Sports are part of Canadian culture and have been part of the country’s history for centuries. Baggataway was likely the first sport ever played in North America, and throughout the years, further sporting types became popular favourites.
Canada’s national sports, ice hockey and lacrosse are certainly among the most admired and followed by sports fans in the country. Still, Canadians also demonstrate high levels of enthusiasm when it comes to basketball, soccer, and even martial arts.
In particular, sports fans truly show their colours in Toronto. This might be due to the city’s major teams, which compete in some of the most impressive championships in the world, including the NBA.
Sports fans in Toronto, however, don’t just focus on the globally renowned competitions. The passion for sports runs so deep in this city that fans keep up with sporting events from the lowest to the highest divisions and often place bets on their favourites. A form of entertainment that is certain to become more accessible now that Ontario sports betting sites have become regulated in April 2022.
Albeit Toronto’s sports fans enjoy watching all sorts of events and competitions, four teams usually steal the focus. Competing in some of the world’s most ambitious events, these are the people behind the management and success of Toronto’s major sports teams.
Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)
Founded in 1917, the Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t go by this name. Initially, the ice hockey team went by Toronto Arenas, and in 1919 changed its name to Toronto St. Patricks following the team’s purchase by the Querrie-St. Patricks group.
Only in 1927, when Conn Smythe bought the club, the team was renamed to Maple Leafs. Several decades later, in 1961, Smythe sold nearly all of his shares to Maple Leaf Gardens Limited, which remains the team’s owner until today, albeit now being called Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. You should remember this name, as we’ll mention it throughout this article.
Toronto Raptors (NBA)
The Toronto Raptors are a reasonably recent team founded in 1995. It came into existence as a part of the NBA’s expansion. Nowadays, the Raptors are part of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MSLE). The story behind this acquisition is a demonstration of the MSLE’s drive to become industry leaders.
In the 1990s, the Raptors were building an Arena, and the Maple Leafs also needed a place to play. Both teams’ management went through several negotiations to share the Arena. At the time, all negotiations failed, which led to the Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) purchasing 100% of the basketball club.
Although unexpected, this cut-through approach to sports management has led so many of the MLSE’s teams to reach the level they are today, and it’s likely what inspired so many of those behind the major sports companies in the province.
Toronto Blue Jays (MLB)
Founded in 1977, the Blue Jays’ got their name after a voting round that considered over 4,000 name suggestions. Although many picked the name due to its connection to the collegiate and professional sports teams in Toronto, it was a pleasant coincidence that the company that originally owned the team was Labatt Brewing Company – the makers of the Labatt Blue beer.
In 1995, Labatt Breweries were acquired by the international company Interbrew, but its management of the baseball team lasted only a few years. Rogers Communications Inc. purchased most of the club’s shares, with Interbrew keeping only 20%. It wasn’t long until Rogers acquired the remaining shares, becoming the sole owner of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Toronto Argonauts (CFL)
As the oldest professional sports team in the country still existing today, the Toronto Argonauts are the only professional club still making use of its original name. The Argonauts are also the longest-standing team still playing in the East Division and the CFL.
It was founded by the Argonaut Rowing Club, which owned and managed it for 83 years. However, since 1956, several companies have purchased and sold the club. The most recent management change happened in May 2015, when MLSE’s chairman Larry Tanenbaum and Bell Canada purchased the club.
Although this purchase shifted the Argonaut’s management, the hold owners continue to have stakes in the club since the two abovementioned entities don’t own 100% of the shares.
Nevertheless, the impact of MLSE has already been seen on the club, especially since the Argos can benefit from the company’s partners’ sponsorship. For instance, MSLE signed a deal with Pointsbet that covers all of its teams.
The sheer number of high-class sports teams that have origins in Toronto is impressive, which might be due to the outstanding and passionate support these clubs receive from fans.
As mentioned at the start of the article, sports is part of the Toronto culture, allowing clubs that first started playing several decades ago to continue leading national and international leagues and divisions.