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Year in Review: seven of Toronto’s biggest losers of 2013

Who had a terrible year in 2013?

During 2013, some of this city’s leaders, sports stars and entertainers suffered setbacks on such an epic scale that their shortcomings can almost be said to have defined the year. Here’s our list of seven Torontonians who—whether because of some sort of wrongdoing, or as a result of sheer bad luck—managed to captivate us (and, in some cases, the entire world) with their misadventures. (Be sure to check out our Winners of 2013, too.)

Who had a terrible year in 2013?
Rob Ford: International Embarrassment

We thought it couldn’t get any worse for the mayor when he was booted from office last year. Then 2013 happened. He’s become so infamous that it’s almost unnecessary to include him on a list like this, Mr. Mayor, stop saying things. Stop doing things. You’re in hibernation. You’re Buddha under the Bodhi tree for the next 10 months, until you’re quite possibly re-elected. We just want to say that while everyone keeps bringing up the Chris Farley resemblance, our money is on Rosie O’Donnell to play the lead role in the inevitable biopic.

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The 50 Most Influential People in Toronto: who really runs this city?

The 50 Most Influential People in Toronto 2013 You know you live in interesting times when the chief of police is the most powerful person in town. What propelled Chief Blair to the top of our Influentials list was Rob Ford’s Crackgate—a story that consumed the city for much of the last year and whose bewildering narrative is still being written. Of course, Ford wasn’t the only politician who behaved badly in 2013. Chronic dysfunction is evident at all levels of government, from the petty infighting at city hall to the crippling gamesmanship at Queen’s Park and the expense scandals on Parliament Hill. And yet, it’s not all doom and gloom. Some of the city’s most formidable leaders are outside the traditional halls of power: global hip-hop stars, tech titans, gossip bloggers and guitar-strumming astronauts, among others. The people ranked here all did something in 2013 that made an impact on our lives, for better or for worse. Our list demonstrates that sometimes influence is enduring, sometimes it’s fickle and sometimes it rests on a single cellphone video that could forever change the complexion of the city.

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Brian Burke is suing Internet trolls who say he impregnated Hazel Mae

(Image: Leon Switzer)

After MLSE brass booted Brian Burke from the general manager’s office in January, a small but rabid corner of the Internet speculated that the reason for his ouster was a steamy extramarital affair with Sportsnet Connected host Hazel Mae. Some of the rumour-mongers even alleged that he knocked her up. On Friday, Burke launched a defamation lawsuit against 18 of the online commenters—thereby introducing the rumour to a whole section of the public who had never even heard it in the first place. (For the record, Mae supports his case.) The reason for doing so, his lawyer says, is a matter of principle: because Burke has the cash to pursue the case through the courts, he decided it’s up to him to “stop people who post comments on the Internet from thinking they can fabricate wild stories with impunity.” The effect of Burke’s high-minded rhetoric is marred only slightly by the fact that the accused parties are currently known only as “KaBoomin8,” “Slobberface” and “Poonerman.” [CBC]

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Best Bets: unofficial odds for our favourite Toronto Maple Leafs off-the-ice storylines in 2013

NHL hockey is finally here after a 119-day standoff between owners and the players union that robbed fans of nearly half the season. The Toronto Maple Leafs begin the season on the road against the Montreal Canadiens tomorrow night, and Toronto’s ever-loyal fans are readying their jerseys and face paint. Unfortunately, the Leafs’ chances of hoisting the cup this year are slim (Vegas oddsmakers peg them at 40:1). Given that, and our love of absurdly arbitrary sports odds-making, we dreamed up a few other possibilites that you probably won’t find in the local sports pages but will make good fodder for friendly wagers.

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What Toronto Maple Leafs brass, players and hockey insiders are saying about Brian Burke’s firing

Brian Burke and Dave Nonis during the NHL entry draft last summer (Image: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images Sport)

The reactions to the shocking end of Brian Burke’s tenure as the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs—and the slightly awkward beginning of Dave Nonis’—have been swift and varied. While MLSE insists the decision was months in the making, many are baffled it came just days before training camp when ownership could’ve made its move during the lockout. Speculation has also been rampant about who on MLSE’s board pushed hardest for the dramatic dismissal and predictions already abound about how Nonis’s regime will differ from Burke’s. Below, a roundup of comments from those closest to the deal—MLSE bigwigs, the most well-connected pundits and Leafs players. Plus, Rob Ford.

