TORONTO - The Raptors 905 took on the Wisconsin Herd on February 25th at the ACC in a game about more than just a win - it was about celebrating Chinese New Year.
Each 905 player wore a special Chinese New Year edition jersey, with “905” spelled in Chinese characters. The first 3,000 fans received a Raptors 905 dog plush in honour of the Year of the Dog. Many families of Chinese descent were in attendance to celebrate their culture’s festivities and watch a professional basketball game.
The event kicked off with Simu Liu, a Chinese-Canadian actor known for his role as Jung on CBC’s Kim’s Convenience, singing the American and Canadian national anthems.
“It was the single most anxiety-inducing moment of my life,” Simu described the experience singing in the ACC for the first time. “But that's the exact feeling that drove me to accept it. I love new challenges and I was very happy to be able to sing in front of a crowd celebrating the Lunar New Year.”
The halftime show featured members of the Wushu International College performing the Lat Yip Lion Dance. Dance member Garbo Kwan spoke highly of the upcoming dancers.
“I’m especially proud to see some of the younger performers take part in such a big event. I’m also really happy to see more young girls take part in what many people consider a ‘masculine sport,’” she added.
What makes cultural events like the Chinese New Year celebration so special?
“Events like the [Raptors 905 Chinese New Year event] give Asian-Canadians a platform through which they can not only come together to enjoy a basketball game but to form a solid foundation and community,” said Simu.
“It’s an excellent way in setting an example to the rest of the world how to bridge cultures together,” added Garbo.
Raptors 905 Account Executive Syed Abbas believes that the organization’s inclusivity is key in reaching out to all fans. “It’s very important, it’s everything. When you’re coming from a city like Toronto or Mississauga, diversity is what defines the fanbase. As the city grows, [its] diversity is only going to grow.”
“Basketball is one of the most accessible sports. For us to reach out to these different cultures, a lot of kids come to Toronto and that’s the first sport they’re learning and growing up with. To give back to them is very important to not only the 905 but to the Raptors as well.”
Stay tuned for photos from the 905's next cultural event, the Filipino Heritage Game.