I'm an unabashed Toronto sports fan. I've been root, root, rooting for the home teams for as long as I can remember.
This past month has reminded me of the three-tiers of pro-sports in Toronto. There's group A, consisting of the Leafs, Blue Jays and Raptors, and group B, composed of TFC and the Argos. There's also a group C, which includes the Marlies and Rock.
When a team in group A makes the playoffs, it's a big deal. Most of the city gets incredibly excited and rallies behind our boys. I personally won't miss a minute of Leafs, Blue Jays or Raptors playoff action if I can help it.
When a team in group B makes the playoffs, you're happy, but there sure isn't a buzz in the city. TFC recently played their first playoff game ever, and if you weren't paying attention you likely missed it. I actually tuned into 3 minutes of this game before realizing we were getting trounced and I didn't really care. The Argos played a semi-final game yesterday, and if it wasn't for a few tweets I saw, I still wouldn't know what happened.
And don't get me started on group C. I'm mildly curious about the Marlies because I'm interested in how Leafs prospects like William Nylander are performing, but I couldn't tell you how many titles the Rock have won or when they last won without Googling it.
So yes, TFC and the Argos recently lost playoff games, but this city barely noticed and hardly cared. But when one of the big three make it, you won't be able to ignore it.
So this just happened...
The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan has sold its 79.53 per cent stake in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment to Rogers Communications and BCE for more than $1.2 billion. BCE is fancy talk for Bell. That's right, Bell and Rogers now each own 37.5% of MLSE, which owns, among other things, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Toronto Raptors, TFC and the Toronto Marlies.
A couple of thoughts immediately spring to mind... These partnerships between Rogers and Bell make me very nervous. We need them to hate each other, right? It can't be good for the competitive landscape, for those of us who need Internet access and mobile talk and data plans and cable tv, when these telecom behemoths keep jumping into bed together.
And what will become of Pension Plan Puppets, the go-to Leafs blog in these parts? I hope they keep the name for tradition, the way we secular folks still call this Santa holiday Christmas.
But what matters most, of course, is will this help my Leafs win the cup? Since we've already given Brian Burke autonomy and let him spend the cap, I'm thinking it won't make a difference. At least it won't hurt...
What do you guys think of the sale of MLSE?
It seems like we were just talking about the Raptors gunning for fourth in the conference and a home court advantage for their first round in the playoffs. For those who don't follow the Raps, we finished ninth in the conference and that means we missed the playoffs for the second season in a row.
At least the Raptors played a playoff game three seasons ago. Our Leafs haven't played a playoff game since 2004. That's five seasons ago and six years. My daughter's about to turn six and she's not been alive for a single Leafs playoff game.
Of course, if we're talking playoff droughts in this city, the Blue Jays are the top dogs. The last Blue Jays playoff game ended with Joe Carter touching them all, and that was back in 1993. What's that, 17 seasons ago? Do we count the year they cancelled the World Series? Is it really 18 seasons ago?
At least it's tough to make the playoffs in baseball. Our Argonauts play in an 8 team league in which 6 teams make the playoffs, and they haven't qualified since 2007. It's not looking good for next season, either.
I could drag Toronto FC into this mess, but they're only in their fourth season. We'll excuse their three years of missing the playoffs. And the Marlies missed the playoffs, but they were there last year, if we're desperate for a silver lining.
Who am I kidding... there's no silver lining. The three teams with the largest fan-base, the Leafs, Raptors and Blue Jays, have collectively been absent from the playoffs since the Raps lost to Orlando in the first round back in the spring of good 'ol 2008.
My son and I spent the afternoon at the Marlies game watching us beat the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 4-2 in American Hockey League action. Driving to the game, we planned to focus on three Marlies: Viktor Stalberg, Christian Hanson and Tyler Bozak.
Bozak was scratched with the flu, so our eyes were set on Stalberg and Hanson. We watched each of them score a pair and Stalberg added a couple of assists. It was the Stalberg show all afternoon as if he was sending Leafs general manager Brian Burke a loud and clear message. Burke was at the Ricoh Coliseum as well, and I hope he was taking notes.
As cool as it would be to watch Stalberg from the front row of Marlies games all season, he should be a Leaf. He will be a Leaf. Hanson's looking like he wants another shot with the big club as well.
After Hanson scored the opening goal, I asked my son about it. This clip gives you a gander at our regular seats for Marlies games.
More pics and vids are in the photoset.
The Leafs win a game! The Leafs win a game!
And of course, sleepy old man Mike fell asleep when it was 3-1 and missed the celebration. It's worth noting the only period of Leafs hockey I've missed this season is the third period of our only victory. Coincidence?
Tomas Kaberle had five points, Lee Stempniak had four points, Matt Stajan had three points and Niklas Hagman scored three of our five power-play goals. Meanwhile, The Monster got the start and the big win.
1-7-1 folks! Let's plan that parade...
Sherola has won the two Marlies tickets for November 1. He/she was randomly selected from the comments left on this entry.
Here's who Sherola named as his/her favourite favourite Maple Leaf of all-time.
Captain Clutch, Mats Sundin! Mats always gave his all and was a great leader. He will always be #1 in my books :) We miss you Mats!
Sherola, I've sent you an email to get further details. I'll see you at the game.
It's not yet 7pm. That means you still have over 5 hours to enter my little Win Free Marlies Tickets contest.
If you're interested in a couple of free tickets to catch the Marlies next Sunday, click on over to http://www.torontomike.com/2009/10/free_marlies_tickets_available.html and tell me your favourite Maple Leaf of all-time in the comments.
I see 36 comments thus far. One will be randomly chosen as the winner. It might as well be you.
If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know I've frequented a number of Toronto Marlies games the past two years. The Marlies are the Maple Leafs' AHL affiliate and they play their home games at the Ricoh Coliseum, on the grounds of the CNE.
The Marlies have given me two tickets to give away to a reader of this blog. These tickets are for the game on Sunday, November 1st at 4pm.
Current Marlies include Tyler Bozak, Christian Hanson, Phil Oreskovic, Ben Ondrus, Andre Deveaux and Carl Gunnarsson. It's a great building, a great product and there isn't a bad seat in the house.
If you're interested in these two free Marlies tickets, simply leave a comment below telling me your favourite Maple Leaf of all-time and why. Put your email in the email field. I'll randomly pick a winner Monday morning, so this contest ends Sunday at midnight.
I was sure Justin Pogge was on his way out and that suspicion was confirmed by a Sportsnet report confirming the Justin Pogge era had indeed come to an end here in Toronto. But then, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, it seemed Pogge was saved from the chopping block.
Today, Pension Plan Puppets is giving a very interesting quote from Brian Burke the light it deserves. Here's what Burke said yesterday about Pogge.
[Justin] Pogge's a good kid, but it just didn't work out for him in Toronto. I assured him I would find him somewhere to play this year.
It appears the Justin Pogge era in Toronto has indeed come to an end. The Justin Pogge rollercoaster ride continues...
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