This was a sparsely attended exhibition game but since I was in town, I couldn't resist supporting this type of event. There were several Israeli flags being waved around, quite a few kippahs and lots of Hebrew being spoken in the stands. There were pockets of enthusiastic supporters of both teams though probably more Raptors' fans than fans of Haifa. The game began with the singing of two national anthems - Hatikvah (Israel's national anthem) and the Canadian national anthem. It was quite fun hearing the Israeli national anthem at the Air Canada Centre.
For the Baldwin Street Kosher hot dog stand (with one location on the lower level only), this was the Super Bowl of Toronto sports events. Hundreds of day school students, observant Jews and others lined up to buy strictly Kosher hot dogs and french fries. Unfortunately, the vendors were ill-prepared for the onslaught and poorly organized. The line-up barely moved. We waited on line for about twenty minutes, trying to support the Kosher kiosk. But the line-up only inched forward. There were still at least 20 or 30 people ahead of us, even after all that time. We gave up and went back to watch the game hungry.
The Toronto Raptors have hosted other Israeli basketball teams in the past. Maccabi Tel-Aviv has played in Toronto twice, beating the Raptors in one of those appearances. For Maccabi Haifa, the 2014 Toronto appearance was the last game of a four game NBA tour which has included stops in Washington, Sacramento, Portland and Toronto.
This was not a thrilling basketball game, especially for those of us who are not really big basketball fans. But it was fun watching Maccabi draw close and keep the result in doubt until the end of the game (or close to it).
Many of those in attendance enjoyed some photo opportunities - including these friends of ours, who are seen here posing with the Raptor mascot.
The day was somewhat marred by the news of a terrorist shooting incident in Ottawa earlier in the afternoon. But the basketball game proceeded with a special appeal for remembrance of the victims of the earlier incident.
Overall, it was a fun evening and a much closer game than anyone might have expected.