The 10 years between 2004-2014 were among the darkest in Toronto sports history. To say the four major sports teams were merely bad would be the definition of an understatement. In 40 total seasons, they had four playoff appearances and zero championships. Toronto was on par with Cleveland in terms of athletic ineptness, a comparison no sports fan wants to hear. With no memorable team moments to gush about, we had no choice but to celebrate individual players like Roy Halladay and Mats Sundin. But after a decade of utter incompetence, is Toronto finally on the cusp of returning to glory?
From the late 80’s to the magical back-to-back World Series titles of 1992 and 1993, the Blue Jays were a force to be reckoned with. With a state of the art stadium, the Blue Jays were a destination for top free agents and their payroll soared to the highest in the league. However, in the years following the strike of 1994, the owners scaled back salary getting rid of the likes of Robbie Alomar, Paul Molitor, and Jack Morris. And unfortunately for Jays fans, they never really recovered. Until Jose Bautista’s now infamous bat flip, the Blue Jays didn’t make the playoffs from 1994-2015 and seemed to be mired in a permanent state of mediocrity. Today, after making it to the ALCS in back-to-back years and with a strong young pitching core, it appears their window is still open, and quite promising.
Aside from the tail end of the Mats Sundin and Pat Quinn era, the Maple Leafs have been dreadful. Seven straight seasons without making the playoffs culminated in one playoff birth from 2004-2014, in a lock-out shortened 2012-2013 season. They targeted old, slow veterans at the expense of developing youth, trading away draft pick after draft pick in the hopes of a quick fix. Well, as several front office regimes have come and gone, it (finally) looks like the Leafs are on the right track. Brendan Shanahan was appointed President of the club and has put in place a strong team of analytical minds like Kyle Dubas and Darryl Metcalf, coupled with experienced hockey executives in Lou Lamoriello and Mark Hunter. After drafting Auston Matthews 1st overall in last year’s Entry Draft, to go along with star rookies Alex Nylander and Mitch Marner, they look poised to make a Cup run in the next few years. Leafs fans are becoming more and more optimistic and for the first time in a decade, it seems to be warranted.
Much like the Maple Leafs, the Raptors had an excellent team from 1999-2002. Led by the electrifying Vince Carter, Antonio Davis, and Charles Oakley the Raptors fell one shot short of reaching the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in franchise history. Unfortunately, this stretch was followed by a couple dismal seasons in a row as well as the trade of Vince Carter, and the end result was the Raptors reaching the playoffs just three times between 2004-2014, all of which they lost in the opening round. But fast forward to 2016, and times have changed. We The North is the battle cry, and after winning the most games in franchise history in 2015-2016, including a heartbreaking loss to the Cavs in the Eastern Conference finals, the Raptors are striving to build a team that can beat Lebron and company for a chance at the Larry O’brien Trophy.
Toronto FC was born in 2007, but despite the rabid fan support and buzz surrounding the only Canadian team in MLS, they achieved virtually no success from 2007-2014. In fact, not only did they fail to qualify for the playoffs, not once did they have a winning record! Including interim positions, they cycled through nine different coaches in eight years, which is astonishing turnover even for a job known to have a short shelf life. But following the lead of the Blue Jays and the Raptors, TFC has had a remarkable turnaround of late and the future has never been brighter. Signed in January 2015, Sebastian Giovinco deserves the lion’s share of the credit, winning the MLS Golden Boot and guiding TFC to consecutive playoff appearances in 2015 and 2016. As Toronto FC heads to the BMO field this Saturday for the MLS Final against Seattle, soccer fans throughout Toronto will be cheering them on!
As a lifelong Toronto sports fan, I’m inclined to believe that better times are ahead for our four major sports teams. For those who grew up during the 2000s, the years of cheering relentlessly for bad teams is finally over. And to all the bandwagon fans, now is the time to get back onboard. With stable ownership, strong management, and fan-bases ready to explode, there may come a time in the not-so-distant future that a parade marches down Yonge Street.
 Note: This list does not include the Toronto Argos, as the CFL only contains nine teams. Typically, the “Big Four” in North America refer to NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL. However, since Toronto does not have an NFL team, MLS was substituted due to the size of the league. It’s worth noting that the Argos won two Grey Cups from 2004-2014.