By Frank McLean
Usually when you see a convoy of yellow school busses making their way into downtown Toronto there is some kind of protest going on at Queen’s Park or City Hall or Blue Jays fans storming the Rogers Center wanting them to re-sign Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista.
Instead on Tuesday morning it was an invasion of school children, some 15,011 of them, at the Air Canada Centre which became the largest crowd to watch an NBDL game as the Raptors 905 hosted the Grand Rapids Drive in an early 11am tip off .
The Pistons farm team made the 905ers looked like they were sleepwalking in this one as they were thumped 114-87 ending a franchise-high seven game winning streak.
Even the high energy of an arena full of kids screaming, as most for sure were strung out on sugary drinks and pizza, could not help the home side with some extra energy of their own.
Coming into the game the 905ers had a 10-2 record with a NBDL leading .833 winning percentage, but before the game head coach Jerry Stackhouse was prophetic in his comments before the game that “yes we are winning games, but we have a lot of work to do.”
“Today was just one of those games,” Stackhouse said after the game.
“We were ok in the beginning of the game in the first quarter then they took off and made threes. I think they set a new NBA(DL) record for threes in a game today.”
Stackhouse was right about that one.
This past Friday night the Houston Rockets in their win over the New Orleans Pelicans set an NBA record for three-point shots made and attempted as they went 24-for-61 behind the arc.
Grand Rapids tied that NBA record by making 24 trey’s but they did it on far fewer attempts, 48.
The leading scorer for the 905ers was Fred VanVleet who gets action with the 905 when the Raptors aren’t playing.
However, Tuesday was a little bit of a different animal for the Raptors rookie as six hours after the 905 game ended VanVleet will be in a Raptors uniform on the bench supporting the big club for their game with the Brooklyn Nets.
“I’m ready to play anytime I’m called upon,” VanVleet said about the possibility of playing a doubleheader on the same day.
“I’m always mentally prepared and physically prepared to play. It’s something that I put a lot of pride in.”
But the story of the day was the kids.
The 905 already had a school day game this year in their home arena in Mississauga where they filled the Hershey Centre with close to five thousand fans.
Bringing a home game downtown for the second year in a row is a no brainer as they expose their brand of NBDL ball to a captive audience of school kids just happy as heck not to be in class doing math or english just three days before they take off for their Christmas break.
These late morning games are done in minor pro hockey and baseball and have been a great success at selling their product and making fans out of the game with the kids.
I just wonder. Why didn’t they have these games for school kids when I was in school 40 years ago?
Veteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.