Toronto, Canada’s downtown, has it all — and that includes major pro sports teams from ice hockey and basketball to baseball and soccer. What’s more, you can see all of these terrific sports in the same city. That includes rooting for your home team while you’re on vacation, too.
If you want to join the zealous fans in the stadium for some popcorn and cheering, or the rowdy aficionados at the best sports bars, there are dozens of games, competitions, and hot spots to choose from. Here’s your sports in Toronto primer.
It’s Canada! So first and foremost, it’s about hockey. Iconic “Hockey Night in Canada” is a revered tradition and the legendary Toronto Maple Leafs are the local team, known for their fierce rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens, aka the Habs. Pack into the stands at the Scotiabank Arena arena to watch the National Hockey League’s original six teams face off on the ice. If you can score tickets for a Maple Leafs-Canadiens game, count yourself lucky. But a showdown against rivals the Ottawa Senators or Detroit Red Wings is sure to be action-packed as well. The season runs October to April and there’s also the Hockey Hall of Fame for more. Catch the a Canadian Women’s Hockey League Toronto Furies game at the MasterCard Centre, too.
Best place to watch: No surprise, it’s Wayne Gretzky’s Toronto, named after The Great One and located near Harbourfront Centre and Rogers Centre. If playoffs are happening, this is your spot with the action unfolding on 40 HDTVs. Check out No. 99’s personal memorabilia, too.
Canada’s Team: That’s what the Toronto Raptors are now; hence, the hashtag #wethenorth. Some even say the team has transformed Toronto into a basketball city. The National Basketball Association expanded outside the U.S. for the first time in 1995 and into Canada with the founding of the Toronto Raptors. A huge array of fans from all walks of life are especially devoted to the underdog team, which struggled to develop in the early years. But nowadays things are looking up for DeMar “DeRozan and the boys,” as they’re affectionately called, and the team is clearly on the upswing. The “Raps” made the NBA playoffs in 2015-16 and again in 2016-17, pushing emotional Raptors followers into the ecstatic zone. The question is: What’s next? Games are at the Scotiabank Arena from October to April.
Best place to watch: The Loose Moose. It’s close to the arena, has a huge list of draught beers, and a menu with better-than-the-usual fare like tacos and poutine. Plus, you’ll feel like one of the gang seated at the long communal picnic tables. Arrive early if you want to sit down, though, as this spot is a rowdy favorite. With its own sound system and multiple screens streaming live, The Contender in Dundas West is also sports central. The official fan gathering spot is the cul de sac right behind the arena cleverly named Jurassic Park.
Toronto is proudly multicultural, so understandably, soccer is huge here mirroring the international scene. Toronto Football Club is the homegrown Major League Soccer (MLS) team — the first Canadian-based one, born in 2007 — with regular matches at BMO Field March to October. These pros were the Eastern Conference champs in the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs and are six-time Canadian champs. Toronto FC is known for its impressively loyal fan culture and oft sold-out stadiums, and red and white are the colors if you want to join the ranks. Don’t miss the high-intensity on-field action of all-time leading scorer and MVP Sebastian “Seba” Giovinco or a match with arch rival Montreal Impact.
Best place to watch: The Football Factory in the Entertainment District. Diehard footballers meet here and during the season’s prime time. There are private rooms for soccer parties in this classy, upscale lounge bar, 13 HDTVs, and elevated Euro bistro fare.
Summer belongs to baseball — and in T.O. it’s for the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays play in the Major League Baseball American League’s East division — the only team currently outside the U.S. — and their home stadium is downtown’s Rogers Centre with its all-weather retractable roof. Take the subway right to the ballpark (Union Station) and file out like everyone else dressed in blue and white to the sound of building anticipation for the game and the wafting smell of roasting hotdogs. You can join one of the many special events, such as Friday Fan Festivals and Jr. Jays Saturdays. The regular season is April to October, though there’s nothing like a summertime ball game.
Best place to watch: If you can’t make it to the Dome, Real Sports Bar & Grill is where you want to watch baseball. It’s massive, a sprawling 25,000 square feet in Scotiabank Arena, so you’ll always find a seat. There are 200 HDTVs, one that’s two stories high (39 feet), all showing the Jays live, plus chicken wings and nachos, and a whopping 114 beers on tap.
True, it’s not hockey, but Canadians love football, too. Locally it’s about the Canadian Football League’s (CFL) Toronto Argonauts, a team founded back in 1873. In 2017, the double-blue Argos were on a roll, so fans are optimistic about what’s on the horizon. The regular season kicks off in June and goes til November with home games at the BMO Field stadium.
Best place to watch: the Entertainment District’s The Ballroom Bowl, a concert hall for 900, sports bar, and bowling alley all in one. This is where you can follow the game on one of 60 TVs, sip a cold beer, and if your team is getting pummeled, take a break and bowl some 10-pin, play Xbox and pool, or Foosball and Ping-Pong. Book your lane in advance, though.
While you’re in town, get to know Toronto’s eclectic multicultural neighborhoods, internationally acclaimed restaurants, and upstart food truck scene.
Get ideas for what to do before and after the game at the Tourism Toronto website.