, but the owners pulled out in the middle of their final season after having lost a reported $400,000 in their final full season. The league took over the club and planned to have it play all of its games on the road, but several weeks later the team folded.
During John Bassett's ownership of the Argonauts from the late 1950s to early 1970s, he entertained various machinations for bringing American football to Toronto, including moving the Argos to the NFL or bringing an NFL team to the city alongside the Argos. Other CFL team owners were steadfastly against Bassett's moves and almost rescinded his franchise in 1974. His son John F. Bassett obtained a World Football League franchise for the city in the league's inaugural season of 1974, which he named the Toronto Northmen, but in response the Canadian government proposed the Canadian Football Act, a bill that would have banned US football leagues from playing in Canada to protect the CFL from competition. The bill forced Bassett to move the club to Memphis where they became the Memphis Southmen. When the legislation died without being approved before the 1974 Canadian federal election, Bassett again attempted to put a team in Toronto for the 1975 season. There were plans to establish a United States Football League franchise in Toronto in 1983 being pushed by John F. Bassett, but again the Canadian government warned against it and the idea was dropped. The XFL considered expanding to Toronto for 2002, but ultimately folded after its inaugural season in 2001. There have been efforts to bring an NFL team to Toronto for more than 40 years. In 2014, it was widely reported that Toronto interests, including Larry Tanenbaum, part owner of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), and Edward Rogers III, Deputy Chairman of Rogers Communication, were attempting to acquire a NFL franchise in hopes of moving it to Toronto.
There were numerous attempts to bring the Arena Football League to Maple Leaf Gardens in the 1990s. The city was considered by the league for a 1996 and 1997 expansion club, with John Bitove, owner of the Toronto Raptors, one of several groups interested in owning the team. MLSE held negotiations with the Arena League on acquiring a $4–7 million expansion franchise for 1999 to coincide with the opening of their new building the ACC. Several other groups also considered putting a club in the ACC following its opening. In 2000, the New England Sea Wolves were purchased by a group led by Rogers Communication and relocated from Hartford, Connecticut, becoming the Toronto Phantoms the following year. However, the team lasted only two seasons before folding when the Arena League switched its regular season window from the summer to the spring.
Toronto has also hosted the Vanier Cup Championship 41 times, the most out of any host city, serving as its exclusive host from its inception in 1965 until 2003. In 2004, Canadian Interuniversity Sport began accepting bids from other cities to host the event. Since then, Toronto has won 2 additional bids to host Vanier Cup Championships in 2007 & 2012 to coincide with both the 95th & 100th Grey Cups being played during the same weekend in the city.
Toronto was granted an expansion team in the women's Lingerie Football League (now the Legends Football League), the Toronto Triumph. The team played their games at the Ricoh Coliseum for one season in 2011-12. The league is legitimate indoor football, which at the time was played by women in lingerie and football pads, though players now wear more standard athletic apparel.
The popularity of soccer reflects the city's demographics; Toronto is a multicultural city with a large immigrant population that has long-established roots with the game.
Toronto has had teams in a number of first division soccer leagues of the United States. The Toronto Greenbacks were members of the North American Soccer Football League for its two years of existence in 1946-47. In 1967, two rival leagues began play: the United Soccer Association (USA) and National Professional Soccer League (NPSL). Both leagues had Toronto-based clubs with Toronto City (owned by future owner of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Steve Stavro) joining the USA and the Toronto Falcons in the NPSL and both playing their games at Varsity Stadium. Following the merger of the two leagues for the 1968 season only the Falcons survived, with Stavro selling his team back to the league for $160,000. However, the Falcons only played a single year in the newly founded North American Soccer League (NASL) with losses reported to be up to $500,000 before folding. The following year, Toronto City was invited to join the NASL. Subsequently, the Toronto Metros joined the NASL in 1971, and though they were renamed the Toronto Metros-Croatia in 1975 following the purchase of 50% of the club for $250,000 by the Toronto Croatia of the National Soccer League, and again in 1979 to the Toronto Blizzard following the acquisition of 85% of the team by Global Television Network for $2.6 million, the team played until the NASL folded in 1984.
In 1994, then part owner of the SkyDome Labatt considered purchasing a team in Major League Soccer (MLS), the new top US league, to play at the stadium. In 2004, then Toronto Argonauts owners Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon considered bringing a MLS team to the city in connection with negotiations on the construction of a new stadium to jointly house the Argos and soccer, but when BMO Field was ultimately built the Argos were excluded for the deal. In 2007, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment launched Toronto FC in MLS as its first international team.
