2013 in review: tough year for Toronto sports teams
Leafs collapse in playoffs; Blue Jays fall short of expectations
Call it a toss-up: Half of Toronto’s four major sports teams made the playoffs in some form or another this year, while the remaining two came nowhere close to seeing post-season action.
Injuries, poor performance and bad luck afflicted Toronto’s basketball, hockey, baseball and football teams in the usual doses this year, though the city’s beloved Maple Leafs suffered an epic collapse in a playoff game that won’t soon be forgotten.
So in the end, it was a year without any victory parades, though there were some teams that gave fans hope that such celebrations may not be that far away in the future.
The game that will forever haunt Joffrey Lupul
For hockey fans, a look back at the calendar year involves a dissection of two separate NHL seasons.
The Maple Leafs defied expectations last season, pushing the Boston Bruins to a decisive Game 7 in the first round of the NHL playoffs.
The Leafs held a three-goal lead with just minutes to go, but somehow lost their grip on the game and saw the Bruins claw their way back and beat Toronto in overtime.
The crushing collapse devastated Leafs’ fans, as well as the team that had fought hard to break through a nine-year playoff drought.
The morning after the loss, Leaf winger Joffrey Lupul tweeted that the defeat in Game 7 “will haunt me until the day I die.”
Boston now plays highlights from that comeback win at their home games.
Leafs players claimed the Game 7 meltdown, while painful, prompted them to grow as a team. However, Toronto entered the NHL's Christmas break in fifth spot in the Eastern Conference's Atlantic Division. It looks likely the Leafs will have to scrap it out for a playoff spot to have even a chance of repeating last season's playoff drama.
‘This one is going to hang around’
The Toronto Argonauts started out the year as the reigning Grey Cup champions, but couldn’t make it happen two years in a row.
The Argos finished out the regular season at the top of their division, though they sat only a game ahead of their arch rival Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
When the Eastern Final rolled around, the Rogers Centre in downtown Toronto was packed with 35,000 football fans who watched Hamilton walk away with a 36-24 victory on Nov. 17.
That ended Toronto's dream of capturing a second consecutive Grey Cup.
"It's tough," Argos quarterback Ricky Ray said. "This one is going to hang around for a little while."
Hamilton faced defeat a week later, when the Saskatchewan Roughriders ran over the Tiger-Cats in the Grey Cup final.
‘Hopefully these guys can get it right’
For the first time in years, the Blue Jays looked to have a strong shot at making the playoffs in 2013.
They landed some top talent ahead of the season, including a Cy Young winner in R.A. Dickey, as well a handful of veteran major leaguers from the Miami Marlins.
The season began with hopes of Toronto burning a path to the playoffs, but the team basically failed to ignite.
At the end of April, the Blue Jays had a 10-17 record and sat at the bottom of the American League East.
Five months later, they were sitting in the same spot in the division with a final record of 74-88, giving them a finishing record that was just a game better than the year before.
“It was difficult, the last two years actually,” said relief pitcher Darren Oliver, who is expected to retire.
"But that's why you play this game on the field, not on paper. Hopefully these guys can get it right one of these days because I think the fans are really hungry for a winning team. I mean I know if I was a fan, I would be."
The playoffs seem a long way off for a team that hasn’t qualified for post-season play in 20 consecutive seasons.
Raptors lose GM, look toward future
The Raptors remained a struggling franchise throughout the bulk of 2013, seeing their general manager replaced and the team looking at trying to carve a new path forward.
The 2012-13 season saw Toronto’s NBA team finish with a 34-48 record. But that was an admirable finish after a 4-19 start.
Bryan Colangelo soon lost his job as general manager. He was due to stay on as the team president, but stepped down from that position weeks after that.
Masai Ujiri, who previously served under Colangelo, took over the GM job in May.
Ahead of the new season, Ujiri told CBC News that he hoped to make the Raptors “Canada’s team” and a squad that their fans can be proud of.
A month into the 2013-2014 season, the Raptors were floating around the .500 mark, sitting near the top of the Atlantic Conference.
The Raptors also announced in September that they had hired Toronto rapper Drake to serve as a global ambassador for the team.