Raptors capture the hearts of sports fans across the country
The Toronto Raptors are a 24-year old franchise and they have strong roots in Halifax.
In addition to holding training camps in the city in recent years, the team played its first preseason game at the Halifax Metro Centre.
It was a preseason game against Philadelphia in 1995. Now, almost two and half decades later, the team has captured the imaginations of sports fans here and across the country.
"There were 9,000 fans at the Metro Centre and Toronto won the game,” said long-time basketball fan Craig Boyce, who was in the building.
It still sticks in his memory.
“Damon Stoudamire played great,” he said of the Raptors point guard and first draft pick.
Twenty-four later, Boyce still follows the Raptors and he's wrapped up in this post season push.
Boyce says he's not alone; millions of Canadians are also captivated by the raptor's playoff success.
“People who are non-fans or casual fans: I mean it's a Canadian franchise now,” Boyce said. “It's not an Ontario franchise. It's not Toronto. I think it's a galvanizing thing. To me the biggest thing isn't who wins the series. It's what this does for basketball for the country.”
Doobie Taylor agrees. He says the Raptors are helping to speed up the growth of basketball.
As fans fall in love with this team, they're also being introduced to a sport that is accessible and affordable.
“That's all you need to play basketball is a pair of sneakers,” said Taylor. “It doesn't matter if they're $20 sneakers or $100. You can go on a court and play basketball.”
The NBA final began Thursday night with Game 1 in Toronto, but people across Canada were watching in viewing parties.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Paul Hollingsworth.