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Move Over Hockey, Toronto Is Becoming A Raptors NBA City

Honestly, it wouldn’t take a lot to drive Torontonians hockey mad, however, increasingly over the last half a century, the city has become frustrated with their NHL team. Into this vacuum of hockey despair, the city has looked to embrace new additions to the local professional sports landscape and rising to the top in 2014 has been the Toronto Raptors.

Except for a seemingly brief fling with Vinsanity, the Raptors have been a distant third to the Maple Leafs and Blue Jays. However, an unexpected trip to the playoffs and the appearance of thousands of fans in Maple Leaf Square to watch home and away games against the Nets on the giant outdoor screen – quite possibly aided by the calls of Fcuk Brooklyn by President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri – and the Raptors began to take over Toronto.

In many ways their Social Media standings say it all. Long ignored on their social media platforms, the Raptors have made massive gains in Facebook likes and Twitter followers during 2014. They have even surpassed the Maple Leafs on Facebook by over 60,000 likes and the Blue Jays have slid to third.

Toronto Raptors
Facebook likes 1,238,890
Twitter followers 516k

Toronto Maple Leafs
Facebook likes 1,177,602
Twitter followers 629k

Toronto Blue Jays
Facebook likes 999,728
Twitter followers 499k

This shift towards the Raptors didn’t just happen. The Leafs and Jays disappointed their fans once again and the Raptors found something that made them more than just winners. The Raptors became likeable winners.

All of the professional sports teams in Toronto have tickets that are unbelievably expensive, including the Raptors and the teams all continue to experiment with how to drive up revenues. In ESPN’s ranking of 122 professional sports franchises in North America, only the Blue Jays crack the top 100 for affordability and only barely at 97th. The Toronto Maple Leafs can brag they have the least affordable tickets in professional sports and the Raptors are not very far behind. If the fans in Toronto expect a lot, it’s because they’ve paid for it.

Where the Leafs rank dead last in Bang for the Buck and Affordability and only the Minnesota Timberwolves are on a worse Championship Title Track in all of sports, the Leafs have done their best to further lower the bar for the Raptors and Blue Jays by ranking near the bottom in player likability, coaching and fan relations.

Despite the cost of their tickets, the Raptors are providing fans a better than average Bang for the Buck primarily because their players score better for likeability and effort as does their head coach. Remarkably, the Raptors finish 41 spots ahead of the Leafs in Fan Relations sharing the same building and as anyone that has attended both Leafs and Raptors games can attest, the fan experience is better at a basketball game.

Overall, ESPN ranked the Raptors at 74th out of 122 teams, the Blue Jays at 81 and the Maple Leafs 122.

Looking through the rankings, they seem fair. The 121st ranked New York Knicks share the honor of two dead last rankings out of eight categories with the Maple Leafs, the Knicks owning the worst fan relations and player likeability categories.

The Raptors are wedged in between the Washington Wizards and the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres are very affordable, but offer little Bang for the Buck. The Wizards offer great Bang for the Buck, but trail Toronto in coaching, player likeability and stadium experience.

The Blue Jays are ranked between the Boston Red Sox and Buffalo Bills.

This is the Raptors chance to own the stage in Toronto. Expectations are high, the team is liked and likeable and their major local competitors for attention on the sports scene continue to go through a period of uncertainty and fan frustration. In a city starved for a post season action let alone watching a championship contender, Toronto is ready to embrace the Raptors in a big way.


Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.