It has occurred to me, while I recover my knee procedure, that despite winless seasons across the board, all major Toronto sports teams lack a player identity. On each of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Blue Jays, the team’s face is that of management. Fans are more interested in the coaches and GMs compared to individual players.
As I reflect on my years as a Toronto sports fan, I don’t ever remember it being like this. Growing up, the Leafs had guys like Darryl Sittler, Lanny McDonald; the Jays had fan favourites like Cliff Johnson, Jimmy Key, Dave Stieb, Damo Garcia, Alfredo Griffin; the Argos had guys like Holloway, Joe Barnes, Cedric Minter and so on. Our teams may not have been very good, but we knew “the guys” and we cheered for them. Even in the dark era of the Leafs we had guys we loved. Bill, Blinky Derlago, Mike Palmateer, Borje Salming.
The players weren’t superstars, but they provided the fans with an identity. No one cared about Floyd Smith, Bobby Cox, Tom Watt or Doug Carpenter. Gerry McNamara wasn’t on the cover of press guides, the players were the stories. All of our teams had a face, or in a lot of cases, faces.
Even the Raptors from inception had an identity. Damon Stoudamire, Vince Carter, Charles Oakley to name a few. Yes Isiah was there, but the guys on the court were the team.
Do you remember guys like Brad Smith? Jim Korn? Kelly Gruber? Buck Martinez and Ernie Whitt? Lloyd Moseby, Dave Collins? Again, none really superstars, none on the greatest teams, but players that gave our teams identities.
Who do we have today?
There really isn’t one player on any of our teams right now that has a bigger presence then their GM or coaches.
That’s really sad.
Jose Bautista could be the guy. It’s too soon to tell.
Luke Schenn could become the guy, but he’s too young. When I think of first round draft picks who became the guy, I think of Wendel Clark. Or gulp, Chris Bosh when he first arrived. I don’t think Schenn has that character, at least not yet.
Grabovski? No. He certainly isn’t there yet. Borchevsky and Berezin were above him in “popularity” at their peak.
Let me ask you an honest question. If someone were to say to you, money is no issue and you can have an official game jersey of any current Toronto player. Leafs, Raptors, Blue Jays, Argos or TFC – which player(s) do you want?
Not an easy question is it? I asked someone today and they said Kyle Drabek! The kid isn’t even here yet. Anyone who says Kessel or Phaneuf isn’t being honest, at least not in my opinion. DeRozan? I don’t think so.
Who would be your choice? I can honestly say I don’t have a choice. There isn’t a single player on any of our teams whose jersey I would want, or wear, right now.
Second question for you. If you could set your flux capacitor ahead to a time when any of our teams are actually competitive, what year would you be selecting for what team? In other words, just how far away from being serious contender are any of our teams? How soon can you see the Leafs advancing through a round of the playoffs? When do the Raptors get there? When will the Jays make a post season appearance again?
Enjoy the snow!