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Toronto, and Drake, keep Raptors fever alive as team hits the road

Raptors fans packed Maple Leaf Square for Game 2 on April 22, 2014. CITYNEWS

The game’s not in town, but Toronto will be watching as the Raptors take on the Brooklyn Nets Friday in Game 3 of their playoff series.

After two home games at the Air Canada Centre, the series has moved to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the next two games.

For a supposed hockey town, Toronto has been heartily cheering on their basketball team.

Thousands have been filling Maple Leaf Square, just outside the ACC, for the official viewing parties hosted by the team and owners Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment.

 

And for those who enjoy a beverage with their basketball, sports bars are happy to fill seats with excited basketball fans.

Even at Wayne Gretzky’s, named for the hockey great, manager Fabio Faveri has been surprised by the influx of basketball fans.

He told CityNews that it seemed like more people at his Blue Jays Way and Wellington Steet West sports bar were watching basketball Tuesday night than the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens sweep Tampa Bay Lightning.

On Friday night, he predicts most of the more-than-32 screens will be tuned to the Raptors game.

“It’s been fun,” said Faveri.

The positive vibes have spread to the west side at another sports bar, The Dock Ellis, at Dundas and Dovercourt West, full to capacity for the first two games of the series.

“There were wicked vibes in here too. And when [The Raptors] won, people were jumping up on tables,” co-owner Alain Pitout told us.

The bar boasts seven TVs and a projector. All of them will be playing Raptors, with the sound on.

Though Alain adds that they might tune a few TVs to the Blue Jays-Red Sox game.

“We try to please as many as we can.”

But in order to be pleased, Pitout recommends getting there early.

He’s been fielding calls all day, he says, from groups as large as 20 looking for reservations, but the bar has a first-come-first-served policy.

He suggests arriving an hour before the 7 p.m. tip off.

“New staff tees for the game tonight!! … C’mon down and join us The Dock Ellis for what is sure to be an incredible Friday night!!,” said Dock Ellis chef Trish Gill on her Instagram post.

Less cheeky merchandise is also flying off shelves around town.

The Sports Chek in the Eaton Centre has been selling Raptors merchandise at a five year high, said general manager John Harding.

“There’s a definite great excitement around the city with the Raptors in the playoffs. And having a pro team in the playoffs has really helped with sales.”