So growing up I used to watch sports every once and a while but I was never one of those people that would religiously follow teams or leagues. I was pretty much just one of those guys that would watch the big events like the Olympics or World Cup or something.
Toronto has teams in three of the major North American sports leagues, the Maple Leafs (NHL), the Raptors (NBA), and the Blue Jays (MLB). I never cared for baseball so I never followed the Jays, but when the Leafs or Raptors do well, I kinda follow along.
This year was one of those years where I definitely followed along.
Both the Raptors and the Leafs made it to the playoffs and when the Leafs got eliminated I was pretty much all-in on following the Raptors. The last time that Toronto won a major sports league was back in 93 and so with every match win, the hype grew and grew and grew.
When they won the Eastern Conference finals, the hype was already out of control. It was the first time the Raptors did that and as the only Canadian team in the NBA, they would be the first Canadian team in history to win the NBA.
So as you can imagine, the hype train was going full-steam ahead. I’ve honestly never seen the city so united in anything. Everywhere you went people were wearing Raptors gear and talking about the games. The hype was so real.
It was so real that even I ended up watching the games.
For game 4, I went to a coworker’s house to watch the game and it was genuinely really fun. We won that game and as a result we were up 3-1 in the series, with game 5 being played at home in Toronto.
I had no desire to watch the game from Jurassic Park but my coworker’s place was close enough that if they did win we could easily just go downstairs and join in on the celebration so we made plans to go back for game 5 and hope we won.
That game was super tense. Unfortunately, we didn’t end up winning and the trip back home from downtown that night just felt pretty depressing. Everyone kinda just had their heads down and were just saying how close the game was. It was like the entire city was doing a walk of shame.
But it definitely wasn’t over yet. Game 6 was an away game but it definitely didn’t dampen the hype. We were still one game up in the series and anything could happen. So once again me and my coworkers made plans to watch the game together.
And we did, and it was once again an incredibly stressful game. The game was neck and neck the entire time but when it came down to the final moments, we were up by a couple points.
The clock ticked down to 0.9.
A foul was called.
A free throw was made.
The buzzer rang.
People were going crazy. We went downstairs to street level and made our way to Union station. There were so many people on the streets cheering and celebrating. Cars were driving by spamming their horns and as we made it closer and closer to Union we just saw more and more people.
That was by far the biggest street party I have ever seen in my life. There was just a sea of people celebrating the win. People were lighting fireworks and flares; climbing up street signs, buildings, and vehicles; and everyone was just cheering and highfiving random people on the street.
From Union we made our way up to Nathan Philips Square and people there were literally in the water running around and just in general having a great time.
We tried to make our way to Yonge street from there but that was a giant mess because they parked a bus in the middle of the street to block off traffic. People were climbing the bus and it didn’t really feel like there was a way past it. We took a different route and eventually made it to Dundas Square, which was essentially the heart of the celebration.
Like everywhere else, people were just having a great time. There were more fireworks (some a bit close) and flares. Some people brought champagne to spray into the crowd, others brought instruments to play some songs. Others were climbing bus stops (slightly dangerous imo), buildings, and of course, the other buses and vehicles that were parked there.
I half considered climbing one of the buses there too but it looked super sketchy so I decided not to. RIP that bus so hard though, it was pretty destroyed.
We ended up leaving just around 2am and I luckily managed to find an Uber that brought me home. I went to sleep at like 3:30 and woke up a couple hours later to go to work.
I was so damn tired but it was totally worth it.
The next phase of the celebration was on the following Monday, with the championship parade. It turned out that the parade was starting at the CNE, and since our office is really close by, our CEO let just out in the morning to go check out the parade.
So that was also really awesome. The planning for the event was terrible and so there were delays everywhere but once the parade actually started it was cool since I was close enough to actually see the players.
It was nice being at the start too since the planning was so bad the event lasted twice as long as they initially thought it would. So while people were waiting at Nathan Philips Square in the sun for hours, we just went back to the office and watched the speeches from there.
And again, it felt like the entire city was celebrating the win. They said that 1.5 million people came out to watch the parade, which is a significant portion of the city’s population. It certainly felt like that too. The streets were just a sea of colour.
Now, I’m not gonna pretend like I’m a die hard Raptors fan because I’m not. There’s definitely many more people that were waiting for this win than I was. But I love Toronto and this is an historic win for the city.
One of my favourite things ever is when something brings people together. I know that sounds really generic and campy but it’s true. I love playing games that build a solid community where when you meet someone that plays that game, you can just nerd out and just talk about it.
This was like that, but on a localized level that I have never seen before. It honestly felt like the entire city was abuzz with excitement and everyone was just united by the fact that the Raptors won. To me, it really embodied the Canadian spirit where it doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, or what you do.
What matters is that you’re united by Canada, and in this case that took the form of the Toronto Raptors.