Toronto's out of sync with Canada

Rarely are any of the great Canadian sporting events held in Toronto, including the Brier, which...

Rarely are any of the great Canadian sporting events held in Toronto, including the Brier, which was actually born in the city. (ANDY CLARK/Reuters file photo)

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:10 PM ET

TORONTO - Do you ever get the feeling you’re living in Toronto, but not necessarily in Canada?

That there is some kind of separation between city and country. That there is this place called Canada we live in and pay taxes in but we aren’t necessarily part of it.

I started thinking about that the other day when a press release came in telling me that 1.13 million Canadians tuned in for the rather uneventful Brier final, which, give or take a few hundred thousand, is about the same number as they get every year for the men’s curling final.

An event that is as far removed from Toronto as you can get.

This is the largest, richest, most populated city in the country but they don’t dare hold a Brier here. The reason: They’re afraid it would bomb.

Never mind that it hasn’t bombed in Saskatoon, London, Halifax, Calgary, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Regina and Edmonton the past eight years (and then we start repeating cities). Never mind it’s been held in Ottawa, Kamloops and Red Deer all in the past 25 years. And never mind that the first 13 Canadian curling championships were held in Toronto — the event was born here — but we haven’t housed a Brier since 1941.

That, for the record, was 71 years ago.

But this isn’t really about curling. This is about a seeming disconnect between what Canada is passionate about and what we in the GTA care about. It’s different from the obvious French-English cultural divide between Quebec and Canada. This isn’t a province. This is about a city and the area that surrounds it. We’re not really Canadian in the sense that we fit in with the rest of the country. And we’re not really America, in the sense we don’t fit in with Americans at all. We’re just us. Alone. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

But alone when it comes to our place on the sporting landscape of this nation.

We have had Olympics in this country — in Vancouver, in Montreal, in Calgary. Just not in the so-called centre of the hockey universe.

Our great Christmas pastime — the world junior hockey championship — have been held in Canada on 11 different occasions. Just never before in the GTA. Never at Maple Leaf Gardens, which is now a grocery store. Never at the Air Canada Centre. It’s been held in Edmonton and Calgary; in Saskatoon, in Ottawa and Vancouver and Halifax and Winnipeg and Red Deer. And yes, Hamilton can’t get an NHL team but they have housed a world junior as has Montreal. All to rave reviews.

Toronto ... as they used to say on Jeopardy ... just watching (although we get our chance to split the world juniors in 2015 — so please don’t screw it up.)

The Grey Cup, like the Brier, used to be a Toronto staple. But that was before most of us were born. Now every time a Grey Cup is held in Toronto, the CFL collectively holds its breath. Will anyone care? Will anyone notice? No one else needs a federal handout when the Grey Cup is here: We ask and we get one. No one else (except Hamilton) gets a handout from the league to try and make the market more competitive. In what other sport does the largest and richest require a handout?

The CFL thrives in Calgary and Edmonton, in Vancouver when the Lions are decent, in Saskatchewan it’s religion, and it has truly captured the spirit of Montreal, but not here. Here it’s flat. Ask the league for a geographic breakdown of their national ratings and they’ll promise to get back to you. But they’ll never tell you how many people are watching from Southern Ontario because, frankly, they don’t want you to know.

Toronto doesn’t really want the CFL, doesn’t want the Buffalo Bills, may want something to call their own from the NFL, but as usual we’re just not sure.

So we isolate ourselves in our teams going nowhere, buying and selling hope like they do every day on Bay St., and in a city known for getting up for the big event, we don’t hold very many. The Olympics said no to us. Hockey Canada said no to us too many times. The Brier people would be out of their minds to try to make it work here.

The four largest events on the national television docket are mostly removed from this market, even though the Grey Cup is here this year. The big three — the Brier, the world juniors, the Grey Cup, you bid on. The fourth one — the Stanley Cup Final — that one, is even more difficult. That one you have to earn.

steve.simmons@sunmedia.ca

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