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Bombardier to reduce workforce by 7,000 positions over two years

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Feb 17th, 2016

Bombardier announced Wednesday it will cut 7,000 positions over two years – close to 10 per cent of its global workforce – in the latest effort by Canada’s largest aerospace company to turn itself around as it awaits word of federal aid.

The Montreal-based firm said the layoffs will include 2,000 contract jobs. Nearly half of all the cuts would be at Bombardier Transportation, its rail division, which will lose 3,200 jobs. The rest would come from aerostructures and engineering, aerospace product development and Bombardier’s business aircraft division.

Most of the cuts will be in Canada and Europe, though they will be partly offset by hiring in certain areas, Bombardier said. Layoff notices are expected to be issued in the coming weeks and completed by next year.

No job losses are anticipated at the company’s commercial aircraft business segment, which supplies airlines with passenger planes including the new CSeries jets, which Bombardier has had trouble selling.

But amid the bad news there was a sign that Bombardier could be reviving its fortunes: a letter of intent that could see Air Canada buy 45 CSeries 300 planes, with an option to buy up to 30 more.

“We are turning Bombardier around to make this great company stronger and more competitive,” CEO Alain Bellemare said in a statement.

“And today, with the signing of Air Canada for the leading-edge CS300 aircraft, we add a major international airline customer based in North America to complement our orders in both Europe and Asia.”

The CSeries is Bombardier’s new generation of aircraft for commercial airlines, in development for more than a decade as an alternative to smaller models of passenger jets built by rivals Boeing and Airbus. The aircraft is about two years behind schedule and at least $2 billion over budget.

Late last year, Bombardier asked Ottawa for financial assistance as it tries to sell the CSeries. The federal government issued a statement Wednesday saying it was still reviewing that request.

“Any action the government takes with respect to Bombardier will be first and foremost in the interest of Canadians,” federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains said. “We have been clear that such an important decision will only be made after due diligence, careful consideration and a strong business case.”

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said he was encouraged to hear of the agreement between Bombardier and Air Canada but concerned about those losing their jobs.

The announcement of job cuts and the letter of intent with Air Canada came as Bombardier released its financial report for 2015 and an outlook for 2016.

The company, which reports in U.S. currency, had a net loss of US$5.34 billion for 2015, including a US$677 million loss in the fourth quarter.

Those losses include a number of special items and, without them, Bombardier says it would have had US$326 million of adjusted income for the full year and US$9 million of adjusted net income for the fourth quarter.

Among other things, Bombardier reported its revenue in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31 was $5 billion, down from just under $6 billion a year earlier.

Its 2015 revenue was $18.2 billion, down from $20.1 billion in 2014. It’s estimating 2016 revenue will fall further and be in a range of between $16.5 billion and $17.5 billion.

Bombardier is also planning to reduce the number of shares it has outstanding. The company plans a special shareholder meeting to get approval for a reverse stock split that will aim to exchange outstanding shares for a smaller number of consolidated shares, with a price in the range of C$10 to $20 each.

Bombardier’s publicly traded B shares closed Wednesday at 90 cents on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Last month, its stock fell below the $1 mark on the Toronto Stock Exchange for the first time in 25 years.

Mayor Tory to unveil major transit expansion plan: report

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Feb 16th, 2016

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Mayor John Tory will reportedly announce a major transit expansion plan on Tuesday that includes a light-rail line on the Toronto waterfront.

The Globe and Mail reports this city will reveal a full-fledged transit network to be built out over the next 15 years, including a light-rail line on the waterfront from Park Lawn Road to Leslie Street.

City staff are also recommending a light-rail line running north on Jane Street from the Bloor subway line. Add to that, a series of rapid buses along Steeles and Sheppard avenues, and a relief line into the downtown core.

The expansion plan is expected to be more than $10 billion over the next 15 years.

The mayor, along with TTC chair Josh Colle, will also unveil several service improvements on the red rocket, including new buses and increased rush-hour service on dozens of bus routes.

Enhanced service on the city’s bus routes kicked in on Sunday. The $95-million initiative puts 50 new buses on the roads, as well as better rush hour service on 24 bus routes during peak times.

“These service improvements are the type of sensible and caring investments expected by Toronto residents,” Mayor John Tory said in a statement.

“We need a reliable transit system so people can get to work on time and get home faster to spend more time with their families.”

CLICK HERE for a full list of the service improvements.

Video: TTC dramatically reduces dreaded short turns

CLICK HERE to watch the video on mobile.

Video: Tory calls new Scarborough transit plan best one yet

CLICK HERE to watch the video on mobile.

The Weeknd, Bieber lead year of firsts for Canadian Grammy nominees

David Friend, The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Feb 16th, 2016

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It was a night of career firsts for Canadian artists at the Grammys who together brought home six awards.

A thunderous year of chart-topping hits culminated at the music industry’s biggest awards show on Monday as both Justin Bieber and the Weeknd walked away winners.

But most of their praise was reserved for a pre-telecast ceremony streamed live on the Grammys website, rather than the prime time show itself.

