North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

Posts Tagged ‘Toronto stuff

Ar-going out of the Rogers Centre

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(Apologies for that title, but I couldn’t resist)

Today’s news on the Toronto Argonauts is really interesting to me on a variety of levels. Of course, the big one is how the Argos are moving out of the Rogers Centre and into BMO Field, current home of the Toronto FC. This alone is pretty big stuff: the Rogers Centre is a cavernous stadium even at the best of times and frankly, when the Argos play there is just seems more like a cavern. And I say that as someone who’s paid to see them, multiple times! Read the rest of this entry »

It’s been a while and might only be for a while: Leafs Postseason Preview Special

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Tomorrow night, the Toronto Maple Leafs play their first postseason game in what feels like forever (although it’s been all of nine years). I’m excited, although not quite as excited as I thought I’d be, and I’m a little anxious but on the whole, I’m feeling a little pessimistic: it’s been a long time coming and while Toronto was fun this year, I don’t think any rational person thinks the world of this team.

They’re fun and Kadri’s a blast to watch and there’s usually one or two moments a month where I think Reimer all but steals a game, but I don’t think there’s any way they get past the Bruins, ya know? Toronto’s a team with some serious holes. They don’t control the puck and their Fenwick Close  at 43.80% is not good. As recently as April 22, it ranked behind Tampa Bay, Edmonton, Calgary and Florida. They’re a team that allows a ton of shots. And even with one of the better offenses in the league – they scored the 6th most goals in the league – they were scored on a bunch, too: 133 goals allowed, slighting above league average. And that was with James Reimer in net, who’s had one of the best seasons for Leaf goaltender in recent memory.

A short list of albums I like released since the last Leafs postseason appearance: Visions – Grimes; St. Vincent – Strange Mercy; Jay Reatard – Watch Me Fall; Broken Social Scene – Broken Social Scene;  Metric – Live it Out

Still, there are a lot of things to look forward to with this series. I don’t expect much from Phil Kessel, who’ll probably have Zdeno Chara up his ass all series long, but maybe Nazim Kadri or James van Riemsdyk will explode in a game or two. Maybe Tuukka Rask won’t have it on the same night Reimer is locked in. Maybe I won’t get tired of hearing about the Kessel trade, the Raycroft trade or any other of the recent history between these two teams. Maybe I’ll even change my tune on Bob Cole once again and decide he hasn’t lost a step and doesn’t get players mixed up.

I suppose anything is possible in the second season and teams have ridden hot goalies to improbable-seeming wins. And Boston did blow a first-round series against a divisional rival not too long ago…

Some people who have died since the last Leafs postseason game: Kurt Vonnegut, Hunter S. Thompson, Gerald Ford, Jack Layton, Jay Reatard, Evel Knievel, Norman Mailer, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Trish Keenan

Still, if I were going to bet, I’d take Boston. I think the series could end pretty quickly, but my gut’s telling me that Reimer has at least one standout performance in him and I’ve got enough faith in the Leafs to think their offense will better Rask once, too. I hope it’s not on the same night. My biggest worry is if something like this happens:

(CP) Toronto – It took a while, but Boston finally solved the Maple Leafs. Game four of the first round series is likely to be remembered for it’s length, with six sudden-death overtime periods making it one of the longest games in recent history. The clincher came well after midnight, when Nathan Horton put a wrister over the shoulder of Toronto netminder James Reimer to secure a  2-1 victory for the Bruins…

A low-scoring series is what I expect here, even if both teams have good offenses (and Boston’s is stacked, much deeper than Toronto’s). I’ll say Boston in six and hope I’m wrong.

Written by M.

May 1, 2013 at 9:00 am

Why the Argos win on Sunday matters

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It’s November and everything feels all strange and flipped up. When I listen to the Fan, they’re talking Jays. When I put on TSN, they’re showing basketball. And when I think back to last weekend, I remember the Argonauts defeating the Montreal Alouettes in a road playoff game.

