Huge crowds take to the streets as Toronto marks Raptors’ win with parade, rally

TORONTO — Throngs of fans are lining the streets of Toronto today as the city celebrates its first major professional sports championship in more than a quarter century.

Mayor John Tory has declared Monday “We The North Day” in Toronto, after the slogan of the NBA champion Toronto Raptors.

A parade and rally to mark the team’s historic win over the Golden State Warriors are getting underway at 10 a.m. eastern time and winding its way through downtown to Toronto City Hall.

The Raptors are travelling the parade route in open-air double-decker buses with the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy in tow.

A parade-viewing party has also been planned in a nearby park to relieve congestion along the route.

An hour-long rally is set to follow at Nathan Phillips Square, the large public square in front of city hall, complete with a fly-by from the Royal Canadian Air Force’s Snowbirds demonstration team.

Raptors guard Fred VanVleet told a news conference yesterday that he was excited to revel in the day’s festivities.

“I’m just looking forward to enjoying this moment with the city and with the people here who have been itching for this for so long,” he said. “To finally be able to deliver is pretty special.”

Raptors coach Nick Nurse added that the city’s excitement has been a sight to behold.

“I stopped at one place on the way home last night and the whole place went crazy when I walked in the door,” he said of his return home on Saturday. “It’s awesome, it’s exciting, the people waiting at the airport last night. I’m excited to see what it’s going to be like tomorrow.

“I think again, there’s a lot of specialness to it because it’s the first one, the way that Canadians went about this and how much they supported the team.”

The team is bringing the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy out in public today for the first time since returning to Toronto over the weekend.

A photo-op that had been scheduled for Saturday was cancelled when some of the players decided to extend their stay south of the border, and the trophy was nowhere to be seen during the team news conference yesterday.

The last time the city held a sports celebration of this magnitude was after the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series in 1993. That parade saw fans climbing trees and statues on city streets to catch a glimpse of a team that included Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar.

Then-premier Bob Rae took part in those celebrations, flashing a sign that read “No speech today — Hooray for the Jays.” Current Premier Doug Ford has said he intends to watch this event with the masses.

His press secretary said Ford wants the day to be about the fans and players, not politicians.

The Canadian Press

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