Thousands of Maritime hoops fans celebrate Raptors' win
Thousands of Maritimers gathered at viewing parties Thursday evening to cheer on the Toronto Raptors in Game 6 of the NBA final -- including Halifax and Moncton.
In Moncton fans filled the Avenir Centre on Thursday night and the excitement in the building was electric. Some fans also watched the game old-school at the Shediac Drive-In.
In downtown Halifax, pandemonium erupted at a viewing party outside the Halifax convention centre when the Raptors fans knew their team had made history by being the first Canadian team to win an NBA championship.
“Congratulations to the Raptors!” said one fan in Halifax. “We did this! We made history!! Congratulations!!”
Some of those fans had lined up for hours in the cold rain to get into what has been dubbed Jurassic Park East.
They couldn't contain their excitement or pride for their team after their 114-110 win. Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowery led the Raptors with 26 points apiece on Thursday night. Midseason acquisition Kawhi Leonard had 22 and won the most-valuable player award for the championship series.
“It was absolutely incredible,” said one fan. “Parade in Toronto -- see you all there!”
The Raptors missed a chance to clinch in Game 5 and were playing on the home court of the Golden State Warriors, who were making their fifth consecutive trip to the NBA final and had won three of the last four titles.
“I told you, Raps in 6! We made it! Raps in 6! Yeeeaahh,” said another fan in Halifax.
Fans were flying “We the North” flags and cheering into the early morning hours.
Fans and organizers were still riding the high of the big win on Friday morning.
“There was at least over 100 fans waiting in line at 8:30,” said Gab Levert, the co-founder of Tidal League, a Halifax-based sports and entertainment agency. “We knew that this was a basketball city but to think that there was over 1,000 people very game, it was unbelievable.”
The game featured 18 lead changes, nine ties, and no team lead by more than nine points.
“It was a close game start to finish. (It’s) one of the most fulfilling moments of my life … This took over my life in the last two and a half weeks … You couldn't come out with a better scenario,” Levert said. “The Raptors brought the country together, but this event in Halifax we like to think brought the city together.”
Nova Scotia's own NBA prospect Lindell Wigginton says he has taken notice of the support in his hometown.
“The support for the raptors is amazing, all of Canada is behind them, their doing their thing, I’ve been seeing the support and the Jurassic Park here, so that's great.”
The partying will no doubt continue through the weekend, culminating in a Raptors championship parade through downtown Toronto.
That gets underway at 11 a.m. (ADT) Monday and can be seen right here on CTV -- anchored by Lisa Laflamme and TSN's James Duthie.
Billy Hochberg is one Raptors fan from Nova Scotia who plans to go.
“I actually made a bet with my dad when the playoffs started that if they won, he'd pay for half my trip to go home for the parade,” Hochberg said. “Now I have a flight booked.”
With files from CTV Atlantic's Allan April.