Thursday night in Oakland the Toronto Raptors delivered a major sports championship to the city of Toronto, besting the Golden State Warriors 104-100 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
Prior to that, the city hadn’t been on top of any of North America’s ‘core four’ major league sports (baseball, basketball, hockey, football) since Oct. 23, 1993, when Joe Carter delivered a walk-off home run off the Philadelphia Phillies’ Mitch Williams in Game 6 of the World Series.
Much like Carter’s home run, the Raptors’ Larry O’Brien trophy doesn’t just belong to one city. Rather it was an entire nation that lays claims to that victory.
That likely wouldn’t be the case if a Canadian NHL team were to buck the 30 year trend and win a Stanley Cup. While most would be happy to see the trophy return home, there would no doubt be some pockets of fans in this country who would be a tad jealous if the Calgary Flames, Montreal Canadians or if by some miracle, Toronto Maple Leafs, hoisted Lord Stanley. The same can be said for the Canadian Football League, which is made up solely of Canadian entries. While fans of that city or province will share in the joy of winning the Grey Cup, there will be another part of this country that is left heart-broken when their team finishes as runner-ups. And while MLB did have a Montreal rep at the time of the Jays’ back-to-back titles, the Expos have since departed south for Washington.
As the lone representatives of their country in their league, the Raptors are undeniably Canada’s team. That’s a distinction they’ve owned since 2000, when their 1995 expansion partner Vancouver Grizzlies left the country for Memphis. That left Toronto to carry the maple leaf in the sport that was created by Canadian Dr. James Naismith.
While a lack of professional Canadian franchises in a sport created by a Canadian is a tad disappointing, it does however lend itself to uniting a country.
Locally, we’ve seen it when the Napanee Express captured gold at the U19 Canadian Men’s Fast Pitch Championship last summer on home soil. Then again this winter when the Napanee Raiders defeated Grimsby to capture the Schmalz Cup. Both instances saw large crowds of hometown fans gather to cheer on athletes to bring home a title that meant just as much to the fans as it does to those on the field or ice. No politics, no religious differences, just a uniting of fans cheering for a common outcome.
Ideally Canada won’t have to go another 26 years before its next major league title. Anything that distracts from the bickering of the world and unites the country will always be a welcome sight.