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Air Canada Centre

Rihanna’s Two-Night Stand at the Air Canada Centre

Rihanna Air Canada Centre Toronto

Rihanna brings her Diamonds world tour to Toronto’s Air Canada Centre

MARCH 18 & 19  Her surprise Danforth Music Hall gig last November was just an appetizer; Rihanna serves up the main course over two arena-filling mega-shows. The fiery singer’s Diamonds World Tour is in support of her chart-topping album, Unapologetic. Air Canada Centre, 7:30 p.m., $68.75 to $163.75; call 1-855-985-5000 or visit Ticketmaster to buy.  —Anna Marszalek

DeMar DeRozan Continues to Grow with the Toronto Raptors

Despite some rough patches, DeMar DeRozan and the Toronto Raptors are making strides this year.

BY CRAIG MOY

DeMar DeRozan Toronto Raptors Basketball NBA

Toronto Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan (photo: Toronto Raptors)

One of the more intimate pleasures afforded to fans of professional sports is that we get to see our favourite players grow up right in front of us. Forget “rooting for the home team,” look past the highlight reels. If you follow pro sports what you’re really doing is following athletes as they go to work, as they try each day to do a better job than the day before, as they develop their skills, as they mature.

Toronto Raptors supporters know what it’s like. Over the franchise’s 17 years in the NBA, it seems as though we’ve always had at least one talented kid to urge on to greatness. First there was plucky point guard Damon Stoudamire, then Vince Carter, and after him Chris Bosh. This season, we have witnessed the emergence of DeMar DeRozan.

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7 Toronto Sports Bars Near the Air Canada Centre

BY LINDA LUONG

Toronto Sports Bars

Real Sports Bar and Grill is steps from the Air Canada Centre

Die-hard fans of Canada’s favourite pastime might say there are actually five seasons in our country: spring, summer, fall, winter and hockey. The latter was tragically delayed this year, but on January 12, after 119 nail-biting days, a deal between owners and players was reached to end the NHL’s frustrating lockout. And so our city’s beloved (though sometimes hapless) Maple Leafs have dutifully returned to the ice. If you can’t get tickets to seem them play live, these Toronto sports bars near the Air Canada Centre offer ample screens for catching all the action with fellow fans.

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Upcoming Games Against the Lakers and Heat Mark the Toronto Raptors’ Schedule

Raptors point Guard Kyle Lowry is working hard to keep his team competitive (photo: Toronto Raptors)

ON NOW  Two months of competition are behind us in this latest NBA season, and although the Toronto Raptors upcoming schedule is hardly a walk in the park, the team will look to benefit from a prolonged homestand as it continues trying to claw its way toward respectability. The hard-nosed leadership of point guard Kyle Lowry has rubbed off on the likes of DeMar DeRozan—finally emerging as a consistent offensive threat—while rookies Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas are getting better with every game. Don’t miss some of the squad’s most hotly anticipated contests of 2013 when they take on the star-laden Los Angeles Lakers (January 20) and Miami Heat (February 3). Air Canada Centre, $12.50 and up; call 416-366-3865 or visit raptors.com for a full schedule and to buy.  —Ana Taveira

Weekend Roundup: November 30 to December 2

Gather for the opening of the Lowe’s Toronto Christmas Market

Friday, November 30
The Distillery Historic District kicks off its annual celebration of the season with a performance by Canadian opera star Measha Brueggergosman at the opening night of the Lowe’s Toronto Christmas Market. Bring the whole family and enjoy the sights and sounds, including festive treats and gifts, holiday decorations and a sit down with Santa Claus himself.

Pull out your ugliest Christmas sweater and head over to the Gladstones Hotel‘s 12 Beers of Christmas tasting party. Favoured local brews will be on tap, free prizes will put you in the giving spirit, and classic holiday tunes from the likes of Mariah Carey, Boyz 2 Men and the Jingle Cats (yes these Jingle Cats) will take your mind off the cold winter weather.

Slightly more sophisticated tunes are on offer with the Art of Time Ensemble’s Big Band Show at Harbourfront Centre‘s Enwave Theatre. The group is scheduled to treat audiences to a rendition of Tchaikovsky’s classic Nutcracker Suite—reimagined by jazz great Duke Ellington—plus its own unique takes on Igor Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite No. 1.

Justin Bieber sings, audiences swoon (photo: Shelby Casanova)

Saturday, December 1
Coming off a performance at 100th Grey Cup last weekend, pop music’s current king, Justin Bieber, tonight returns to the Rogers Centre to woo his legion of fans. Sweetening the pot is an appearance by emerging star Carly Rae Jepsen, whose Call Me Maybe is arguably as mega-popular as the Biebs’ recent hits.

While the kids are revelling in their Bieber Fever, more mature music fans can treat themselves to an intimate evening with eight-time Juno winner Sarah McLachlan. The celebrated songstress performs tonight at hallowed Massey Hall.

Chestnuts are roasting on an open fire at Black Creek Pioneer Village’s Christmas celebrations. Activities include puppet shows, horse-drawn wagon rides, visits with Santa and more. Visitors can also ogle a miniature gingerbread replica of the Village and try their hands at a traditional taffy pull, a sticky Christmas tradition we’re happy to get on board with.

Sir Jerry makes magic even more fun than it already is!

Sunday, December 2
Watch your children’s eyes light up while the watch the mystical, magical performance of Sir Jerry today at the Drake Hotel. Touted as “the most innovative kids performer since Pee Wee Herman,” Sir Jerry offers a show full of song, dance and Monty Python-esque humour for the whole family to enjoy.

Raffi’s kid-friendly tunes have been entertaining and educating kids for more than 30 years. The beloved singer and songwriter today takes the stage at Roy Thomson Hall to strike a nostalgic chord with classics including “Baby Beluga” and more.