And the biggest news out of Leaf-land? Some guy with far too much money in Barrie paid over $5,300 for something the Leafs took a crap in. You’d think they’d throw in a copy of Game Seven of the 1993 Conference Finals too, if that’s what he was after. Sometimes no real news is the best news.

Remember when Grantland called Toronto the worst sports city in the greater Milky Way Galaxy? How quickly things have changed. On the back of their huge trade, the Jays have positioned themselves as contenders in the crowded AL East. With the play of DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson, the Raptors have shown there’s maybe a future to this crop of youngsters. Without the Leafs playing, Toronto’s other hockey team has been showing up on TV and they’re tearing it up: on Saturday, they beat up on the Hamilton Bulldogs. And Nazem Kadri’s picked up eight points in his past four games. I don’t think the Marlies will ever threaten the Leafs TV ratings, but playing so well on a TV broadcast will certainly help spread the word that there’s good hockey to be seen at the Ricoh at a fraction of the price of a Leafs game. More parking there, too.

But the biggest news of the weekend is about the Argos, that team which keeps getting written off, even by yours truly. When they went into the playoffs, I suggested they had backed into a spot thanks to even worse play by Hamilton and Winnipeg. I noted how they allowed more than they scored through the season’s end. But they beat Edmonton in a fun game, mostly thanks to a crazy second quarter where they scored 31 points and managed to intercept a shovel pass from Edmonton QB Kerry Joseph.

Still, I was a little skeptical after the win: Edmonton wasn’t a great team. They finished in the bottom of the Western Conference and only made the playoffs thanks to lacklustre seasons from Hamilton and Winnipeg. The Montreal Alouettes were a much better team and they’ve done the Argos in during the playoffs before. One of my first posts here was a dispatch from an Argos/Alouettes playoff game in 2005: the Argos blew a first half lead and lost while people in the upper deck went insane. I remember a crazed Montreal fan screaming and trying to pick fights while people threw plastic horns at him before security stepped in.

There’s been other times. In 2007, Toronto dropped conference final game at home to a surging Winnipeg team. And in 2010, they were blown out by Montreal, 48-17 (I don’t think I wrote about this game). There’s not many good omens to a Toronto/Montreal playoff game. And when Montreal got off to a good start, leading 17-7 near halftime I figured it was over. After all, the Argos scoring to that point looked like this: field goal, rouge, safety and another rouge. They blew a first-and-goal from Montreal’s one-yard line, getting stuffed on three consecutive runs. Not an inspiring first half.

So what happened? How did the Argos turn things on in the second? Their offence started coming together and their defence held Montreal steady: after scoring a touchdown in the second, Montreal was held to one field goal, despite getting into Argo territory multiple times. They got as close as Toronto’s eight yard line, but settled for a field goal. In the fourth quarter alone, they turned the ball over three times. They got really damn close, dropping what would’ve been a game-clinching TD late in the fourth, but just couldn’t do it. The Argos somehow held on, despite the odds and recent history.

It sets up what should be a dream senario for the Argos and their fans. They’re playing Calgary for the Grey Cup on home turf. It’s the 100th Grey Cup, which means there’s going to be pomp and excess on a level only Toronto could really handle without looking crazy. Noted football fiend and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford will probably be at the game in some loud, media-unfriendly capacity. I hope to hell he goes full-Nixon and tries to draw up a play for the Argos.

Toronto’s long been chided for not caring enough about it’s CFL team. There’s probably some truth in that, but one could argue that every Toronto team not named Maple Leafs doesn’t get its proper share of attention. Here’s a chance to change that. Not many teams get to play for the CFL’s title on their home turf. And Toronto hasn’t had a champion in any sport in eight years. Even if you’re not a CFL fan, this weekend is a special one in Toronto sports.

Written by M.

