The worst sports city in North America – it matters

ESPN recently ranked Toronto as the worst sports city in North America.  They calculated this based on a ratio of ticket prices to wins by the city’s teams.  Toronto’s sports fans loyally pay top dollar to see their favourite teams lose all too often.

I think this affects the psychology of the city, including the business community’s outlook. 

No matter how well things are going for Toronto, many of my friends, colleagues and network in Toronto refuse to believe in it.  They seem convinced they’ll soon be let down—that there is no more point in believing in Toronto’s solid economy than in a 3 game win streak by the Mapleleafs.

The sad state of the Maple Leafs, Raptors, Toronto FC and other teams is about more than sports.  The inability of these teams to win consistently and live up to expectations seems to create a pattern in peoples’ heads that they expect to be repeated elsewhere–such as in the city’s economic performance.  For nearly 3 years now I’ve been hearing it when I put evidence in front of people that Toronto will do (or is doing) fine in this era of global economic uncertainty.

For example, job growth in the knowledge sector has been strong over the past three years, right through the global economic turmoil.  Finance, professional services and information and culture sectors have together added tens of thousands of jobs since 2008. Despite this many in the commercial real estate sector have been convinced that office demand will fall (that this is a mirage of some sort).  Instead absorption has been strong, especially in 2011 as companies lease space in which to put these workers.

Since the global financial crisis began in 2008, Toronto has risen up the ranks of global business and financial centres, as well as the livability rankings.  Compared to most other world cities, and even Toronto’s own past, Toronto is thriving.

And it’s not all business.  Toronto’s international film fest, TIFF, has also risen in prestige and is now *the* place to showcase a new movie.  Bollywood even held its annual award gala in Toronto last year, illustrating the international nature of this city.  With over 50% of residents foreign born, and many from Asia, it’s as connected to Mumbai and Shanghai as to many US or European cities, whether economically or culturally.

Toronto is a city to believe in.  As hard as this is for a Vancouver Canucks fan to say, I hope the Maple Leafs start winning so more of my friends and colleagues in Toronto will start believing in their city too.  


  1. Colin MacIver says:

    Wendy! Better keep an eye out after that last statement!!! I have felt just the opposite; that the business attitude has effected the players! An IT friend went to work for the Maple Leaf Nation quite some years ago now. I quote; “…they’re mad!!! It’s no wonder the team loses; front office interference…” after six months with them, he left before his contract was up. Also to contend here with is the sports news media here which can be withering if you decide to listen to it. It’s equivalent to listening to news broadcasts in Quebec; every day you are gently reminded you are not in the ‘club’ and it’s disheartening. Stephen Marche continues this practice from the safety in New York City.

    HOWEVER, I notice in the picture of the ‘Faceless Leafs Fan’; many in the audience are smiling!!! I noticed this on Saturday last too; a Leafs exhibition game was on and perhaps it’s because there was nothing really at stake; people were downright happy as they headed to the game! Love is an addiction they say, and Leafs fans are certainly addicted. Sadly, corporatism has pushed the ticket price into the stratosphere.

    Going to a game is so expensive, I will only go if given tickets or win them. I remember seeing game a 5 or 6 years ago on tickets my cousin had; row 50 in the silver section was $198.00!!! Next to us sat a family, Mum, Dad, three kids and Grandpa; $1200!!! Many here have turned to the rep leagues for their hockey fix or go to lacrosse games.

    I am not from Toronto. I am a Montrealer who moved here in 1991, so this is going into my 20th year here. This also means that I come at this city with an outsiders mentality after years of trash talking about Toronto in the Safe Bastion of Montreal. I’m not perfect. After all, Montreal’s the Centre of the Universe (WAS!). My sports appetite was well sated in Montreal with numerous Stanley Cups, Grey Cups but no World Series, darn it.

    The Toronto Bluejays did that back to back in ’92 and ‘rinse, wash, repeat’ in ’93. That was astounding. Truly Torontonians seem to forget this?
    OK, it’s not hockey, but what other team in Canada can say they have TWO world series.

    I ‘think’ Toronto and Torontonians are just learning that it’s best to try and be happy, enjoy the day, hope for the best and we’ll win that game next time. In other words we are developing a much needed ‘joie de vivre’of our own. That’s really the only thing I miss miss from my old home town.

    We seem to be winning in every other way, at least economically.

  2. Wendy Waters says:


    I hope you’re right–that the citizens are separating themselves from the leafs and to be happy, regardless of the outcome.

    I’m also a Brian Burke fan. If anyone can turn the team around and help create a winning attitude, he can do it. And, I also hope you’re right that maybe the players can pick up on the good economic vibe and do better.

    It’s probably no accident that in the year following hosting the Olympics, the Canadiens, Flames and Canucks all ended up in the Stanley Cup final.

    Positive vibes can be contagious (as can negative as my post was about).

  3. Colin MacIver says:

    Oh my… I just realized I used ‘we’ and ‘Torontonians’ in the same paragraph!!! I guess I’ll have to admit it I’m from here at some point!!!

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