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Toronto’s Jurassic Park is epicenter of Raptors rapture in Canada

Fans in Jurassic Park react during the NBA's Eastern Conference finals. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)
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Take away Toronto FC’s run to the MLS Cup title in 2017, and it’s been a lean stretch for the Canadian city’s professional sports teams. The Blue Jays haven’t been to the World Series since capping off back-to-back MLB titles in 1993 and currently have baseball’s fourth-worst record. The Maple Leafs, allegedly a glamour franchise in a nation that values hockey above most everything else, have won exactly zero playoff series in the past 14 seasons and last won the Stanley Cup in 1967, when the NHL had six teams.

But now come the Raptors, who finally have broken through to the NBA Finals after three seasons of LeBron-induced playoff misery. And to say a certain segment of Canadians are jazzed about this is to diminish the meaning of the term “jazzed.”

They are not only line-up-at-4 a.m. jazzed, but line-up-at-4 a.m.-to-get-into-the-watch-party-outside-the-stadium jazzed.

The watch party outside Scotiabank Arena has been nimbly dubbed Jurassic Park, and it’s the place to be in Toronto if you haven’t been able to score tickets for the Raptors’ run through the NBA playoffs. (The get-in price for NBA Finals Game 1 on Thursday night against the Warriors was nearly $550 on StubHub as of Thursday morning). Brandy Exner, the woman shown in the above video clip, was first in line at 3:55 a.m. local time. The fans would not be allowed in to the viewing area until 3 p.m. The game is not scheduled to tip off until 9.

By 7 a.m., Exner was not alone:

The Jurassic Park concept has been such a smash hit that other Ontario cities are following suit. In nearby Mississauga, “Jurassic Park West” will be set up in Celebration Square downtown. Right next door, Brampton’s Garden Square will become “Jurassic Square.” In Burlington, down the shore of Lake Ontario a bit from Toronto, fans will watch the game in “Burlassic Park” (usually known as Civic Square).

Smaller-scale NBA Finals viewing parties will take place at 33 Cineplex movie theaters across the country, as well.

To be clear, not all of Canada is equally enraptured by the Raptors’ rise. The lead headline Thursday morning on the Montreal Gazette’s online sports section was about the MLS Impact’s win over Real Salt Lake the night before, and stories about women’s golf at the Pan American Games, the CFL’s Alouettes and, obviously, the Canadiens’ offseason plans got better play than anything about the Raptors. In Vancouver, which once had an NBA team but no longer does, the lead headline dealt with the Canucks, but there was a short video about how one local bar has seen an uptick in business during Raptors games.

But in Toronto, the excitement is such that one Raptors mural simply will not do. As of this writing, the city has thrown up at least four.

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