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Rob Ford opts out of attending a “gentle” and “welcoming” gay outreach event

(Image: Ryan)

Rob Ford has remained non-committal about whether or not he’d forgo all Pride events this year (we believe his exact words were “We’ll see”), but he has confirmed he won’t be attending an outreach event leading up to the festivities. Ford’s office told organizers that he simply can’t squeeze in a flag raising at city hall on May 17 to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. The event had seemed like the safest bet for a mayoral appearance since it’s usually quite low-key (and Brian Burke would be there, so they could talk about hockey if Ford felt uncomfortable). Kristyn Wong-Tam, who has suggested the mayor is just shy, not homophobic, told the Globe and Mail that the mayor’s presence at the “gentle” and “welcoming” event “might have taken the question away about whether or not he supports the LGBT community.” Instead, skipping out on the flag raising, plus keeping silent while Sun News Network host David Menzies makes bizarre comments about George Smitherman’s sexuality on Ford’s radio show, is keeping those questions very much alive. [Globe and Mail]

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When fashion and sports collide: George Laraque calls out the Leafs for endorsing Canada Goose 

Retired NHL player George Laraque isn’t happy with the Toronto Maple Leafs. No, he isn’t some curmudgeon complaining from a rocking chair because he’s no longer fit for the ice; he doesn’t like that the Leafs are endorsing a fox fur–trimmed Canada Goose jacket, because he believes it’s cruel to animals. According to the Toronto Star, Laraque wrote a letter to Leafs GM Brian Burke saying the team should make the “compassionate decision never to promote the cruel fur trade again.” His anger stems from PETA’s claims that coyotes and other animals trapped for their fur often suffer for days before dying of exposure, frostbite, shock or infection, details that he also included in his letter. Burke says the Leafs will not change their minds. Maybe Burke just wants to be affiliated with a winning product? Read the entire story [Toronto Star] »

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The Loaded List: we catalogue the astronomical salaries of Toronto’s ruling class

The Loaded List
It’s not particularly polite to ask rich people what they earn. But tact is overrated, and we wanted to know, so we asked anyway. When they told us to get lost, we got sneaky. We dug up disclosure documents, annual reports and the tax filings of charitable organizations. When those trails went dry, we surveyed industry insiders who know what other people make—headhunters and consultants and analysts and colleagues—and asked for an educated guess. After hundreds of calls and emails and deep-throat meetings in dark alleys, we phoned the high earners back and told them what we found. Again, with feeling, they told us to piss off.

What follows is our shamelessly gawking, as-precise-as-possible examination of the highest-paid people in the city’s top industries. When the information was available, we included bonuses and perks and, in some cases, exercised stock options. Our findings verified that a high earner in finance is almost always on a different plane (a private jet, usually) than a high earner in, for example, the lowly arts. One major discovery: Heather Reisman took a pay cut. One truth reconfirmed: no matter how rich you are, there’s always someone who makes a helluva lot more.

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VIEW BY INDUSTRY » GOLD ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT FUND MANAGERS SPORTS SHOP OWNERS MEDIA LANDLORDS BAY STREET PUBLIC SERVANTS

VIEW BY SALARY » SEE 69 OF THE RICHEST PEOPLE IN THE CITY’S TOP INDUSTRIES, SORTED BY SALARY FROM HIGHEST TO LOWEST

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Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke returns to his youth movement

Image: Damien D.

The Toronto Maple Leafs’ front office has had a busy few weeks. No, they didn’t empty the bank for coveted free agent centre Brad Richards. Ditto for established stars like Simon Gagne, Eric Brewer or even Jaromir Jagr. But in avoiding the big-splash approach to the off-season, Leafs GM Brian Burke opted for a bit-by-bit rebuild that, on a team with needs at virtually every position, is just what the doctor ordered.

