Toronto Raptors fans hoping to watch a historic game spilled out of the NBA team’s outdoor fan zone and into the streets that surround it on Saturday evening.
Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference final between the Raptors and the Milwaukee Bucks saw fans lining up to pack the space on the west side of Scotiabank Arena as a thunderstorm rolled through the city. If Toronto wins, it would vault the Raptors into the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.
Heavy rain prompted Toronto police to post on Twitter just after 6 p.m. that they wouldn’t open Jurassic Park on schedule because of safety concerns – a ban that was lifted an hour later and didn’t weaken supporters’ resolve.
Jurassic Park couldn’t contain the long lineup of fans that snaked around Scotiabank Arena and past neighbouring Union Station in downtown Toronto, so police had to shut down nearby streets to make up for the overflow.
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Officers maintained a heavy presence as the crowd got rowdier ahead of tip-off.
Standing outside the train station, Duska Males, 27, and Katie Scott, 30, said they were “ecstatic” to hear the festivities would go ahead after waiting in line for two hours.
The two friends drove more than an hour from Waterloo, Ont., to see the game.
“History could be made tonight,” Males said.
Earlier in the day social media was abuzz with talk of organizing viewing parties, blowing off long-held plans to tune in the game, and finding ways to modify previously scheduled events to include their favourite team.
Calgary native Braden Lunn is hoping his friend’s birthday festivities can turn into a Raptors victory party instead.
The 26-year-old software developer says he and his Ontario-born girlfriend will be the only Raptors fans at the party, held in honour of an avid Bucks booster.
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Lunn says he intends to make sure the game is aired at the Seattle-based winery where the party is taking place, adding the drinks expected to flow would make the perfect celebratory touch.
“We’re going to roll it into a Raptors win,” he said.
But Lunn’s confidence is tempered by what happened the last time he and his girlfriend spent time with the birthday girl and her partner. The two couples got together to indulge their friendly rivalry during the first two games of the Raptors-Bucks series, both Toronto losses.
“I’m pretty superstitious, so I’m worried that now that I’m watching games with them again the Raptors are going to lose,” he said. “So we’ll see how that goes.”
Closer to the Raptors’ home base, fans were already laying plans to flock to Jurassic Park.
Others mused on Twitter about ways they could alter their previous engagements to accommodate what they hope will be a date with destiny.
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“My daughter’s wedding is Saturday, do you think she would mind if I missed it?” quipped one Twitter user.
“Gonna be streaming Raptors game while DJing Saturday’s wedding,” wrote another.
Others are getting ready for the game by placing bets on the prospective antics of Drake, the Toronto rapper who’s become a vocal and polarizing ambassador for his home team.
SportsBetting.ag began taking bets on Friday over the Drake-related shenanigans that could unfold during Game 6.
Possible options included whether Drake touches Raptors head coach Nick Nurse like he did in Game 4, and whether Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo will speak to Drake.
Other wagers on offer include: Will Drake step onto the court? Will the NBA publicly warn Drake regarding his on-court behaviour? Will Drake be removed from Game 6 by security?
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