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The top 10 moments in Toronto sports

Posted by Derek Flack / October 18, 2010

top moments Toronto Sports HistoryThe top 10 moments in Toronto sports history came to mind while watching the Leafs win in overtime last Friday. Something about their great start piqued my sense of historical curiosity, so I tried to recall some of the big moments that I could remember. I did pretty well, pulling together seven of the 10 entries on this list from memory, while a little research and discussions with friends filled in the rest.

Like any list, this one is subjective. But, I should note one major proviso right from the start. This list represents those moments and events that have happened post-1967. The reasoning for this is twofold: on the one hand I think it'll make the list more relevant to readers and, on the other, 1967 seemed like a good date to separate the "old" and "new" eras, what with the Leafs record of futility since then.

So here they are, not in any particular order except for number one.

Blue Jays World Series win 1993

Even if Toronto isn't a city in love with baseball -- in particular since the 1994-95 strike -- this takes top on my list because, well, you know, it's a championship win. Needless to say, the Raptors and the Leafs haven't delivered one of those during the time period in question. But, over and above just going all the way, the 1993 win was done in the most dramatic style imaginable: a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. I still remember watching in astonishment and glee as Joe Carter ended the series and the SkyDome went bananas. Their win the prior year was every bit as good, just not quite as dramatic.

Darryl Sittler scores 10 points against the Boston Bruins, 1976

Despite the lack of overall team accomplishments, over the years there have been a handful of elite Leafs players who have distinguish themselves with team and NHL records. Though none of them were that pretty by today's standards, Darryl Sittler's 10-point night against the Bruins will probably stand for sometime as the most points in a single game (14 players have had eight). Sittler potted a double hat trick and added four assists on a night when the expression "everything he touches goes in" was almost true.

Donovan Bailey Beats Michael Johnson at SkyDome

Even if the whole thing felt too contrived, when Donovan Bailey matched up against American Michael Johnson in a 150 metre sprint to determine who was the "fastest man alive" the spectacle alone was worth tuning in. Johnson notoriously pulled up at around the 110-metre mark, but a defiant Bailey didn't buy that he had pulled a muscle in his quadriceps. "I think what we should do is run this race all over again, so I can kick his ass one more time," he remarked in a post-race interview. And though his arrogant side was on full display, all that mattered was that he had won.

The Toronto Raptors are born, 1995 season

Although they spent their first four seasons playing out of the SkyDome and their name will forever be associated with the popularity of Jurassic Park, it's hard to remember the city's professional sports scene without the Raptors. Playoff success has been virtually non-existent, but there have been highlights over the years, from beating the Bulls in their inaugural season, to the athleticism of Vince Carter and the steady development of the recently departed Chris Bosh. Better things are surely in store for the franchise, but having NBA basketball in Toronto ain't too bad either.

Toronto FC founded, 2007 season

Like the Raptors, TFC is now an integral part of Toronto's sports landscape. I have to admit I didn't expect MLS soccer to catch on the way it has, but it wouldn't be stretch to say that TFC fans are the best in the city. Sure the Leafs have the largest following by a landslide, but with skyrocketing ticket prices, the live games just aren't as accessible or fun. Although the team has yet to make it to the postseason, they have won the last two Canadian Championships.

Tiger Woods wins the Canadian Open, 2000

I was hesitant to add a golf moment to this list, but Tiger Wood's six iron from the fairway bunker on the 72nd hole of the 2000 Canadian Open was just to good to leave off. This was, of course, during the period in which Tiger was best known for drama inside the ropes rather than his extra-marital affairs, and as far as excitement in golf goes, this is near the top. Golfers at Glen Abbey still bang six irons out of the same fairway bunker in a mostly futile attempt to recreate the shot to this day.

Mats Sundin becomes the Leafs all-time leading scorer, 2007

While Mats Sundin couldn't bring the Leafs to the promised land, fans slowly warmed to him over the years. He was never an outright superstar, but always managed to put up point-per-game numbers and was remarkably durable, which along with a long tenure in a Leaf uniform helped him to eclipse the previously mentioned Darryl Sittler as the club's all time leading scorer. It wasn't much of goal when it happened, but the ovation was a nice moment for the much-maligned captain.

Blue Jays win AL East Championship, 1985
Blays Jays 1985 AL EastThis one makes the list partially account of personal nostalgia. I was actually at the final game of the season with the Beavers (remember them) watching from the bleachers at Exhibition stadium, and I kept the pennant that I got at the game for years. Although they'd later go on to get crushed by the Kansas City Royals, this was the best moment in Jays history until their first world series win 1992.

