Any fan who has watched their favorite sports team relocate from their city knows the loss and heartbreak it brings. Especially when that team says goodbye for the final time at home. It is like saying goodbye to a friend, and can feel like a death.
The Expos said goodbye to the people of Montreal on October 3, 2004, after two years of ownership by Major League Baseball, leading to their move to Washington D.C.
Wind the clock forward almost ten years. The Mets and Blue Jays are playing two games at Olympic Stadium on Friday and Saturday to wrap up Spring Training. These two days in Montreal gave the city a chance to honor the 1994 team, which was the best in baseball before the strike that cancelled the rest of the season and World Series, and remember the good times before the Expos relocated.
It also brought up a reoccurring rallying cry from fans who used to cheer on the now Washington Nationals: The demand for another franchise to fill the void the old one left behind.
Cleveland, Quebec City, Winnipeg, Hartford, Seattle and Montreal. Just a couple of cities one could name off the top of their head, who over the past 20 years, lost a beloved sports team to relocation. A few have got their wish. Many still wait for that day to come.
Cleveland and Winnipeg are the lucky ones.
The most shocking had to be the Browns. A franchise that defined the National Football League in it early year, was moved by Art Modell to Baltimore after the 1995 season. Cleveland, a blue collar city that like its rust belt neighbors Buffalo and Pittsburgh, identified itself with the Browns.
The city went three season until the league gave it an expansion franchise, of course named the Cleveland Browns, and resumed football in 1999. But of all the final games played by a soon to be relocated franchise, no game had a more "funeral feel" than the final game at Cleveland Municipal Stadium.
The Winnipeg Jets saw their team relocate to Phoenix a year after the Browns moved to Baltimore. Both Winnipeg and Quebec City, who lost the Nordiques the year before, constantly campaigned to get their teams back, no matter what it took.
The people of the Manitoba got its wish when True North Sports bought the Atlanta Thrashers and moved them back to Winnipeg in 2011. Nordique fans are still waiting for their day to come.
Speaking of hockey, the Hartford Whalers were another NHL team that relocated in the mid 90s. The Whalers moved to Raleigh, were renamed the Hurricanes, but got to keep "Brass Bonanza."
The most polarizing city has to be Seattle. The Emerald City lost the Super Sonics to relocation thanks to city and state politics, which is the case for most of teams moving, and saw Kevin Durant and company move to Oklahoma City and become the Thunder.
Seattle has come close to getting an NBA team again. When the Sacramento Kings seemed to be on the move, but the owner voted down the move. The struggle continues for Sonics fans.
One of the worst things that could happen to a persons favorite sports team is them moving to another city. Events like the one we saw in Montreal over the past two days bring back memories and emotions from the fans a team like the Expos left behind a decade ago.
There will be editorials arguing why Montreal deserves a second chance at a Major League Baseball team, and public demonstrations by fans might be held, but it's a struggle that this city and other ones like Seattle will continue to deal with for years to come.
Can baseball work again in Montreal? Well, it took over three decades for Washington D.C. to get another MLB team at the people of Montreal's expense.
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