Toronto has also hosted professional indoor soccer teams. The Metros-Croatia fielded a team in NASL's indoor league from 1975–76, as did the Blizzard in 1980-82. The Major Indoor Soccer League considered putting a team in Toronto in 1987. In 1988 the American Indoor Soccer Association (AISA) granted Toronto a franchise which was to play its games at Hamilton, Ontario's Copps Coliseum, but the team never launched. The Toronto Shooting Stars competed in the National Professional Soccer League, as the AISA had renamed itself, during the 1996-97 season, but the ownership of the franchise collapsed just 3 games in, forcing the league to take control of the team's operations for the remainder of the season. After losses of nearly $1 million, the team suspended operations and never returned to play. An application was made for a new NPSL Toronto team in 1998. The NPSL returned to Toronto with the Toronto ThunderHawks for the 2000–01 season, playing at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ontario. When the NPSL disbanded in the summer of 2001 and reorganized as the Major Indoor Soccer League, the ThunderHawks were admitted to the new league under the condition that they would suspend operations for the 2001–02 season to work on the business side of the franchise and return to active competition for the 2002–03 season. However, the team never returned from this temporary suspension of operations. In April 2017 the Major Arena Soccer League announced that it had granted an expansion franchise, which was later name Mississauga MetroStars, to begin play in 2018 at the Hershey Centre.
Toronto has also been home to numerous minor pro soccer teams. The Toronto Nationals played in the Canadian Professional Soccer League in its only season in 1983. The Eastern Canada Professional Soccer League, which existed between 1961-1966, featured 3 Toronto based teams over those years: Toronto City (1961-1965), which later joined the United Soccer Association, Toronto Roma FC (1962-1964) / Inter-Roma (1965-1966), and Toronto Italia FC (1961-1964) / Italia Falcons (1965–66). The Toronto Blizzard played in the Canadian Soccer League from 1987 to 1992 and the American Professional Soccer League in 1993 before folding following the United States Soccer Federation's decision to reject the APSL's bid for sanctioning as a first division league in favour of a competing bid from the group that would found MLS. The Blizzard were replaced in the APSL by the Toronto Rockets in 1994, but they to folded prior to the following season. The A-League, as the APSL was then known, awarded Toronto another team to begin play in 1997. When the A-league and USISL Select League merged for the 1997 season, the Toronto expansion team, which was named the Toronto Lynx, debuted in the combined league, which carried on the A-League name. The Lynx would play in the A-League until 2004. When the league was renamed the USL First Division, they continued their membership. However, in 2007, with the arrival of TFC to the city, the Lynx dropped down to the fourth USL Premier Development League, where they competed until 2014.
Toronto hosted parts of the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup. Toronto also hosted the 2010 Major League Soccer championship match between FC Dallas and Colorado Rapids (Colorado defeated Dallas 2-1). It was the first time the MLS cup took place outside of the United States.
Toronto would go on to host 2 more MLS Cups. On December 10, 2016, the MLS Cup was held at BMO Field where Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders played to a 0-0 draw, with the Sounders winning 5-4 on penalty kicks to claim the championship. On December 9, 2017, Toronto FC defeated the Seattle Sounders 2–0 in an MLS Cup rematch, and became the first MLS team to complete a domestic treble with their win by virtue of winning the Supporters' Shield with an MLS record 69 points & the Canadian Championship combined. They also became the first Canadian team to win the MLS Cup.
The Honda Indy Toronto is an IndyCar Series race, held annually in July on a temporary street circuit that runs through Exhibition Place and on Lake Shore Boulevard. The city has hosted the race for over thirty years and it is now IndyCar's second-longest running street race, only behind the Grand Prix of Long Beach and the fourth oldest race on the current IndyCar schedule in terms of number of races run. Historically, the city played host to the 1958 Jim Mideon 500, a NASCAR Cup Series racing event at Exhibition Stadium. Legendary NASCAR driver Lee Petty won this race, defeating his son Richard in the latter's Cup Series debut.
Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, formerly known as Mosport Park, is located approximately 100 km east of Toronto in the community of Bowmanville. The venue holds the unique distinction in motorsport of having hosted Formula One, IndyCar, NASCAR, Can-Am, MotoGP and World Superbike events. The track hosts Canada's largest annual sportscar race, the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix part of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250, the NASCAR Pinty's Series, the Pirelli World Challenge and the Canadian Superbike Championship along with other events. The track was the original home of Formula One's Canadian Grand Prix from 1961 to 1977 (except for 1968 and 1970).
