Ever since the Montreal Expos packed their things and moved to Washington D.C, the Blue Jays have been the only MLB team in Canada. Because of this, they are branded as “Canada’s Team”, but are they really Canada’s team? Aside from the winter tour which features a few Blue Jays players in 5 or so Canadian cities each year, and the new Honda Super Camps held across Canada for kids, the Blue Jays don’t really do anything outside of Toronto.
The Raptors, Toronto’s NBA team, and also the only NBA team in Canada recently announced that they will hold their training camp in Halifax, Nova Scotia this coming October. The Raptors, since the Vancouver Grizzlies relocated to Memphis over a decade ago have established themselves as Canada’s basketball team, something the Blue Jays have been unable to do with baseball. They have done this by hosting many exhibition and regular season games across Canada, something that is definitely easier for them than it would be for the Jays. There are arenas built for basketball in basically every Canadian province, but when it comes to a stadium able to host an MLB game, there are only 3 in all of Canada. One in Toronto (Rogers Centre), one in Vancouver (BC Place), and the last one in Montreal (Olympic Stadium). Obviously the only ones I will discuss are the last two, as the Jays play all their home games in Toronto already.
So what am I proposing? I think the Jays should play some games in Montreal and/or Vancouver each season. Here are the different reasons for, reasons against, and other thoughts related to this plan for each stadium and city.
Games in Vancouver (B.C Place)
The nicest stadium in the CFL (Canadian Football League), and possibly the nicest stadium in all of Canada was opened in 1983 and went through a massive $563 million that was completed late last year. The stadium has a retractable roof, is baseball compatible, and has a football capacity of 60,000. You have to figure that it can hold around 50,000 people when in baseball mode; although no MLB games have been held in it since 1994.
Paul Beeston, the President and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays said last season that he hopes to bring some games to Montreal in the future, but said nothing about Vancouver. This is quite strange as games in Vancouver make a lot more sense.
JP Morosi touched on the idea of bringing the Blue Jays to Vancouver last season when he wrote:
"“The Seattle and Toronto franchises would forgo a home series in alternating years. In a season like this, when the teams are scheduled to play three times, there would be one series in Seattle, one series in Toronto, and one series in Vancouver.”"
I don’t think you can expect a sell out of 45,000+ for 3 straight games, and that is what it would take in my opinion to get the two clubs to agree to play these games. My two ideas are having each team surrender one game per year to be played in B.C, which gives Vancouver two games, or have an exhibition before the season starts like what happened in 1994. If there are only 2 games per year, you can be rest assured they would both be sold out. If there was an exhibition game, I don’t think that would generate as much popularity, so that could be an issue.
Games in Montreal (Olympic Stadium)
I’ve never been to Olympic stadium (or BC place for that matter), but from what I hear it is pretty ugly. The pictures I have seen make it look really nice actually, so I’m not really sure if the stadium itself will be an issue when planning an event like a regular season game. The main concern with Montreal is the fans. The fans are the ones who didn’t show up when the Expos were in town, and the fans are the ones that have a huge rivalry with Toronto. Not a lot of Montrealers are Blue Jays fans, so bringing regular season games and expecting big crowds is something that is unrealistic in my mind. Another problem is deciding which opponent to play. An attendance magnet like the Yankees won’t happen because the Jays brass will not give up the large crowds that they get when the Bronx Bombers come to town, and the Oakland A’s or Kansas City Royals won’t draw fans anywhere. The Washington Nationals are becoming an attendance magnet, so a series with them because of their Expos roots isn’t likely either. There is really no good match, and that is why I believe the only way baseball will be played once again in Olympic Stadium is if it is an exhibition game. One exhibition game would get a great attendance, but anything more will not.
To Sum Up
Overall I think the Jays do need to play games across Canada to deserve being Canada’s team just like the Raptors are doing. Every year, games should be played outside of Toronto, in Vancouver and Montreal. Vancouver is the only city that I believe would be able to host regular season games, as their close proximity to Seattle would help the attendance for the 2-3 games played. Montreal is even a stretch for exhibition games because of the reasons listed above, although as I said earlier, one game couldn’t be so bad. Who knows, maybe Vancouver will get a team permanently in the future?
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