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The people versus the athletes: are Toronto fans incessant boo-birds?

When former Toronto Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay returned to town this weekend, the sold-out crowd at the Rogers Centre showered him with cheers. That reaction probably came as a shock to another former Jay, Lyle Overbay, who didn’t mince his words when he was in Toronto last week, saying that he expected “the normal” reaction from Toronto fans—boos. “They’re gonna boo the other team. That’s the way they are,” said the Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman. “I’m assuming [it’s] just because of their values”. Now, Overbay was nothing but a class act in his time in Toronto, so we’re going to assume his comments aren’t just sour grapes. Still, we can’t help but wonder if there’s any validity to his statement. After all, Toronto fans seem to be notorious boo-birds: Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, Chicago White Sox GM Ozzie Guillen and former Toronto Raptors fan favourite Charles Oakley are among those who appear to think so. With that in mind, we look at five recent case studies to try to understand if the city’s sports fan really do boo too much, after the jump.

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Nobody missed Rob Ford at Pride—but his absence is still significant for the city

Where’s Rob Ford? (Image: Kyle Anstey)

Despite a somewhat dramatic game of last-minute will-he-or-won’t-he speculation, just as he promised, Rob Ford no-showed at Toronto’s Pride parade on Sunday, opting instead for a Muskoka weekend with his family. And just as they promised, rainbow-wearing revellers cared not as they packed the downtown core to celebrate under sunny skies and in the stifling heat for this year’s four-and-a-half-hour, squirt-gun-soaked festivities. But even though Ford’s absence didn’t do a thing to dampen the raucous atmosphere at Pride—of course, nobody thought Ford should be there because of his party tricks—we think the fact that city’s mayor didn’t attend the annual event for the first time since 1994 is still a troubling break from tradition.

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Is Rob Ford going to attend Pride after all?

We wonder what Brian Burke said to the mayor yesterday.

Mayor Rob Ford missed the beginning of Pride Week yesterday, sending council speaker Frances Nunziata in his stead to the raising of the rainbow flag at Nathan Philips Square. Anyone who’s watched Nunziata govern a council meeting can predict how well things went from there—heckling, followed by shouting, followed by more heckling and shouting. But later in the day, something unexpected happened: Ford appeared to equivocate on his earlier stance that he wouldn’t be attending Toronto’s Pride Parade after a meeting with Toronto Maple Leafs general manager and prominent gay rights supporter Brian Burke.

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50 Reasons To Love Toronto: Nos. 4-7, Scouts, Brian Burke, no more Peddie, SlutWalk

No. 4: Dressed in their new Joe Mimran–designed uniforms, our scouts deserve badges for stylishness; No. 5: The gruff Leafs GM Brian Burke is a gay rights activist; No. 6: And, to the relief of Leafs fans everywhere, Richard Peddie is finally leaving MLSE; No. 7: SlutWalk, a march for the right to bare arms, legs and midriffs, inspired a global feminist movement

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Leafs’ James Reimer to represent Canada at world championships in Slovakia, along with captain Dion Phaneuf and defenceman Luke Schenn

James Reimer, supergoalie (Image: Bridget Samuels)

The Toronto Maple Leafs may not be heading to the playoffs this year, but there’s still reason to celebrate today, as three of the boys in blue and white have been tapped to head to the IHF world championships in Slovakia. Twenty-three-year-old goaltender James Reimer will join Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf and defenceman Luke Schenn on Team Canada during the competition, which runs from April 29 to May 15.

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RIP: Toronto Maple Leafs’ playoff chances (2010-2011)

Hey, it was a great while it lasted.

Yesterday evening, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ late-season bid for playoff glory officially ended with a 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on home ice. The defeat didn’t actually clinch the Leafs’ fate—the eighth-place Buffalo Sabres’ 4-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning did that—but in the end it doesn’t really matter. The effect is the same: the Leafs will miss the post-season for the seventh consecutive year. The storyline is nothing new for the poor, deprived souls that comprise the ever-faithful Leafs Nation. Time and again, the team has flirted with the post-season only to come up short when it counted—but this time it feels different. Really.

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