Welcome to Toronto, Mike — Now What?

By Roger Currie

Toronto is the centre of the financial and media universe in this country, but professional sports has been a different story for a very long time. This past Wednesday saw two announcements that may alter the future, but please don’t hold your breath.

The once mighty Maple Leafs, who have now disappointed more than two generations of hockey fans, backed up the money truck and anointed a guy from Saskatoon to guide them to the promised land. Coach Mike Babcock has an eight-year deal worth $50 million. No one has ever been paid that much to direct a quest for the Stanley Cup.

Everyone knows that coaches are hired to be fired. One of Babcock’s predecessors in the job is Paul Maurice, who now coaches the Winnipeg Jets. Before they made a quick exit in round one, there were some who were prepared to crown him Coach of the Year. Maurice has been fired three times in 20 years of coaching, and as sure as the sun will rise over the Red and the Assiniboine, he’ll be fired in Winnipeg one day. Hopefully he’ll bring us at least one championship before it happens.

While the Leafs were telling the world about their expensive new coach, the Argos of the CFL were announcing that Bell Media and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, owners of the Leafs and the Raptors, were buying the football club from David Braley. Next year they’ll be playing at BMO Field, the home of major league soccer in Toronto.

The Argos have won championships a lot more recently than the Leafs, but most often they’ve only had to beat seven other teams, including the Blue Bombers. The problem is very few people in Hogtown seem to care. In Canada’s largest city, the Argos struggle to get 17,000 people to buy tickets.

Will a new owner and a new venue make that much difference? Time will tell, but at least when they play the BC Lions it won’t be the Braley Bowl any longer.

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Roger Currie is a writer, storyteller, voice for hire, observer of life on the Canadian prairies, and can be heard on CJNU 93.7FM in Winnipeg.


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