November 20, 2012 at 2:46 pm

A good start for the Raptors and a bad turn for Lowry’s ankle

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It’s not exactly great times in Toronto sports right now: the Jays season ended in disaster, with injuries, a manager who wanted to be in Boston and a player writing slurs on his face. The Argos are underwhelming and limping into the playoffs: they’re 9-9, with a negative point differential.  The Bills, that part-time resident of the Rogers Centre, are wasting away in a weak AFC East, even looking worse than the rudderless New York Jets.

And the Maple Leafs? They’re still locked out.

So the Raptors it is. The Raptors, which had a ton of hype coming into this season – Jonas is finally here! Bargnani is healthy! And DeMar just signed an extension! – are the biggest game in town. For the first time in a few years, they’re a must-watch even among non-hoops junkies. Their ratings reflect this: their season opener against Indiana was their highest rated game since the 2009-10 season, with about 346,000.

That’s more than watched the Sunday night NFL game between New Orleans and Denver on October 28 or the Martinsville 500. It’s even outdrew CBC’s classic hockey broadcast. But it’s way behind the CFL and World Series. The Raptors are becoming a bigger draw, but they aren’t a national attraction. Not yet, anyway.

There was a lot of things to like in their first game, except maybe the final score; it was a close win for Indiana, a team that’s probably going to the postseason this year. There was the debut of Jonas Valanciunas, who has looked good at times and not so hot at others. There’s a new role for Jose Calderon, who comes off the bench and can play off the ball. And, biggest of all, is Toronto’s big splash of the summer: Kyle Lowry.

Through four games, Lowry is statistically the best player on the Raptors. His PER is an off-the-charts 30.9. His shooting is accurate (a .703 TS percentage), efficient (a 6.36 eFG) and he’s already at 0.9 Win Shares. What’s better for the Toronto fan is that Lowry’s also the most fun-to-watch player the Raptors have had in years. He’s constantly moving, all over the ball and not a bad defender. He plays like he’s got something to prove. Here’s his stat line from the Raptors first win of this season, a 105-86 win over Minnesota: 22 points, seven rebounds, three steals and five assists. Basketball-reference gives three of his four games in a Raptors uniform a Game Score of 22 or above. Last season, Calderon had just four games like that all season long.

That fourth game is the one to be concerned about. It was last night, election night in America, against Oklahoma City. It was the second road game of the season and first of a two-game road swing. It was also the second time the Raptors had been on NBA-TV this season, which gave the game a pretty good-sized national audience.

For most of his time on the court, Lowry had been matched up against Russell Westbrook, who was having a good night. About halfway through the second quarter, Lowry went up for a rebound and landed on Serge Ikaba’s foot. Lowry’s ankle turned inward and he fell to the floor. TSN had this all on their live broadcast; they had switched to an under-the-basket camera before Lowry went up for the rebound. They kept him in frame as he went down, as play moved away and Lowry starting groaning in pain and struggled to get up. If it was anywhere near as bad as it looked, Toronto got to see the Raptors best player get hurt in a very loud and direct way.

It was cringe-inducing television. I can’t think of the last time I saw something like this in any sports event: a player getting hurt while in closeup, with the broadcast staying on them while they were obviously hurt. For instance, when Garbajosa broke his leg, I remember the camera cutting away. When I did OHL games back in Oshawa, if someone got hurt, we’d switch to camera one, the wide-angle shot of the rink from mid-ice. I don’t know why TSN stayed on Lowry. Maybe they didn’t realize.

Lowry left the game and didn’t return. The Raptors lost the game, 108-88, and it wasn’t even that close. But we all move on. Lowry isn’t supposed to play tonight against Dallas and there isn’t any word on when he’ll be back. The Raptors Twitter account says he’ll be reassessed daily (I like to imagine this also happens on Twitter: “Still swollen Kyle?” asks the Raptors account and he replies with an Instagrammed photo of a walking boot). The Raptors have a couple days off this week before a three-in-four-days stretch that includes Utah, a rematch with Indiana and Philadelphia. I know I’m not the only person hoping Lowry’s ankle is healed up by then.

