We the East: Toronto Raptors fans remember NBA team’s first game in Halifax

When the Toronto Raptors hit the court for Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the defending champion Golden State Warriors, it will mark the first time an NBA championship game has ever been played outside of the United States.

As the country’s only NBA franchise, they’ve taken on the persona as Canada’s team, so you can bet fans will be watching the finals from coast to coast to coast.

But it’s along the craggy shores of Nova Scotia that the Raptors first got their start, playing the franchise’s first official NBA game.

It was on October 14th, 1995 at Scotiabank Cente — then known as the Halifax Metro Centre — where the Raptors played the Philadelphia 76ers in an NBA pre-season game in front of more than 8,000 fans.

Ray Bradshaw was reporting for Global News at the time and captured the highlights and spoke with coaches, players, and fans after the game.

“I think the Raptors have a really good team this year and I think they can win it,” said Kenny Perry, who was a nine-year-old Raptors fan at the time.

“I don’t think they can beat the [Chicago] Bulls.”

Kenny Perry in 1995 (left) and in 2019 (right). (Global News)

Perry, now 32 years old, is living in Toronto.

Global News caught up with him outside Jurassic Park in front of the Scotiabank Arena, where we played him our original story from 1995.

Perry was all smiles.

“I love it, I love it,” he said. “I’ve been a Bulls fan for a while, too.”

Perry can still remember that historic game in Halifax like it was yesterday.

“I still remember it being clear as day,” he said. “The Halifax Metro Centre being rammed packed with so many people and looking up and seeing how tall Shawn Bradley was.  I just kept looking up and up and up — he was huge.”

Perry has been able to keep up with the Raptors and saw Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Milwaukee Bucks. He says it’s great to be part of history again.

“Being able to be here in Toronto during the finals, I think it’s not only great for the city but Canadian basketball,” he said.

“The sport has grown so much over the last 25 years.”

In 1995, the Raptors lost their preseason game 120-107 to Philadelphia.

Ron Beard, working as the official scorekeeper and statistician at the time, says the Raptors were awe-inspiring.

“The place was pretty well full and it was just wild,” said Beard. “They were all knowledgeable fans, I’ll tell you,  because they knew what was going on, on the floor — more so than I did.”

As for the Raptors, a trip to the NBA Finals marks the furthest the franchise has ever been. Perry, meanwhile, is optimistic and even made a prediction.

“Raptors in seven,” he said.

Time will tell, but it’s clear fans will be watching from Halifax and right across the country as the Raptors, after all, are Canada’s team.

Halifax will even host its own version of the Jurassic Park viewing party, being held in Rogers Square on Market Street during the finals.

Local sports entertainment agency Tidal League is hosting the block party, dubbed “Jurassic Park 2.0”

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