Much Music’s Big Jingle Holiday Concert this evening brings holiday cheer to teens and tweens at the Air Canada Centre. Performances by Simple Plan, Cody Simpson and The Wanted are sure to be a blast, while Carly Rae Jepsen’s third Toronto appearance in the past seven days makes this event an early Christmas present the kids won’t forget.

Where Loves: The 2012-13 Toronto Raptors

By EVA VOINIGESCU

Kyle Lowry’s hard-nosed style has endeared him to Toronto hoops fans (photo: Toronto Raptors)

The NHL lockout has for the moment sidelined Toronto sports fans’ primary passion. Fortunately there’s more than one game in town. Last week the Toronto Raptors began a new season with a promising one-two scoring punch and a beefed up defense that could help return Canada’s only NBA team to respectability.

It’s hard to predict how the rest of the year will play out after just five games. but Raptors fans have reason for optimism. Despite a disappointing 20-point loss to Oklahoma City on Tuesday, Toronto’s 1-4 record belies its competitiveness. Were it not for a few poor quarters, the squad could easily be sitting above the .500 mark; once the Raptors find their bearings within a new system and with new players, they’ll have a strong chance to contend for a coveted Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Head coach Dwane Casey spent much of last year instilling a defence-first attitude; this year the team hopes to show further improvement by turning its stopping power into fast-break points. Thus far that game plan has been inconsistently executed, but if the players can maintain their defensive pressure and nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic, it seems clear that they’ll be embraced by Toronto sports fans and hopefully rack up some victories. Flashes of potential have certainly been displayed by the high-scoring backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. New addition Lowry opened the season with three consecutive 20-plus point games (before incurring an ankle sprain against the Thunder), while DeRozan’s improved defence and rebounding, combined with offensive aggression, continues to pay off.

DeMar DeRozan has been a consistent performer so far (photo: Toronto Raptors)

Meanwhile, after a successful pre-season, much-hyped rookie Jonas Valanciunas is still learning how to match his skills against more sizable NBA centers. Worrisome, too, is veteran power forward Andrea Bargnani. Back on the court after an injury-plagued 2011/12, he has yet to find his shooting stroke, and his effort on the glass is still rather suspect. However, increased depth at the point guard, wing and forward positions should help the team’s chances and ensure that injuries will be less problematic than in previous years.

The Raptors are in tough for the coming month, with 12 of the team’s next 17 games on the road. When they do manage to make it back to the Air Canada Centre, you can catch them against the Philadelphia 76ers on November 12, the Utah Jazz on November 12 and the Orlando Magic on November 18.

Hot Date: Cheer Mats Sundin and Other Hockey Heroes

The Leafs’ “Big Swede” gets his due this month (photo: Hockey Hall of Fame)

NOVEMBER 9 TO 12  Three years after ending a career that included more than a decade as captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Mats Sundin returns to become a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame alongside Joe Sakic, Adam Oates and Pavel Bure. Visit the hall to get your jersey signed and view the new 3D film about the road to winning the Stanley Cup, then head to the Air Canada Centre on November 11 for the Legends Classic, a face-off between two all-star teams featuring this year’s inductees. The festivities culminate with the November 12 induction ceremony. 30 Yonge St., HHOF admission $17.50, Legends Classic $37.75 to $71.75; call 416-360-7765 or visit the Hall’s website for more information.  —Eva Voinigescu

Hot Date: Rush to See Rush

Neil Peart, Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee are (prog) rocking in Toronto

OCTOBER 14 & 16  Good thing you kept those old concert T-shirts! Canadian prog-rock band Rush charges into Toronto to promote Clockwork Angels, its 20th studio album. Air Canada Centre, 8 p.m., $55.50 to $139; call 1-855-985-5000 or visit Ticketmaster to buy.

Hot Date: There’s No Stopping Madonna

SEPTEMBER 12 & 13  The queen of pop makes a Toronto stop! In the midst of her MDNA tour, ever-provocative Madonna performs hits from her latest album and a career’s worth of chart toppers. Air Canada Centre, 8 p.m., $62.75 to $374; call 1-855-985-5000 or visit Ticketmaster to buy.

Hot Date: How to Train Your Dragon for Fire-Breathing Fun

photo by Lisa Tomasetti

AUGUST 8 TO 12  A mythical world comes to highly anticipated life this month in the How to Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular. Based on the hit 2010 film of the same name, this Dreamworks Animation production tells the story of a young viking named Hiccup and the unlikely bond he forms with a dragon. State-of-the-art technology places moving, fire-breathing dragons with 46-foot wingspans alongside martial artists and acrobats in this enchanting, action-packed adventure. Air Canada Centre, $25 to $135; call 1-855-985-5000 or click here for showtimes and to purchase.

Hot Date: Coldplay Offers Brit-Rock Anthems

JULY 23 & 24 It may be hard to believe, but more than a decade since Coldplay released its debut single, “Yellow,” the band has become arguably the biggest act in music. The quartet of earnest Englanders returns to Toronto this month in support of its latest album, Mylo Xyloto. Fronted by energetic singer Chris Martin, the band is sure to run through a long setlist of hits, from such recent cuts as “Paradise” and “Charlie Brown” to confirmed classics like “In My Place” and “Fix You.” Air Canada Centre, 7 p.m., $46.25 to $131.75; call 1-855-985-5000 or visit Ticketmaster for further details.

Hot Date: Russell Peters, Please!

JUNE 16 Somebody’s bound to get a hurt bad—from too much chuckling, of course—when Russell Peters returns home as part of his Notorious World Tour. Air Canada Centre,
8 p.m., $67.25 to $139.50; call 1-855-985-5000 or visit Ticketmaster to buy.