Written by M.

November 7, 2012 at 8:10 pm

From the bowels of the Garden to your living room

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Back when I lived in Oshawa, I once went to a auction where they selling a bunch of Leafs memorabilia. It was mostly photos and jerseys, and looking back, I’m kind of pissed I didn’t try to get something for myself (this was back when I still considered myself a journalist and figured it was a conflict of interest to bid on something I was reporting on). Thanks to a tip from Puck Daddy, I might make up for that oversight.

Frozen Pond Auctions, a site that calls itself the leader in online auctions of autographed memorabilia, is currently hosting a curious collection of esoterica from the former Maple Leaf Gardens. It’s not everything left over from when the Leafs abandoned the place and it’s not everything I remember seeing in that infamous CTV report, but it’s still a lot of stuff. Some of it even looks pretty cool.

There’s signage, paintings and seats. So many seats, some of which were signed by fans. I sometimes wonder what the average person would do with a seat from the Gardens, but I guess the answer is obvious: you sit on it. I went to a haircutting place once that had a bench from the Montreal Forum and while I suppose it was neat seeing it, it wasn’t really a big deal. But I digress.

There’s a ton of stuff here. In fact, it can be overwhelming for the average Leaf fan. And since Christmas is fast approaching, those  buying a gift for a Leaf fan might need a place to start. That’s why I’m here: to weigh on what to look for, to avoid and what you should bid on right this minute! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by M.

October 12, 2012 at 2:06 pm

The Most Interesting Tweeting Toronto-types

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About a week ago, Sports Illustrated put together it’s top 100 sports tweeters and a few days ago, Deadspin followed with a list of the worst sports twitter accounts. Neither list really means much because: SI doesn’t exactly have any criteria other than people who tweet about sports/work in the sports media/are popular athletes so it’s no better than just seeing who gets RT’d the most; Deadspin’s list is a hilarious piece of satire and it’s cool that people are taking it seriously.

But then, making a list of Who’s Best/Worst/Funniest/Etc/Ad Infinitum is also completely pointless because people use Twitter different ways. Some use it to keep up on news, others to spread news and others to make funny jokes. I can’t tell you the best people to follow because what I expect from Twitter is probably not what you expect. You’re probably better off making your own decisions.

That said, what follows is a list of what I deem the most interesting Toronto Twitter peoples: people who tweet stuff about Toronto sports which is either funny, interesting or at least post links to good stuff. It’s by no means definitive, is probably stuffed with bias towards the Jays and Raptors (I still don’t know of a good Argos-centric Twitter person) and includes a few people who don’t live in the GTA or even tweet about Toronto stuff, but are still worth it for people in the 905, 416 and maybe even the 705. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by M.

September 22, 2012 at 2:37 pm

I miss the playoffs, Part One: When Tucker’s shoulder met Peca’s knee

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First of an ongoing series

The other day, Down Goes Brown had a post about the 2002 Leafs/Islanders playoff series. It’d been a while since I thought about those days, back when the Leafs were surprisingly good for a stretch and spent a lot of dough.

These days, a decade later, the Leafs are so different it boggles the mind. They’ve been out of the playoffs since 2004 – long enough for me to go through J-school without seeing a Leaf playoff game. Its been eight years and, well, things don’t look good for year nine.

But in those days things were better. Remember when people used to compare the Leafs to the Yankees? When they said it wasn’t fair that one team could spend so much while others – in Atlanta, in Columbus, in Nashville, in Edmonton – had a hell of a time competing?

There was a ton a of talent back in the days. In net is Curtis Joseph, maybe the best Leaf goalie of my lifetime (admittedly, it’s not a long list). Up front was an aging Gary Roberts: the favorite player of a friend who lived up the street I used to play street hockey with. There was Mats Sundin, maybe still in his peak and Alex Mulginy, past his but still a talented scorer. And there was colorful players: Domi and Tucker whose jerseys were all over the place at my high school. Read the rest of this entry »