Raptors' fans relish historic Game 1 win over Warriors
Canada’s place in basketball has taken on a whole new identity Thursday night as the Toronto Raptors win Game 1 of the NBA Finals 118-109 against the Golden State Warriors.
After pummeling the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals, basketball fans across the country have been burning with anticipation to make sports history. About 6,000 fans packed into Jurassic Park west of the Scotiabank Arena to cheer on the team.
"The energy here is crazy," one fan told CP24 seconds before the Raptors won the game. "Everything is positive vibes, everyone is cheering, everyone is on the same page, we all have the same goal, it's just great to have the city together."
Fans fired up in Jurassic Park
As the dedicated Raptors fan-zone, the area outside Scotiabank Arena has held thousands of supporters throughout the series for a massive viewing party and Thursday night was no exception. Additional viewing screens were set up along Bremner Boulevard for those who couldn't get in to the park.
Fans started lining up as early as 6 a.m. – 15 hours before game start – to grab a good spot in the park, but weren’t allowed to enter until a bit after 6 p.m.
“It’s history in the making, so I wanted to experience it,” one fan said while in line.
“It’s incredible. It’s history and I’m so happy to be here for the first day of the finals in Toronto history and we are winning it, it’s incredible,” said one fan from Montreal.
The square was transformed into a television set for Good Morning America this morning and featured former Raptor Chris Bosh and Toronto’s very own Superfan, Nav Bhatia. A few lucky fans won tickets to the main event.
Speaking with CTV News Toronto ahead of the game, Bosh said that is he “rooting for the entire country.”
“I’m going to be honest with you, you don’t think it will happen. So many things have to happen and now—It started with Masai coming in and really changing the direction, of the culture of the organization, that’s been amazing to watch,” he said.
“The fans are finally being rewarded for their passion,” Bosh added.
“When they clinched Game 6 for the finals, I told my wife,” he told CTV News Toronto. “She just looked at me, and she said, you’ve got to go!”
A number of other viewing parties were held across the Greater Toronto Area. In Brampton, fans were invited to watch the game on a 100-foot screen set up in the heart of downtown Brampton, at Garden Square. In Mississauga, west-enders were encouraged to bring their cheers to Celebration Square, where up to 30,000 fans can cheer on the team.
Viewing parties were also being held in Kingston, Burlington, Vaughan and Newmarket.
Fans had to navigate road closures, traffic
Road closures were in place in parts of the downtown core ahead of the game.
Bremner Boulevard was closed from Lake Shore Boulevard West to York Street, and from York Street to Lower Simcoe from 7 a.m. to midnight. York Street was also closed from Front Street West to Lake Shore Boulevard from 1 p.m. to midnight.
The TTC cancelled a scheduled subway closure on Line 1 today to make it easier for fans to get in and out of the downtown core.
For those who use GO Transit, trains and buses were running long after the last buzzer to ensure everyone gets home safely.
Metrolinx also added an extra train on the Lakeshore West Line, with all stops to Aldershot, and a “special train” on the Kitchener Line, servicing all stops to Mount Pleasant.
Toronto redefining sports fandom
On the eve of the game, fans are took their Raptors fever to another level.
At Freedom Ink on College Street, Raptors fans looking level up their fandom can choose one of seven designs and get tattooed completely free.
“Hopefully we win,” said one man, as he lay on a table getting inked.
“It was just a perfect opportunity,” said another woman.
For those who are willing to pay, merchandise has been flying off the shelves at Real Sports Apparel.
“There’s definitely a buzz around the city, you can feel it. There’s an energy and excitement,” said one customer.
“We’re all coming together for the team to support them.”
The students from Danforth Gardens Public School in Scarborough held a pep rally during morning recess for the home team, cheering and waving signs with passion.
Homemade signs were abound, with phrases like ‘Let’s Go Raptors,’ ‘North Side’ and ‘Watch your headtop, Raps are coming for you’ hand drawn and doodled.
The fan art has stretched across neighbourhoods over the last few weeks. Murals have gone up on buildings and in alleyways, including the now widely-Instagramed mural of Raptors star Kawhi Leonard on the ODToronto building on Queen Street West. Overnight, it was transformed to show the Raptors starting five.
It also features Nick Nurse getting the now infamous back massage from the team’s global ambassador and Toronto-native, Drake.
Mayors bet on their hometowns
Toronto Mayor John Tory is confident his hometown team will win, so much so he’s willing to gamble.
Ahead of Game 1, Tory announced a “charity challenge” where both Raptors and Warriors fans can bet on their team by donating to a good cause.
Toronto fans can donate to SickKids Foundation while Warriors fans can donate to the Alameda County Community Food Bank and San Francisco-Marin Food Bank.
Tory also placed a bet with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
Should the Golden State Warriors win their third straight title, Tory says that he will send a case of Henderson beer, a peameal bacon sandwich, some Tim Hortons coffee and some Toronto-centric apparel from the Spacing store to Schaff.
But should the Raptors emerge victorious, Schaff says that she will send Tory some coffee from local roaster Red Bay Coffee, some beer from local brewery Old Kan Beer & Co. as well as some barbecue sauce from Oakland restaurant Everett and Jones BBQ.
Tipoff for Game 1 is scheduled for 9 p.m. at Scotiabank Arena.