TORONTO — As excitement builds across Canada for a game that could win the Toronto Raptors their first NBA Championship tonight, officials are asking fans to be on their best behaviour as Toronto prepares for crowds to flood the city’s downtown core.
Crowd control is top of mind for city staff, Toronto Police and the Toronto Transit Commission, which are working in tandem with Raptors parent company Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.
Police are asking Raptors fans to watch Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors responsibly, noting that officers will be stationed throughout the city.
“We would like to remind the public to make decisions that do not impact their own safety or that of others when gathering to enjoy the game celebrations,” spokeswoman Katrina Arrogante said in an email.
In addition to the everyday fanatics, the game is expected to draw some higher profile viewers.
“Schitt’s Creek” cast member Noah Reid said fans of his show might spot some familiar faces in the crowd.
“I’m in a very Raptors headspace. We’re going to Game 5. Dan (Levy) and I, and my girlfriend Clare and Andrew Cividino, one of our directors,” he said in an interview on the set of the show’s sixth and final season. “We’re going to Game 5, so we’re all very high on that.”
The excitement has spread far beyond Toronto, with outdoor viewing spaces being forced to expand as Raptors fever spreads.
Fans in Halifax can watch the game at block parties, while those in Regina can head to Mosaic Stadium, home of the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, to watch on the MaxTron screen.
The screen at the venue is the largest in Canada, and — at more than 630 square metres — is even bigger than a standard NBA basketball court.
Back in the Raptors’ home city, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the team’s owner, is amping up its usual outdoor viewing party by planning multiple giveaways and setting up additional screens in Maple Leaf Square — the fanzone known as Jurassic Park outside Scotiabank Arena — the organization said in a news release.
Due to the expected throngs of fans, Maple Leaf Square, along with several surrounding roads, will be closed to traffic from 7 a.m. this morning until 2 a.m. Tuesday, according to city spokesman Brad Ross.
On Friday night, fans shut down a busy intersection in the downtown core as they celebrated the Game 4 win. Videos on social media show fans jumping on police cruisers and TTC vehicles following previous Raptors victories.
The Canadian Press