1987 Canada Cup

This one is a bit of a cheat insofar as the game was played in Hamilton. But, given that the arena was filled with Toronto fans, I include it here. Besides, hockey glory has almost entirely eluded Toronto since 1967, so the 1987 Canada Cup win was quite special for local fans. Not only did they get to see what some call the best hockey ever played, but this was the only occasion in which Lemieux and Gretzky played on the same line in any meaningful way.

Argos win the Grey Cup, 1983
20101018-argos.jpgIt wouldn't be right not to include the Argos in a list of this nature, and like the Jays win of the AL East in 1985, I remember this one, too. Well, not the game so much, but the parade that made it all the way up to Yonge and Davisville (and beyond). At the time I couldn't understand what all the fuss was about, and, sadly for Argos fans, I'd imagine that's how many would feel today were they to win this year. But, forgetting their current lack of popularity, back then it was a huge deal. All you could hear on Yonge Street was that extended moan of "Argos."



kevin / October 18, 2010 at 05:24 pm
NO leaf moment should ever be in any "greatest" list. period. this poor excuse of a club keeps making millions selling a crappy product...and torontonians keep eating the blue sh1t up.
scottd / October 18, 2010 at 05:27 pm
These moments are all from the last 30 years---there are a lot more great moments further back.
akswun / October 18, 2010 at 05:56 pm
How bout Team Canada Winning the World Cup of Hockey at the ACC? #jussayin
Emma / October 18, 2010 at 06:03 pm
Fantastic list! My adrenaline still rushes and yes I even get a little teary every time I see Joe Carter hit that home run. I'm a huge sports fan in general but I doubt anything will compare to that moment for doesn't get much better!

Other moments I can remember - all Olympic - Donovan Bailey winning the Gold in Atlanta in '96 followed by our Relay team winning a week later (I actually jumped up and down on my couch when that one happened)...and 3 of our Hockey Gold moments (Men's 2002 and 2010...and Women's 2010!)
Emma / October 18, 2010 at 06:05 pm
Whoops - just realized we were talking Top 10 Toronto Sports moments! So ignore my Olympics additions :)
Bartek / October 18, 2010 at 06:26 pm
Damn that Joe Carter homer was awesome. I remember watching that as a little kid and going nuts without knowing any rules to baseball.

Here's hoping some of our franchies kick it up a notch in the next few years.

Leafs are rebuilding and off to a great start, but will have their troubles (Let's be realistic here, despite me wanting to see another 10-0 start)

The Jays did great this season (see: tough division arguments)

TFC started off well and then collapsed ... won't comment on them.

Raptors did poorly and it looks like they'll be rebuilding -again-

Argos are rebuilding but might actually see playoffs this year.
Grammar Police / October 18, 2010 at 06:31 pm
The article's author spelled "piqued" incorrectly.
henry / October 18, 2010 at 06:40 pm
Vince Carter winning the Slam Dunk Contest in 2000. It put the Raptors on the map and without it, I doubt the Raptors would still be in Toronto today.
Jamie Lawson / October 18, 2010 at 06:40 pm
I don't usually like it when people respond to these lists in stated outrage over a missed event but this is not debatable. The 1992 Jays World Series is top 3 on that list, let alone top 10. This is the only other major sports championship (93 Jays is the other) we have (CFL is not on the same level). It was the first MLB championship outside of the U.S. I would definitely take out the Bailey/Johnson race or Canada Cup (since it's Canada, not Toronto and as stated was played in Hamilton).
Derek replying to a comment from Grammar Police / October 18, 2010 at 06:51 pm
Yes, that's a bad one. I've now fixed the error.
Alex / October 18, 2010 at 06:52 pm
What a sad list.

A 10 pt regular season hockey game? A contrived sprinting event? A horrible basketball franchise more famous for it's star players leaving...poor Toronto...this is pathetic.
Dan / October 18, 2010 at 07:25 pm
Agree with Jamie. Nice list, but literally insane not to include the 1992 World Series team in some capacity.
nate / October 18, 2010 at 08:42 pm
My candidates for pre-1967 moments:

Lionel Conacher's 1921 Grey Cup game with the Argos. Conacher was arguably Canada's best all round athlete ever.

Ned Hanlan becoming Rowing Champion of the World in 1880 (? sic). Rowing was big back then. And he was our first world champion.

