Depending on the time of the year, the likelihood of seeing two of your local sports teams play at home over the course of a weekend is pretty easy. The likelihood of seeing three of your local sports teams play over the course of a weekend is doable, but rare. The question is who are you watching and when?
Not since the Great Toronto Sports Challenge was completed have Nick and I attempted to watch two local Toronto teams play over the course of a weekend – never mind three! However, the stars aligned in our favour in the final weekend of September 2015 and we attempted to do a mini-Toronto Sports Challenge that included watching the rarest hat trick of home games – a hockey game, a soccer game, and a baseball game!
Note: This hat trick of sports is so rare that the only really opportunity you get to watch all three Toronto teams play at home in one weekend would have to be in the month of May. That would assume that the Toronto Maple Leafs have made it deep in the Stanley Cup Playoffs because the Toronto FC usually don’t play their Home Opener until early May when the weather is appropriate to play a soccer match at BMO Field. However, it has been well over 12+ years since the Toronto Maple Leafs have made it that far in the Playoffs!
Game #1: Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Buffalo Sabres
Since 2007, it’s been more or less a tradition for Nick and me to attend a Toronto Maple Leafs’ Home game on or near his birthday in late March. For a change, Nick thought it would be a good idea that we go see a Leafs game around my Birthday. Since the Buffalo Sabres are my favourite NHL team, we snagged some NHL pre-season tickets for September 25.
Although the opening faceoff was not scheduled until 7:30pm EST, getting to downtown Toronto was quite a circus! The Toronto Blue Jays were hosting Game #1 of their final Home weekend series against the Tampa Rays with the American League East title on the line. More on that in a moment, but for now, Toronto was abuzz with Playoff hopes and dreams and you could sense that heading to the Air Canada Centre for the Leafs game.
Our seats were right in the center of the Upper Bowl. Normally the place would be packed, but with the Blue Jays in town for their final Home series and a final Playoff push combined with this being a pre-season game with very few top line stars playing, the ACC was far less energetic and empty than usual. On top of that, the Sabres were without their top 2015 draft pick, Jack Eichel, in the lineup.
Although the Leafs jumped to an early lead, the Sabres eventually did come from behind and won the game 4 – 3 while the Leafs delivered a very lackluster performance in the third period. Game #1 of the great Toronto Sports Challenge was in the books, and we were 1-0-0 – well, I was 1-0-0 being a Sabres fan, but Nick was 0-1-0 for the Home-Home-Home Series.
Date: September 25, 2015
Teams: Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Buffalo Sabres
Score: 4 – 3 (Loss)
Game #2: Toronto FC vs. Chicago Fire
September 26 was an early start for us. Although opening Kickoff wasn’t until 2pm EST, we headed towards BMO Field around mid-morning so we could have some pre-drinks at the Brazenhead before the match. Given the traffic we had to deal with the night before for the Leafs game, we did not want to take any chances here.
Similar to the Leafs game, our seats were in the Upper Bowl area right along the centre line (Section 223, Row 17, Seats 20 & 21). Because BMO Field is so close to Lake Ontario and we were sitting in the shade, the weather got the better of us during this match. It was really windy and cold where we were sitting, and on top of that, the Chicago Fire jumped to an early 1 – 0 lead only 60 seconds into the match! This was not looking too good for TFC, who were also in a Playoff race in the Eastern Division of Major League Soccer.
Sebastian Giovinco, TFC’s leading scorer, tied the match in the 29th minute on what was one of the strangest chip shots we’ve seen that was carried by the prevailing winds this September afternoon.
In the end, TFC came from behind with a 3 – 2 victory, thus keeping the coveted fifth place spot (and their Playoff hopes alive) in the Eastern Conference.
Date: September 26, 2015
Teams: Toronto FC vs. Chicago Fire
Score: 3 – 2 (Win)
Game #3: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Tampa Bay Rays
The final game of the mini-Toronto Sport Challenge – and the impetus for doing this – occurred on September 27 when the Toronto Blue Jays played their final Home game of the 2015 regular season. As mentioned earlier, the Jays were in a Playoff race in the final weeks of September.
Following the Friday night’s game, the Jays’ win combined with Minnesota Twins’ loss to the Detroit Tigers, our Boys in Blue clinched the second Wild Card spot for the American League, thus ending a 22 year Playoff drought – one of the longest active streaks in North American sports! So, we were now cheering on the Jays to clinch the American League East division title over the much hated New York Yankees!
Opening Pitch was at the usual 1:07pm EST timeslot, but given that it was sold out crowd, Nick and I got to Rogers Center just after Noon. By the time we grabbed some drinks and found our seats, we still had at least another 35 minutes to kill before the game started. I don’t recall ever being this early for a baseball game before, except that one time when I went to watch the Jays play their final game at Old Yankee Stadium.
What should have been a festive atmosphere quickly turned out to be a dud as the Tampa Rays jumped to an early lead 4 – 1 lead by the end of the 4th inning. Somehow the Jays were able to pull back within 1 with a 2 run Homerun shot by Justin Smoak at the bottom of the 6th inning. We were all of sudden back in it, and the Home crowd went wild with their rally towels given at the beginning of the game!
By the bottom of the 9th inning, the score was tied 4 – 4 when American League MVP candidate, Josh Donaldson, crushed a walk-off Homerun into left field to win it for the Jays. The crowd went ecstatic as we now had a serious chance in winning the American League East title heading into the final week of the Regular season!
Date: September 27, 2015
Teams: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Tampa Bay Rays
Score: 5 – 4 (Win)
And with that walk-off Homerun, Nick and I successfully completed the weekend edition of the Toronto Sports Edition. I have no idea how we can possibly top this now having done both a yearlong version and a weekend edition. But, we will somehow, some way!