21st century sports

6 Biggest Toronto Sports Moments of the 21st Century

Perhaps no league offers a more complete all-star experience than the NBA. With an entire weekend packed full of parties, performances and, lest we forget, basketball, the NBA all-star weekend always delivers on the entertainment aspect of sport. This year’s game will be played in Toronto, the first time it has ever been played outside the USA. This momentous occasion, paired with the hometown Raptors sudden relevance on the NBA landscape, reveals a fact that Torontonians have know for quite some time: sports matter in Hogtown. However, just in case you need a little more convincing, here are the six most vital Toronto sporting moments since the year 2000.

Vince Carter wins 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest (Feb. 11, 2000)

Slam Dunk

In what turned out to be the coronation of an NBA box office star, the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest did just as much for the Toronto Raptors as it did for their premiere player. Vince Carter became synonymous with highlight reel dunks and put butts in the seats. The Raptors were relevant (not to mention winning games) for the first time in franchise history. Not only did the Raptors become a hot ticket item in the city of Toronto but it elevated them on an international stage, with many opposing teams reporting sell-out crowds when playing the Raptors. Carter’s performance was the beginning of a Toronto-basketball love affair that still exists today.

Toronto Rock Win 4 NLL Championships in 6 Seasons (2000, 2002, 2003, 2005)

Toronto Rock Win Sports

Dynasty and Toronto sports are words that haven’t been tossed around together that much since the Maple Leafs were winning Stanley Cups in a league with six total teams. This is really a shame since the Toronto Rock found unprecedented success in the early- and mid- 2000s. The team was nearly untouchable from 2000-2005 winning 4 Champion’s Cups (to go along with their 1999 victory) and 6 divisional championships. The Rock were the most consistently great Toronto team, by far, in this time period and regularly played in front of the largest crowds in the NLL. The franchise would find varied levels of success after this incredible run but would win the title, once again, in 2011.

Inception of Toronto FC (November 2005)

Inception of Toronto FC

The announcement that MLS would be granting Toronto a franchise was a landmark moment for the city’s sports community. It was the first time that a premiere soccer league (the most important league in North America at the very least) would be expanding beyond the USA. Toronto fans quickly validated the expansion decision. By the time the franchise started playing in 2007 it had already set the league record with 14,000 season tickets sold. In 2008 the team broke its own record by selling 16,000 season tickets. The team’s support has rarely waned and the fans were rewarded this year as TFC made their first playoff appearance. TFC was able to illustrate that soccer has a viable market in Canada. Vancouver was granted a franchise in 2011, Montreal followed suit in 2012 and soccer now has the most registered recreational players in the country.

Mats Sundin’s 500th Goal (October 14th, 2006)

Mats Sundin’s 500th Goal

Dave Keon, Frank Mahovlich, Borje Salming, Darryl Sittler. What do all of these men have in common? They’re all former Toronto Maple Leafs and NHL Hall of Famers. What else do they have in common? Not a single one of them scored their 500th career goal in a Maple Leafs’ uniform. Although the Leafs have been a franchise for nearly 100 years (originally named the Toronto Arenas in 1917), Mats Sundin is the only Maple Leaf in team history to ascend the prodigious goal scoring plateau that is often touted as the leagues most significant statistical accomplishment. In an era where the Maple Leafs have struggled mightily to stay relevant on the Toronto sporting scene (although they will never want for mainstream coverage) Sundin’s accomplishment is a bright spot. Perhaps the greatest Maple Leaf to ever serve the storied franchise, it is fitting that his individual accomplishment represents the team on this list.

UFC 129 (April 30, 2011)

UFC 129 Toronto

When Mixed Martial Arts was legalized in Ontario in August 2010, the UFC wasted very little time in organizing a fight card to take place in Toronto. After successful cards in Montreal and Vancouver, Dana White, the President of the UFC, decided that Toronto would be the perfect place for the organizations largest event. Instead of hosting the card at the ACC (maximum seating of 19,800) the UFC decided to try and fill the Rogers Centre. After originally deciding to sell 42,000 tickets the organization was forced to up the amount to 55,000 after almost every ticket sold during the pre-sale. A fan expo was also hosted for the two days prior to the actual fight card. With tickets sales grossing nearly $11 million, UFC 129 was the biggest event in North American MMA history.

Blue Jays AL East Championship and Playoff Run (2015)

Jose Bautista Bat Flip

With the Maple Leafs firmly entrenched in the bottom wrung of the NHL standings and the Raptors experiencing early upset in losses in back-to-back playoff series Toronto needed a sporting morale boost. In 2015 the unlikeliest of Toronto franchises would prove to be that spark. The Toronto Blue Jays would go on an improbable run after acquiring Troy Tulowitzki and David Price. Outpacing perennial powerhouses like the New York Yankees the Blue Jays would run away with the AL East regular season title (their first since 1993) and make a dramatic playoff run. Although they fell short of making the World Series, the franchise was the first Toronto team to go “all in” on winning in quite some time. They ignited a long-dormant fan base and showed the rest of the MLB that Torontonians still loved the game of baseball. Oh, and of course, Joey Bats gave us the most iconic sporting moment the city has seen this century.

Photo courtesy of shapelive via Flickr.

Ethan Lipson is a writer and reader that has a passion for weight lifting and pro wrestling. He is an expert couch surfer and will never turn down a slice of pepperoni pizza. If you like failed sitcoms and awkward pauses, follow him on twitter and instagram.

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