Tom Longboat winning the Boston Marathon (forget what year. Early 1900s).
Gabe replying to a comment from kevin / October 18, 2010 at 09:35 pm
Yawn thats the most generic comment you could make. Real Torontonians just haven't lost faith in their city hockey club, we keep eating it up looking forward knowing that it can happen hear again, anything is possible, we won't turn our back on our city team. Torontians with pride not shame.
fred replying to a comment from Dan / October 18, 2010 at 09:45 pm
It is included in some capacity. It's the last line in the first entry.
Bubba / October 18, 2010 at 09:48 pm
I was there for 3 of the listed moments, the Joe Carter home run, the Raptors Bulls game and when Sundin broke the record, and I have to say the Joe Carter home run is like nothing I have ever experienced before at a sports game. I was right behind home plate and when he hit that ball the whole stadium held it's breath and when it went over that fence the building shook. You could feel it sway under your feet. It has to be one the amazing sports moments I have ever witnessed in my life. You could feel the rush through your body. I will never forget it.
Oliver / October 18, 2010 at 10:16 pm
@Nate, Tom Longboat won in 1907 in a then-record time 2:24:24 (though the distance hadn't been standardized, so the course was just shy of 25 miles). Ned Hanlon's many wins are my suggestion for your list, though perhaps that's more of a top-ten athletes list. In the same vein, Marilyn Bell comes to mind as the first swimmer to cross Lake Ontario (she landed at the CNE grounds).

@Derek, surely Tiger Woods' shot, amazing as it is, is an Oakville sporting moment. There's even another intermediary city between Toronto and Glen Abbey. The Canadian Open has been held in Toronto many times, but 2000 wasn't one of them. It isn't a Toronto sporting moment any more than it's a Hamilton sporting moment or a Barrie sporting moment. It's not even close.
Nick W / October 18, 2010 at 11:22 pm
A mention of Carter's home run in 1993 without a mention of Tom Cheek is criminal.

<a href="";><i>Touch 'em all, Joe...</i></a>
nate / October 19, 2010 at 01:05 am
@Oliver, yes, definitely Marilyn Bell swimming the Lake.

A notorious pre-1967 Toronto sporting moment that comes to mind is the Christie Pits Riot. Granted it's a supremely ugly moment in Toronto's past, but still a heritage plaque worthy one.

How about Chuvalo vs. Ali? (the first fight)

Although I'm a Habs fan, Bill Barilko's OT goal to win the Stanley Cup in 1951 should be on the pre-1967 list.
Scott / October 19, 2010 at 01:34 am
The reason the '83 Grey Cup victory was so big was because the team hadn't won one since '52 (and had only even been to the Grey Cup once in between - in '71). That's a long wait. Plus, the Argos were still a pretty big deal back then (they drew 54,530 to the Eastern final at Exhibition Stadium).

I think the article would be improved if it mentioned in the title that it was the Top 10 since 1967 and if it mentioned the criteria a little more specifically. It seems like most of these events happened in Toronto instead of just having Toronto teams involved - but then Grey Cup game in 1983 was played in Vancouver. If we're including games played elsewhere, I totally agree with other commenters that the '92 Jays should be represented somewhere.

If we're counting away game happenings, I would also suggest Nik Borschevsky's game 7 OT goal versus the favoured Red Wings in the 1993 playoffs was huge (first time team had been good in a while).
david / October 19, 2010 at 02:34 am
that last-second fade-away shot by Jordan off the edge of the glass is what got me interested in the idea of watching basketball

even though it didn't count... at the time, it struck me as "inhumanly impossible", if such a phrase exists
Sonny / October 19, 2010 at 10:18 am
What about Canada qualifying for the 1986 World Cup? We may never qualify again.
mikeb / October 19, 2010 at 10:25 am
Here's some I'd add

1992 Blue Jays 1st World Series Win
1990 Harold Ballard dying
1979 The Leafs trading Lanny McDonald to Colorado.
1989 The Skydome opens.
1999 Last Leafs game at Maple Leaf Gardens
1971, 1984, 1986, 1993 Toronto Blizzard starting and failing a couple times.

Just kidding about the last one.
kit / October 19, 2010 at 01:56 pm
please don't write about sports, you don't know jack.

i tell torontoist the same thing.
David / November 10, 2010 at 10:34 am
I writin a report on why toronto teams can't win anything anymore...... any body have any suggestions on what to write about or maybe more good moments of the past
UGGS UK / August 17, 2011 at 07:12 am
i tell torontoist the same thing.
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