June 11, 2019 12:50 am

Raptors fever: Barrie NBA Finals party draws massive crowd for Game 5

An estimated 1,200 plus people filled the Barrie Molson Centre's stadium Monday night.

Daina Goldfinger/Global News
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Ryan and Jasmine Nesbitt are longtime fans of the Toronto Raptors.

Both 38, Ryan has been watching the team since it joined the NBA in 1995, and Jasmine has been following them for close to 20 years.

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The Barrie couple remember the Raptors’ Vince Carter days, and now, they’re bringing their three young boys – ages 8, 6 and 2 – to watch the game at the Barrie Molson Centre, where the local Raptors viewing party was held for Game 5.

“We have three boys, so they’re really into basketball,” Ryan said.

“They’ve each been to numerous games, and it is a really great family time,” Jasmine added. “They enjoy going to the games, but even at home, watching it on TV and being excited for it.”

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Toronto Raptors fans from Barrie and beyond filled the Barrie Molson Centre’s stadium for Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday.

Barrie’s Game 5 viewing party attracted an estimated 1,200-plus people, the highest attendance so far amid this year’s NBA Finals, according to Lauren Maciborka, the City of Barrie’s venue management supervisor for the creative economy department.

During Barrie’s first viewing party for Game 3, the venue attracted over 800 fans, Maciborka said, and Game 4 brought in around 600 to 700.

WATCH: Dejected fans leave Jurassic Park after Toronto Raptors Game 5 loss

“I think everyone was just excited about the fact that we have a team that the entire country can rally behind,” Maciborka said.

“The Raptors aren’t just Toronto’s team – they’re Canada’s team.”

Saleha Khan, 31, also attended Barrie’s Game 5 viewing party.

“I’m super, super excited that the Toronto Raptors were able to make it here,” she said.

READ MORE: Kevin Durant forced to leave Game 5 of NBA Finals with injury

Khan told Global News that her earliest memory of the Toronto team is watching Raptors superfan Nav Bhatia, who’s said he hasn’t missed a home game in 24 years.

“That’s my earliest memory, looking at him and being like, ‘Oh, Nav is here as well,'” Khan said. “It’s amazing to see (Nav) cheer throughout.”

READ MORE: ‘We make mistakes’ -- Raptors superfan Nav Bhatia puts positive spin on Bucks fan’s racist tweet

According to Maciborka, there were a couple of venues that were considered for NBA Finals viewing parties before the Barrie Molson Centre was chosen.

Game 2 of the finals was supposed to be broadcast at Barrie’s Meridian Place, but it was cancelled last minute due to inclement weather.

“The infrastructure that we needed in order to have it screened at Meridian Place just wouldn’t have worked with the weather conditions that we’ve currently been having, so this was a safe space,” Maciborka said.

“It brings a whole bunch of different people together that don’t normally come to some of our other events that we hold.”

WATCH: NBA Finals — Fans mill about following Raptors Game 5 loss

The Raptors lost to the Golden State Warriors by one point in Game 5. The team needs to win one more game to claim the championship.

Game 6 will be broadcast at the Barrie Molson Centre on Thursday at 9 p.m., with doors opening at 8 p.m. If needed, Game 7 will be broadcast at the same venue on Sunday at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7 p.m.

“It’s OK, it’s all about hard work, but we got this,” Khan said. “We need the championship, we need the trophy.”

READ MORE: Raptors fans ‘around the nation’ asked to sing Canadian anthem for Game 5

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