Tonight, Toronto’s beloved Raptors begin the defense of their NBA championship title (who can forget!) in their season opener against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Scotiabank Arena. If you’re planning to celebrate at Jurassic Park good news: it should be a cozy 12 degrees with only a 20 per cent chance of rain.
Here’s your pre-game need-to-know:
1 – 20,000 Rings To Rule Them All
Fans with tickets for tonight’s game will receive a replica of the NBA championship rings being given to the players. Cherish it, even though it’s fake. Major sports league championship titles are hard to come by in The 6ix (the Blue Jays in 1992 and ‘93, Toronto FC’s win in 2017, and last year’s Raptors are the only ones in the lifetimes since the Maple Leafs last won the Stanley Cup).
2 – Let’s Hear It for Free Speech
Supporters of the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests will hand out free more than 7000 t-shirts that say “The North Stand with Hong Kong” before the game. The NBA and LeBron “King” James waded into the controversy last week.
3 – They Did It Their Way
Following the Raptors’ historic win, the city ceremonially renamed Bremner Blvd. (between York St. and Lakeshore Blvd. West) ‘Raptors Way.’ Mayor John Tory will officially unveil the Raptors Way signs as a part of the pre-game celebration. Oh, and the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy will be on hand tonight as well.
4 – It’s Tailgate Time in Ontario
Premier Doug Ford (remember him?), is a big fan of tailgate parties and buck-a-beer and his government okayed tailgate parties so the Raps are hosting the free Home Opener Tailgate Party beginning at 5:30 p.m. No word whether the premier who doesn’t like being booed will appear.
5 – It’s Been 25 Years, But Who’s Counting
The Raptors played their inaugural season 25 years ago in the Rogers Centre (then the SkyDome) and The Toronto Star’s Doug Smith was there to cover them. Smitty’s been with the HOTH (Heroes of the Hard Court) all the way, through good and bad. He’s writing a book about it. If you see him tonight, say “hi” and thanks for the fantastic coverage.
6 – All I Want For Christmas Is…Not The Raptors
Apparently the NBA forced ESPN and TNT to broadcast the team’s opener tonight in the U.S. and to broadcast the Christmas Day game (an honour) when the Raptors will host the heavily-favoured Boston Celtics. Raptor games on U.S. TV do not drive ratings.
7 – Don’t Be A Loner – Watch The Game With Friends
Tonight’s game is historic (how many times will a Toronto team celebrate a MAJOR SPORTS championship? See above) plus it’s Tuesday. So get out of that condo and go watch the game at one of these pubs.
8 – Raptors and Instagrammers
Can’t get enough of the Raptors on TV. No sweat. Here’s how you can follow every player on Instagram. Thank you Daily Hive.
9 – It Truly Was A Banner Year, Wasn’t It?
The team will raise the 2018-19 NBA championship banner before the game (festivities will start at 7.15 p.m. EST) to hang from the Scotiabank Arena rafters. Players and coaching staff will also receive their championship rings (will Jonas Valanciunas get one? Does he merit one?).
10 – How Much Champagne Can Marc Gasol Drink?
If the Raptors win tonight, veteran “everyman” Marc Gasol has promised to repeat his legendary champagne-imbibing performance (or was it wine?) from the Raptors’ victory parade. Okay, not really but we’d love to see it (and go partying with him sometime).