The Rogers Cup, historically known as the Canadian Open, is an annual professional tennis tournament held at the Aviva Centre at York University. The tournament began in 1881 and is the third oldest major tennis tournament in the world behind only Wimbledon and the US Open. The men's competition is an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) tour. The women's competition is a Premier 5 event on the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) tour. The events alternate from year-to-year between the cities of Montreal and Toronto. In odd-numbered years, the men's tournament is held in Montreal, while the women's tournament is held in Toronto, and vice versa in even-numbered years. The competition is played on hard courts.
From 1971 until 1990, Toronto hosted the Toronto Molson Light Challenge a second annual professional men's tennis tournament played on indoor carpet courts at Maple Leaf Gardens. The final tournament took place in February 1990 at the SkyDome and went by the tournament name Skydome World Tennis.
The Toronto Rock, which operate in the National Lacrosse League, were founded in 1998 as the Ontario Raiders in Hamilton. The following year, the team moved to Toronto proceeded to finish first every year from 1999 to 2005 and won the league championship in five of those seven seasons. The city previously had several professional box lacrosse teams. A team named the Toronto Maple Leafs competed in the first season of the professional International Lacrosse League in 1931 at the Arena Gardens. Following the season, a new franchise was awarded to Conn Smythe on behalf of Maple Leaf Gardens Ltd. (MLGL), which was also named the Toronto Maple Leafs, with the previous season's Maple Leafs being renamed the Tecumsehs. Both teams played at the newly opened Maple Leaf Gardens. Smythe pulled out following the season due to financial losses, and the league didn't play the following year. Toronto also had a team in the American Box Lacrosse League in 1932.
The Toronto Maple Leafs competed in the inaugural season of the National Lacrosse Association in 1968 at the Gardens. Stafford Smythe and Harold Ballard, part owners of the NHL Maple Leafs, were two of the five founding partners of the club, but financial difficulties forced MLGL to take over ownership midway though the season. The NLA suspended operations prior to the following season. However, the eastern division of the NLA reconstituted itself as the Eastern Professional Lacrosse Association, in which the Maple Leafs competed in 1969. By 1970 the pro league league had disbanded.
The Toronto Shooting Stars joined the professional National Lacrosse League (unrelated to the modern NLL) for its inaugural season in 1972. When a new professional league launched as the National Lacrosse League (again unrelated to today's NLL) in 1974, the Toronto Tomahawks were included as a charter franchise. The Shooting Stars continued as an amateur team in the Ontario Lacrosse Association, but folded following the 1974 season. The Tomahawks were sold following the 1974 season, and received league approval to move the team to Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Long Island, New York. However, ultimately it was decided to relocate the team to Boston to become the Boston Bolts for the start of the 1975 NLL season, with the Rochester Griffins becoming the Long Island Tomahawks.
In 2009, the Toronto Nationals of Major League Lacrosse was established, with much of the roster of the Rochester Rattlers, which would be suspended, being transferred to the new Nationals' team. However, the name, colours, and history stayed behind in Rochester to potentially be used by a future MLL team. In their inaugural year in Toronto, the Nationals went on to win the Steinfeld Cup. In 2011, the team relocated to Hamilton, Ontario, and after the 2013 season the team announced they would not field a team the following season.
In 2014, Toronto investors submitted an application for a professional rugby league franchise in the British/French League 1, the third-tier of the Rugby Football League (RFL) system. It was announced in 2016 that the Toronto Wolfpack would join the RFL's third division League One from April 2017, becoming the first professional transatlantic sports team. The team plays in Toronto's 9,600 seat Lamport Stadium, with the goal of earning promotion to the top-tier Super League. The club won the League 1 championship in its inaugural season, thereby earning promotion to the second division Championship for the 2018 season.
In 2018, the Wolfpack reached the Qualifiers, an end of season round robin tournament for the four top teams from the RFL Championship, and the bottom four teams from Super League. Finishing fourth qualified Wolfpack for the Million Pound Game, a final eliminator for the last place in Super League in 2019. However, they were defeated 6-4 by London Broncos, and will thus rejoin the RFL championship for the 2019 season.
Domestically, the Ontario Rugby league competition has 2 Toronto based teams in the Toronto Centurions and Toronto City Saints the other 2 teams which make up the competition are Brantford Broncos and Oakville Crusaders not too far from Toronto.
The Canada national rugby league team, nicknamed the Wolverines, are also based at Lamport Stadium.
