Sunday, November 26, 2023

Winners & Losers is a slam-dunk history of Toronto sports

Toronto is officially the most sport-crazed city in Canada, boasting big-league franchises in hockey, basketball, baseball and football (both kinds). Championships and chokes (see below) are embedded in the collective Torontonian memory.  That's why the new exhibition by Myseum is essential and a lot of fun.

For once, the Leafs win this one

Winners & Losers celebrates the relationship between Torontonians and its teams over the decades in a city that has radically changed in terms of race and gender parity. The exhibit does not celebrate hall of fame ballplayers (the Hockey Hall of Fame down the street does a fine job of that already), though it name checks the likes of Joe Carter, Frank Mahovlich, Kawaii Leonard and Pinball Clemens.

The great Mahovlich scored for not one, but two Toronto hockey teams: the Maple Leafs (including the 1967 Stanley Cup champions) and the Toros of the short-lived WHA

The exhibit grans equal space to pioneers and local heroes, such as Billie Hallam, a female pitcher who was also crowned 1937's Miss Toronto, and the Toronto Huskies who were roaming NBA courts decades before the Raptors.

Winners & Losers also excels in being interactive. We're not talking smartphones and touch-screen TVs, but games, such as Playoffs (below) where visitors can choose Toronto great basketball moments, whether by Eastern Commerce or by Vince Carter. 

Of course, there's the requisite table hockey game (Leafs vs. Habs, of course) and finely chosen memorabilia, like a vintage boxing programme from Maple Leafs Gardens.

It's remarkable the span of artifacts that Myseum has assembled in a single room, which still allows space for interactivity and TV screens. Obviously, thought and care has been invested in how this compact space should look, sound and feel, from basketballs handling from the ceiling to gridirons covering the floor.

The only critique is the lack of football (soccer), the fastest-growing sport among schoolchildren, and of course the Toronto FC. This can be forgiven since Myseum occupies a tight space in the basement of 401 Richmond (though visible from the sidewalk near Peter Street).

Aside from that, Winners & Losers is an excellent show. Strongly recommended for sports fans, both adults and children, and it's certainly family friendly. Myseum is open Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 6pm (closed Sunday-Tuesday). Admission is free, though donations are welcome. Full details.

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