It was a simple, brilliant phrase: “We the North.” Created as a marketing campaign for the Toronto Raptors as the team approached its 20th anniversary, it represented the rising passion and soaring pride the city and the country felt toward its only NBA franchise. The ads captured Toronto’s genuine grassroots basketball culture and expressed our pride as outsiders in an American sports league. The campaign’s timing was perfect, as the Raptors’ transformation into a legitimate contender brought the nation to its feet.
It doesn’t hurt that the Raptors have Drake in their corner. Since 2013, the singer has served as their official global ambassador, boosting the cool factor for the team and for Toronto overall. His presence drew new fans, increased merchandise sales, livened up the team bench and created an aura around the Raptors that attracts free agents. “As a result,” GQ magazine observes, “when Drake sits courtside, he has a certain investment in the team that most famous fans don’t have.”
As the Raptors’ fortunes rose, so did MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays. While their steady rise from expansion team to back-to-back World Series champions generated excitement during the Jays’ first two decades, the 21st century wasn’t so kind. Ten years ago, attendance was near the bottom of the pack, and it seemed that the Blue Jays were condemned to permanent playoff exile. Even becoming Canada’s lone MLB team after the Montreal Expos departed in 2004 lifted few spirits.
But there’s nothing like an exciting pennant race to revive interest. The 2015 squad, whose offensive power was boosted by late-season trades, reawakened the city’s passion for baseball. Ticket sales and television ratings skyrocketed, raising attendance to third in the majors. Blue Jays hats and shirts became hip fashion accessories. The team’s Twitter following passed one million, placing them atop all pro teams in Canada as fans embraced hashtags like #ComeTogether and #OurMoment. This passion has overcome traditional regional rivalries, uniting sports fans from coast to coast—a national poll found that over 78 percent of respondents named the Blue Jays their favourite baseball team.
Toronto’s Major-League Teams
Beyond the Blue Jays and Raptors, Toronto offers plenty of choice for sports fans.
With a new Centennial Anniversary logo that hearkens back to the glory days of the 1960s, the Maple Leafs hit the ice at the Air Canada Centre for their NHL regular-season games between October and April.
The city’s oldest professional sports franchise (founded in 1873), the Argos take to the gridiron at their home at BMO Field during the Canadian Football League’s regular season, which runs June through November.
Cheered on by supporter groups such as the Red Patch Boys, U-Sector and Kings in the North, Toronto FC take on their Major League Soccer opponents at BMO Field. The regular season runs from March through October.
Showcasing Canada’s national summer sport, the Rock battle their National Lacrosse League opponents at the Air Canada Centre from January through April.
Debuting in 2017, the Wolfpack are Canada’s first professional rugby league team and claim to be the world’s first major transatlantic pro sports squad. Part of the English Rugby Football League’s Kingstone Press League 1, the team will play at Lamport Stadium. The regular season runs from spring through summer.