– November 08, 2011; David Karkoulas, Contributor
Every year as the off season draws to a close, the excitement of training camp builds. Several teams have the benefit of coming within inches of hoisting a championship in the prior season while other teams have to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. United in hope and anticipation, fans and players alike await the beginning of a new year with fervor. Players keen on achieving new successes work extra hard in the off season while coaches and general managers contemplate how to prepare their squad for a run at a championship.
While the start of training camp represents the start of competition and perennial rust shaking for the players, managers have the task of turning highly paid and hyper competitive pro athletes into one big happy family. In hopes of brewing the perfect recipe for success, managers organize team bonding trips where players compete in lighthearted activities while spending the weekend together in a remote rural location.
But ask members of both the Toronto Blue Jays and the Maple Leafs, and they will tell you that the real team bonding is taking place in the social media universe. Led by sophomore catcher J.P. Arencibia of the Blue Jays, tangible chemistry amongst teammates is on full display on Twitter. Although most fans would settle for in-team chemistry of both aforementioned clubs, the young talent of the Blue Jays and Maple Leafs have become very fond of each other, hanging out together and forming a group that is being called “Team Unit.”
While Team Unit would seem like a young fan’s superhero dream come true, older fans of both clubs should be excited as well. Consisting primarily of Jays’ Arencibia; Brett Lawrie; Jose Bautista and Maple Leafs’ Phil Kessel; Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul, the birth of Team Unit has meant surprising success from the oft snake-bitten Kessel and Lupul.
Kessel currently leads the NHL in scoring while Lupul finds himself in the top 5. More importantly however, the Leafs find themselves perched atop the NHL standings after November 1, a ranking they have not held at this point of the year since 1999, the year they bowed out in the Eastern conference finals. Players who struggled to find chemistry and reach their potential in past years with the Leafs are now gelling and achieving more than most fans had dreamed of, let alone expected.
Even though Toronto sports fans have not seen playoff Hockey or Baseball in nearly a decade, the young talent of both clubs is restoring a sense of community and support that has been lost in the recent losing years of Toronto sports. This off season poses a unique opportunity for the Blue Jays to take another step towards a championship as the rising talent of the Jays coincides with the faltering of divisional rivals New York and Boston. Team Unit members of the Blue Jays may have to wait until April to see the benefits of their new faction, but the Maple Leafs’ Team Unit members have already begun. “We’re uniting to bring championships to this city” explains Arencibia in an interview with Toronto based journalist Renee Paquette.
Some may scoff at the involvement of pro athletes in social media, but the emergence of Team Unit has brought attention to Toronto athletes not just for their online presence but for their individual and collective successes. Those doubting the early achievements of the Maple Leafs should consider Team Unit as a very strong indication that these wins are for real, as the Leafs are now a team playing for one another towards a communal goal.
Whether it be a Stanley Cup or World Series Championship, Jays’ and Leafs’ fans have reason to cheer as Team Unit is poised to make Toronto a winner once again.