Montreal celebrates Raptors win at 'Jurassic Peel'
At the sound of the siren, fireworks exploded over Peel Street, and thousands of fans celebrated all night
After years with nothing to celebrate, Montreal sports fans are revelling in the Toronto Raptors' victory Thursday night.
The team won its first NBA championship, making it the first Canadian team ever to do so.
At the sound of the siren, fireworks exploded over Peel Street, and thousands of fans celebrated all night. The area was dubbed "Jurassic Peel" for the evening.
People were still partying around Ste-Catherine Street at 1 a.m. Montreal police say some were climbing on cars and throwing rocks and fireworks at police.
Montreal police Const. Manuel Couture said tear gas was used on the crowd. No arrests were made, he said.
One Raptors fan celebrating at Jurassic Peel compared the atmosphere to the last time the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup, in 1993.
"It's an event we live once in a lifetime!" said James Cook. "It was a nail-biter until the end. I'm still emotional."
Another fan, William Roy, said he didn't follow basketball until the Raptors started doing well.
"We're stoked on it," Roy said. "We were in it tonight. I don't know who brought the fireworks, but it was really fun!"
Festivities also took place at Place du Canada.
The crowd began arriving about an hour before the start of the game, thousands braving the rain to form a big red wave. Fans threw beach balls and floated flags while chanting rallying cries.
Organizers distributed red T-shirts that read "We the North."
Former MMA champion Georges St-Pierre was at the event for a special pre-match presentation.
Although he said he didn't know much about basketball, the legendary UFC fighter was swept away by the wave of love for the Raptors.
"I think it's a perfect time to become a basketball fan," St-Pierre said.
'We're not just a hockey country'
Basketball fans living in Montreal say the Raptors' win will motivate the next generation of players.
"The Raptors have inspired them to feel like we're not just a hockey country," Martisha Richards, co-founder and coach at Uptown Montreal Basketball, told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.
She said it's amazing to see all the different communities and cities that have come together to rally around the Raptors.
A former Team Canada basketball player, Montrealer Dwight Walton, said the win will have a "profound effect on our youth."
"Small children are going to say, 'I was alive when the Raptors won the championship,'" said Walton, the assistant coach for the Concordia University men's basketball team. "They're going to want to play ball."
He pointed out basketball is far less expensive than hockey.
"All you need is a pair of shoes, a basketball and a net."
Wasiu, a Montreal rapper and basketball coach, echoed Richards' analysis of the Raptors' win.
Growing up in such a hockey-oriented city, Wasiu said he felt like he was in a distinct minority, drawn to basketball. But seeing what went on in Montreal's Jurassic Park for Game 6 showed him that other Canadians love basketball, too.
"This is going to propel us to the next level," he said. "Canadian players are to be taken seriously. Canadian teams are to be taken seriously."
"We can, as a country, have more basketball," he said.
"It's great for the country. It's great for the city. It's great for everybody."
With files from Daybreak and Presse Canadienne