The semi-pro rugby union team the Toronto Rebellion (formerly the Renegades and Xtreme) played in the Rugby Canada Super League from 1999 to 2007 and the Rugby Canada National Junior Championship in 2009. The team hosted games at Markham, Ontario's Fletcher's Fields in the north of the Greater Toronto Area. The team was replaced by the Ontario Blues of the Canadian Rugby Championship in 2009, who play their games at various locations across the province including Fletcher's Fields. In 2016, the United States based PRO Rugby league stated that it was considering expanding to Toronto, though the plans fell through and the league folded before its second season. Pro14, a European based league, in 2017 was reportedly considering placing an expansion franchise in Toronto.
In 2017, the Ontario Arrows were formed as a semi-professional version of the Ontario Blues. They began playing a series of exhibition games against MLR, American amateur clubs, and other opposition, to prepare for applying to join Major League Rugby. In November 2018 their entry was announced, including a re-brand to the Toronto Arrows. They began MLR play in January 2019 as an expansion team along with Rugby United New York. The Arrows have played at York University's Alumni Field and downtown at Lamport Stadium.
The Global T20 Canada is a 20-over cricket tournament played in Canada. The first season of the tournament started in June 2018, with six teams competing. The Maple Leaf Cricket Club in King City, Ontario hosted all matches for the first season of the competition. In 2019, the CAA Centre in Brampton, Ontario hosted all the matches for the second season of the competition.
Australian rules football
Toronto currently has seven different Australian rules football teams called the Broadview Hawks, High Park Demons, Central Blues, Etobicoke Kangaroos, Lakeshore Rebels, Toronto Downtown Dingos, and the Toronto Eagles. There are two more Ontario Australian Football League teams in the surrounding areas, the Hamilton Wildcats and the Grand River Gargoyles.
Ultimate is a team sport played with a flying disc. The object of the game is to score points by passing the disc to members of your own team, on a rectangular field approximately the size of a soccer field, until you have successfully completed a pass to a team member in the opposing teams end zone. In the 1970s, Ken Westerfield introduced disc sports including ultimate north of the 49th parallel at the Canadian Open Frisbee Championships and by creating the Toronto Ultimate League (Club). Since 1998, Canada has been ranked number one in the World Ultimate Rankings, several times in all divisions (including Open and Women's) according to the World Flying Disc Federation. In 2013, as a founding partner, the Toronto Ultimate Club presented Canada's first semi-professional ultimate team the Toronto Rush, to the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL). They finished their first season undefeated 18-0 and won the AUDL Championships. Disc ultimate has become one of today's fastest growing sports. In 2015, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) granted full recognition to the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) for flying disc sports including ultimate.
Horse racing meets are held at Woodbine Racetrack in the northwestern suburb of Rexdale in Toronto. Woodbine is the only horse racing track in North America which stages, or is capable of staging, thoroughbred and standardbred racing programs on the same day. Woodbine hosts two of the three legs of the Canadian Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing—the opening Queen's Plate on its Polytrack synthetic dirt course, and the closing Breeders' Stakes on grass. In 1996 Woodbine became the first and only track outside the United States to host the Breeders' Cup World Championships. The Woodbine facility is also home to the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.
In the following decades, Toronto submitted bids to host the Summer Olympic Games five times: 1960, 1964, 1976, 1996 and 2008. The closest it came to winning the games was in 2008, when it finished second to Beijing by a vote of 56-22. Varsity Stadium on the campus of the University of Toronto, hosted some of the matches of the Olympic football tournament of the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.
In 2009, Toronto submitted a bid to host the Pan American Games and Parapan American Games, subsequently winning both of them for 2015. After successfully hosting both the 2015 Pan Am & Parapan American Games, the city briefly considered another Olympic bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics, but on September 15, 2015, Toronto Mayor John Tory announced that the city would not be a candidate for a bid.
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Due to their geographic locations, Toronto has an intense sports rivalry with many cities around the Great Lakes. For football, Toronto has a rivalry with Hamilton (begun in 1873 and is heightened during the Labour Day Classic), Ottawa and as far as Montreal. In hockey, Toronto's rivals include the Montreal Canadiens the Ottawa Senators (often dubbed the "Battle of Ontario"), and the Detroit Red Wings. In basketball, Toronto's rival includes the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Hockey Hall of Fame is an ice hockey museum located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Dedicated to the history of ice hockey, it is a museum and a hall of fame. It holds exhibits about players, teams, National Hockey League records, memorabilia and NHL trophies, including the Stanley Cup. The Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame was founded in 1993 by Lee Abrahamson and Gary Magwood assisted by Len Coates to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of the Canadian motorsport communities.
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