Can new faces bring a winning attitude back to this city’s professional hockey and basketball teams? Find out for yourself as the Maple Leafs and Raptors return to action at an Air Canada Centre that’s abuzz with anticipation.
BLADES OF STEEL
You could be forgiven for wondering why it’s so difficult to get tickets to a Toronto Maple Leafs home game. After all, the National Hockey League team—and Canada’s most valuable sports franchise—hasn’t exactly been burning up the ice in recent years. It’s no secret they haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1967, and despite attracting some laudable talent, the squad has been shut out of the playoffs in each of the previous four seasons. Such inferiority prompted a high-profile executive change last year, with team owners installing prized hockey mind Brian Burke as general manager. An architect of recent Cup contenders the Vancouver Canucks and Anaheim Ducks, Burke is noted for preferring big, tough players, and this summer made good on his reputation by signing workhorses like Mike Komisarek, Garnet Exelby and Francois Beauchemin. You won’t be seeing these defensemen at the all-star game; they earn their pay not with fancy stickhandling, but with body checks and blocked shots. Lacking any true scoring stars, it’s unlikely the 2009–10 version of the Maple Leafs will be remembered among the storied lineups of yesteryear, but this city of rink rats and ice queens nevertheless lives and dies by the fortunes of its blue-collar hockey heroes.