Editors Note: Today we have a special treat for you, especially if you bleed the Blue and White emblematic of Canada’s largest city. From out of the blue (and white), IL Indoor received the following column from Chris Smith, of the Toronto Smiths. Okay, we’re having a little fun, but this is a fun column. It’s also an interesting take on the resurgence of athletic success in Ontario’s capital, something that has been in short supply outside of Rock circles for quite a while. Enjoy.
The 2012 Argos may have kicked off a change in Canada’s largest city when they won the top prize in Canadian Football, the 103 year old Grey Cup. It was only the second championship for the team in 15 years, after a period of perennial powerhouses claiming the cup. Without even leaving the same building, the Toronto Blue Jays are set to be a powerhouse this summer after as series of surprise moves in the off-season have made them significantly better. Fans are more excited about the ball club this year than at any time since Joe Carter was instructed to touch ‘em all because he’ll never have a bigger moment. Even the Leafs might make the playoffs, however the Surgeon General is warning against the adverse health effects of Leaf Nation holding their collective breath on Lord Stanley being paraded down Yonge St.
With all this in mind, Toronto may still be the home for two lacrosse championships. The Rock are having a hard time being stopped in the NLL and the Canadian Lacrosse League’s Shooting Stars are showing what the former Oshawa Machine can do in new digs.
The Rock sit atop the NLL world right now and do not look like they will be leaving the stratosphere this season. As with many Stanley Cup winners, championships start with goaltending. In his second season with the team, Nick Rose is quickly establishing himself as more than just a capable starter. With him in net, the Rock are living examples of what consistent goaltending can do for a team–a giant point that the offensive Colorado Mammoth seem to be missing.
Garrett Billings and Colin Doyle sit second and third, respectively in the league’s points race largely on the back of their playmaking ability [Editor's note: Doyle was passed and Billings caught Saturday night by Rhys Duch's 10-point game while the Rock are on their bye week]. The team does not have that rarefied talent that players like John Tavares or John Grant, Jr. bring to the table. However, the Rock are healthy and loaded with a lot of high-end talent. Let’s not forget Billings’ 15-point night last year against the Buffalo Bandits at the First Niagara Centre. At this point in the season, it’s a reasonably safe bet that at least one team in the ACC will finish atop their division and perhaps even their league.
The NHL may not see fit to put more than one professional club in the GTA. The Canadian Lacrosse League (CLax), however, has blessed Highway 401 with three clubs. It would be too bold though to call the Brampton Inferno or the Durham Turfdogs truly a Toronto team, especially with the Toronto Shooting Stars bearing the city’s name. Fortunately for the town with the Tower, you don’t have to look to another team for CLax success.
Playing out of the historic Mattamy Athletic Centre (née, Maple Leaf Gardens), the Shooting Stars boast a significant amount of talent and cohesion. As with the Rock, goaltending has been strong for the Stars. U of T product Angus Dineley has been playing fantastic lacrosse this season. Dineley, Niagra’s Connor Danko and Durham’s ZackHiggins make up the obvious top three CLax net minders this season with the slight edge going to Dineley.
The Stars also boast a well balanced offense. Aaron Grayson, Mack O’Brien and Derek Hopcroft provide solid offense for the team as do the Wasson brothers Josh and Joe. A discouraging factor for the Shooting Stars, ironically, is their lack of significant star power. They lack the elite level of talent that players like the Demons Roger Vyse, Niagara’s Corey Fowler or Brampton’s Ryan Campbell bring to the floor. The positive note for the Stars is that they do not seem to need it. Most players on any team in any league would take an .800 winning percentage over a scoring title.
It truly is a good time to be a Toronto Sports fan if you do not focus on the waffles toss for the Blue and White. The Jays should be playing meaningful ball in August, Argos have some swagger and the Rock and Shooting Stars are contenders in their respective leagues. Traffic may be stuck on the Don Valley Parking lot, but talent and wins still manage to find their way into what some call the Centre of the Universe.
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