From block parties to historic venues, Maritime hoops fans cheer on Raptors
Thousands of fans packed into Halifax’s Rogers Square Monday evening to cheer on the Toronto Raptors.
Some nearby streets were closed to accommodate the overflow as fans flocked downtown to watch Game 5 of the NBA finals.
“We have a whole country behind us, we only have one Canadian team, I mean you have to go for them,” said Weston Reid, a Raptors fan who was waiting to watch the game in downtown Halifax. “This is the biggest game I've ever been a part of.”
For James Purdy, who was born in 1993, this kind of postseason success for a major Canadian pro franchise is something new.
“I haven't experienced any sports win in my lifetime,” Purdy said. “I’m so excited for this as you can tell. The Toronto Raptors are going to win tonight. We got this … I am pumped for this.”
While the Raptors failed to win the championship Monday evening -- losing by a single point to the Golden State Warriors -- fans remain optimistic for Game 6, which will be played Thursday in Oakland, Calif.
“They’re gonna come back and they’re gonna win it because, you know, they can’t stop the Raptors,” said one fan in Halifax. ‘They’re gonna take it. There’s no doubt.”
In another corner of the Maritimes, basketball fans gathered with the hope that history would be made – in a place where basketball history was already made more than a century ago.
Fans in St. Stephen, N.B., were watching the game at the old St. Stephen YMCA -- where in 1893 a basketball game was played between St. Stephen and Calais, Maine.
“I’ve been a basketball junkie all my life,” said Don Walker. “It's just been fantastic to witness this and, you know, we're talking about watching history on history when we're talking about this floor.”
Hundreds of motorists drive by the brick building every day. Many don't know there's an historic basketball court on the second floor, despite the long-standing basketball tradition in this border town.
“Yeah, this was known as a basketball town,” said St. Stephen Coun. Dave Hyslop. “There was some very good teams come out of here.”
Hyslop says it was a community of basketball fanatics -- long before the Raptors' recent run -- and the history of basketball in St. Stephen just reinforces those long-standing ties with the sport.
“People still have a hard time, even local people have a hard time, grasping that concept that actually the oldest existing (basketball court) in the world, not just in Canada, in the world.”
The town hopes to transform the site into a basketball museum.
"To watch it in this facility, going back 125 years or more, starting in St. Stephen, one of the first places in the country,” Walker said. “How much better could it be.”
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Mike Cameron and Natasha Pace.