Thursday, 13 June 2019

All for Raptors party in Canada

Fans watch the Raptors post-game on a big screen in Saskatoon on Monday.
    The Toronto Raptors are the epitome of “if it feels good, go with it” right now in Canada.
    In a few hours, people from coast-to-coast will be huddled around television sets or fancy big screens to watch the Raptors attempt to win their first NBA title in team history, when they play the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Tonight’s game (7 p.m. Saskatchewan time, ABC and TSN) will be the final contest to be held at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., which is the long time home of the Warriors.
    Toronto leads the best-of-seven series 3-2 and dropped 106-105 heartbreaker on home court at the Scotiabank Arena in Game 5 on Monday. Guard Kyle Lowry missed a shot to win the game at the buzzer.
The crowd in downtown Saskatoon for the Raptors watch party on Monday.
    In Toronto and the cities that surround that metropolis in Ontario, the Raptors will always have a hardcore following.
    During their run through the post-season, the hype surrounding the Raptors has captured the imaginations of followers across Canada. Some of the following comes due to the fact the Raptors are the only NBA team in Canada.
    Whoever thought over 13,000 would turn up to watch a Raptors game at Mosaic Stadium in Regina to watch the hoops game on the big screen there. The photos of the watch party made up an article on the website for Sports Illustrated.
    A watch party will be held at Mosaic Stadium again tonight in Regina.
Fans watch the final moments of Monday’s Raptors game on a big screen.
    It starts by showing the Saskatchewan Roughriders season opener in Hamilton against the Tiger-Cats at 5 p.m. and follows with the Raptors game at 7 p.m.
    For myself, I am not going to live or die on the fan front if the Raptors win or lose. I am enjoying the spectacle of the many people in Canada rallying around and getting into this team.
    If a large majority of people in Canada will be happy for a short spell if the Raptors can capture the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy, I am all for it.
    It has been cool to see people from all cultures gather for watch parties in downtown Saskatoon to see Raptors game. Kudos to the Saskatchewan Rattlers of the Canadian Elite Basketball League for making those parties happen.
    I haven’t kept the greatest tabs on the Raptors. I knew they were doing well again this season, and I knew they had finished first in the Atlantic Division.
A raptor was set up at the Raptors watch party in Saskatoon on Monday.
    I didn’t realize they finished second overall in the NBA with a 58-24 record, and they finished ahead of the Warriors, who were third overall in the league at 57-25.
    I knew Kawhi Leonard and Lowry were the team’s big stars. I didn’t realize Leonard had a big run with the San Antonio Spurs, where he was named the NBA Finals MVP when the Spurs took the title in 2014.
    I never knew Leonard was the defensive player-of-the-year in the NBA in 2015 and 2016.
    If the Raptors win the NBA title today or in Game 7 in Toronto on Sunday, Leonard will forever be a celebrity in Canada. Decades after his career concludes, he will be able to still go across the country for speaking engagements to promote basketball like Roberto Alomar does for baseball long after he helped the Toronto Blue Jays win the World Series in 1992 and 1993.
The big screen set up at the Raptors watch party in Saskatoon on Monday.
    After watching the Raptors play a handful of games, you start to realize Marc Gasol, Danny Green, Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam are all good players.
    Trying to find the jerseys for sale of the current Raptors in retail sports stores in Canada is challenging right now. Those items are pretty much sold out at most places.
    On social media channels following the Raptors loss in Game 5, you could be swept up in talk about whether Lowry should have taken the last shot or debate how head coach Nick Nurse used or didn’t use his timeouts in the contest’s final minutes.
    For myself, I haven’t paid this much attention to the Raptors since Vince Carter won the slam dunk contest in 2000 in the festivities leading up to the NBA all-star game.
People pack up following the watch party in Saskatoon.
    During that time, I remember working as the music man for a University of Regina Cougars men’s hockey game and checking out the highlights of Carter’s dunks on the big screen in the sports bar at the Cougars home rink. There were a lot of astonished faces back then.
    I do remember the Raptors struggling as an expansion franchise in 1995-96 going 21-61 with Damon Stoudamire being the team’s first star.
    Right now, it is the Raptors time in the national spotlight. Like Joe Carter’s walk off home run in the 1993 World Series for the Blue Jays, here is hoping the Raptors can cap a title win with an equally epic moment.

Ryan highlights Roughriders preview for The Canadian Press

Jon Ryan (#9) joins the Roughriders after 12 seasons in the NFL.
  I was alive nationwide again this week typing out the season preview story on the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders for The Canadian Press.
    The Roughriders open their season tonight, when they travel to Hamilton to take on the Tiger-Cats (5 p.m. Saskatchewan time, TSN).
    The story focused around Regina born-and-raised punter Jon Ryan settling in with his hometown CFL team after spending 12 seasons in the NFL from 2006 to 2017 with the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks.
    Ryan vaulted to star status with the Seahawks and was a member of their 2013 Super Bowl winning team.
    The piece included quick outlooks on offence and defence. The story is on the Globe and Mail’s website and can be round by clicking right here.
    The story can also be found on the Saskatchewan Roughriders website by clicking right here.

Celebration of life set for Filteau

Justin Filteau in action for the Hilltops in 2014.
    A celebration of life will be held Saskatoon Hilltops and University of Saskatchewan Huskies football alum and Saskatoon Valkyries position coach Justin Filteau on Friday.
    The celebration of life will start at 3 p.m. at Circle Drive Alliance Church in Saskatoon. People are invited to wear sports jerseys or jackets for the service, if they would like to do so.
    Filteau, who stood 5-foot-9 and weighed 214 pounds, died in a plane crash just east of Medicine Hat late on the night of June 1 at the age of 26.
    He was born and raised in Moose Jaw and became a high school football star at A.E. Peacock Collegiate.
    After graduating from high school, Filteau moved to Saskatoon and played five seasons at linebacker for the storied Saskatoon Hilltops of the Canadian Junior Football League from 2010 to 2014.
    He helped the Hilltops win four CJFL titles in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014. Filteau was a CJFL all-Canadian all-star in that final championship campaign.
    When Filteau exhausted his eligibility with the Hilltops, he joined the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team in the U Sports ranks for three seasons from 2015 to 2017.
    Filteau first joined the Valkyries coaching staff as a linebackers coach in 2017. He was coaching the squad’s defensive line this season.
    At the celebration of life, people will have the chance to write their best memories of Filteau in a memories book.

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