Toronto Maple Leafs
I've been busy. I've failed to document not one but two significant trades involving Toronto teams.
Yesterday the Leafs sent minor-leaguer Byron Froese and a conditional second round pick in 2017 to Tampa for fourth-line centre Brian Boyle. The only reason you make this deal is to make the playoffs this season. It seems the tear-down is officially over.
Depending on the day, I can be passionately want the Leafs to miss the playoffs and land another top ten pick or make the playoffs and give me some fun April nights with the family. It seems the Shanaplan now calls for option #2. Giddy-up!
The Raptors, meanwhile, have won four in a row after a rough stretch. All four games have been comebacks from double-digit deficits and thrilling finishes. The defensive intensity late in games has been amped up with the addition of Serge Ibaka and now P.J. Tucker.
While I was busy, the Raptors sent Jared Sullinger and two second-round draft picks to Phoenix for the former Toronto draftee. We're going to need him if we're going to take a series against the Cavs.
We're all hoping we don't meet the Cavs until the conference final, but Kyle Lowry's surgery makes that unlikely. But if a finals berth goes through Cleveland, it might be better to catch them early. Here's hopin'.
The Maple Leafs Forever is brilliant. Now that Tim Thompson has updated the montage to include Auston and the kids, it's even better.
If you're interested in long form discussions about this Leafs montage, I spoke with both Tim Thompson and singer Ron Hawkins about it in great detail.
In this 216th episode, Mike chats with Kevin Shea about his years working with "Weird Al" Yankovic and Motley Crue, selling Smells Like Teen Spirit to radio and the legend of Bill Barilko in glorious blue and white detail. This episode is exactly 1:18:17.
You can listen to this episode in a variety of ways:
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I've been blogging here for 14 years, and during that time there were some pretty low times in Toronto sports. Just four years ago I wrote this about the new bottom for Toronto sports teams. Things were very, very bad for the big five.In 2016, things got a whole lot better. In fact, there's something great to report about every team in the big five not nicknamed the Argos. Although we didn't win a championship, we were close!
Ten years after their birth, TFC hosted the MLS Cup final, losing a heartbreaker to Seattle. That second leg against Montreal in the semi-final was absolutely thrilling.
Toronto Blue Jays
For the second year in a row, the Blue Jays played in the ALCS. Unlike the hype train of 2015, this didn't seem likely in September as we sputtered into the playoffs, but an Edwin walk-off against Baltimore in the wildcard game and a sweep of the Rangers in the ALDS helped recapture the joy of the previous year.
For the first time in franchise history, the Raptors won a best-of-seven playoff series. And we did it twice! We even took two games against Cleveland in the conference finals, making this far and away the best Raptors season, ever.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Last season, the Leafs were bad. Very, very bad. This is a good thing, as it helped us land Auston Matthews with the first overall pick in the draft. Now, with Matthews, Marner and Nylander, the future actually looks bright and the present is a lot of fun, too.
Let's not ruin this entry with an Argos update.
In addition to successful developments for the big four teams in this city, Toronto hosted the Grey Cup, World Cup of Hockey and World Juniors. 2016 was a very good year for Toronto sports. Let's hope for a championship in 2017.
As a Toronto hockey fan born in the 70s, I idolized Wendel Clark. You'd be hard pressed to find a Toronto hockey fan born in the 70s who didn't. Here's something I wrote about Wendel almost 10 years ago.
I will never forget the 1985-86 post season when we swept the Chicago Black Hawks in three games. That was when my brothers and I first broke out the Diet Coke. You would have thought we had just won the cup. Wendel was our leader and a member of The Hound Line with Russ Courtnall and Gary Leeman. We took the St. Louis Blues to a seventh game before bowing out. We went just as deep the next season, too.
Wendel Clark scored the overtime winner in the greatest game I ever saw. My brother Ryan proudly wore his #17 jersey and we all suffered during his long periods of inactivity due to injuries. Clark was our guy and pound for pound the toughest player you'll ever see playing the game. Doug Gilmour remains my favourite Leaf, but Clark was the definitive Leaf.
Last night, I had an opportunity to meet #17. His new book Bleeding Blue is coming out, and there was a little get together at Maple Leaf Gardens to commemorate the occasion.
I got a photo and some time alone with him. We primarily discussed the fan-created All Heart tribute video I've been enjoying for the past decade. Wendel knows about it, Wendel loves it and I was able to fill him in on the origin thanks to some excellent sleuthing by Down Goes Brown. Wendel seemed genuinely interested and as humble as I'd heard.
After our five minute conversation, others wanted his attention. After four years of having such people I admire visit me for 60-120 minute one-on-one conversations in my house, I think I've become conditioned to expect that. But no, I chose not to invite Wendel to my house. I saved that imposition for Ken Reid.
I've had an advance copy of Bleeding Blue for some time now and I love the stories. It really is an ideal holiday gift for any Toronto hockey fan born in the 70s.
Prior to yesterday's home opener against the Boston Bruins, the Toronto Maple Leafs had only retired two numbers:
- #5 for Bill Barilko
- #6 for Ace Bailey
The number of retired numbers has now bloomed to 13 with the following additions:
- #1 for Johnny Bower and Turk Broda
- #4 for Hap Day and Red Kelly
- #7 for Tim Horton and King Clancy
- #9 for Charlie Conacher and Ted Kennedy
- #10 for Syl Apps and George Armstrong
- #13 for Mats Sundin
- #14 for Dave Keon
- #17 for Wendel Clark
- #21 for Borje Salming
- #27 for Frank Mahovlich and Daryl Sittler
- #93 for Doug Gilmour
Only one current Leaf had to switch numbers to make this possible, so James van Riemsdyk scored his goal last night as #25 instead of his old #21.
Here's the excellent ceremony you likely missed because you were busy being frustrated by the Jays game. It gives you a chance to hear the Leafs' new PA Announcer Mike Ross as well.
Auston Matthews made his regular season NHL debut last night in Ottawa and scored four goals.
It's the first time in the history of the NHL that a player scored four goals in his first game.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you make an entrance.
In the world of professional sports, I'm focused on the Jays vs. Red Sox this afternoon. A win and we'll host the wild card game Tuesday. This is a big game.
I was just biking with my two older kids and we were chatting about the Jays. My 14-year old son is more excited about Auston Matthews' debut with the Leafs tonight. My daughter will "follow" the game on Instagram. This led to each of us ranking Toronto's big 6 teams in terms of personal preference.
My 14-Year Old Son's Rankings
My 12-Year Old Daughter's Rankings
Straight from the mouths of babes, as they say. Despite the fact I watch most Jays games and talk about the team often, the team is a distant third on each of their lists.
You can lead a horse to water...
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