Neither performer attended the smaller event.

Bieber scored the best dance recording honour as part of a collaboration with Skrillex and Diplo on the song “Where Are U Now.”

The Weeknd, a.k.a. Abel Tesfaye, nabbed two golden gramophones before the televised show.

He collected one for best urban contemporary album for “Beauty Behind the Madness” and another for best R&B performance on “Earned It (Fifty Shades Of Grey)” from the original soundtrack for the film “Fifty Shades Of Grey.”

Their absence at the earlier showcase wasn’t surprising.

Performers will often march down the red carpet rather than attend the preliminary event where about 70 awards in less prominent categories are handed out at a different venue.

Canadian acts collectively had more than 20 nominations, capping off a sensational year in which Canucks at one time commanded seven of the top 10 spots in the Billboard Hot 100.

The Weeknd was nominated for a total of seven Grammys and appeared to have plenty of support from his peers in the music industry.

During the televised ceremony, the Weeknd performed a medley of “Can’t Feel My Face” and “In the Night” sharply dressed in a tuxedo, as Canadian songwriter and composer Stephan Moccio played piano.

Adele was quick to jump to her feet with a standing ovation, clearly thinking he earned it.

Bieber hit the stage later with Skrillex and Diplo to perform a double bill of his own track “Love Yourself” and the Grammy-winning “Where Are U Now.”

Bieber opened the set strumming a guitar and wearing a cheetah-print jacket before he appeared to get tangled in the instrument’s strap while taking it off. He tossed the guitar aside and raced to the stage to join Skrillex and Diplo on a rock-flavoured rendition of their freshly-crowned Grammy winner.

Joni Mitchell arrives at the Pre-GRAMMY Gala And Salute To Industry Icons Honoring Martin Bandier on Feb. 7, 2015 in Los Angeles. WIRE IMAGE/Steve Granitz.
Joni Mitchell arrives at the Pre-GRAMMY Gala And Salute To Industry Icons Honoring Martin Bandier on Feb. 7, 2015 in Los Angeles. WIRE IMAGE/Steve Granitz.

The singer can also count himself an indirect winner in another Grammy. The song “Where Are U Now” also appears on a Skrillex and Diplo collaboration, released under the moniker Jack U, which won best dance/electronic album.

Among the other Canadian Grammy winners were legendary singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell for best album notes on “Love Has Many Faces: A Quartet, A Ballet, Waiting To Be Danced.” It was the ninth Grammy of her career.

Three other Canadians marked their first Grammy wins.

Sound engineer Charles Moniz, who grew up in Burlington, Ont., was part of the team who won record of the year for Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” featuring Bruno Mars. Moniz helped dream up the catchy “doh” vocal bassline that opens the track.

Best historical album went to producers Jan Haust, a native of London, Ont., and Hamilton’s Peter Moore for “The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11.”

The duo shared the award with Steve Berkowitz, Jeff Rosen and Mark Wilder.

The “Basement Tapes” set features music from Bob Dylan and Toronto’s the Band recorded in 1967 but never released in its entirety.

Seemingly lost to time, the Band’s Garth Hudson discovered the recordings inside a storage locker when he was cleaning it out. The tapes were sent to Toronto for restoration and released last year.

“This is a gift that everybody buys for their father,” Moore said in a recent interview.

“You also have a lot of young people who are finding out about this music for the first time.”

Haust and Moore met nearly 30 years ago when they were part of the Toronto music scene. Both have dedicated part of their careers unearthing old recordings _ pieces of music history _ before they deteriorate into oblivion.

“You put your best efforts forward trying to figure out where a tape can be,” said Moore.

Toronto hip-hop darling Drake lost all five awards he was nominated for, including best rap performance for “Back to Back” and best rap album for “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.”

The rapper was coming off the NBA all-star weekend in Toronto and was not scheduled to perform at the Grammys.

GRAMMYs 2016: Get to know the ‘Best New Artists’

Carina Kresic | posted Friday, Feb 12th, 2016

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The 58th annual GRAMMY Awards are right around the corner and we’ve got the low-down on the Best New Artist category nominees.

BEST NEW ARTIST: Nominees

JAMES BAY

Did you know…  Bay is a 24-year-old British songwriter and wrote his hit song ‘Hold Back The River’ about the feeling of missing his friends and family and special moments with them because of his busy schedule.

Follow James Bay on Twitter and Instagram

COURTNEY BARNETT 

Did you know… As an Australian indie rock musician, Barnett first borrowed money from her grandmother so she could start her own record label, Milk! Records. Plus, on top of being a musician, she is also an illustrator!

Follow Courtney Bartnett on Twitter and Instagram

SAM HUNT 

Did you know… Hunt, from Cedartown, Georgia, was originally going to pursue a professional sports career before signing a record contract in 2014.

Follow Sam Hunt on Twitter and Instagram

TORI KELLY

Did you know… Kelly originally started posting videos on YouTube, and once she turned 16 she auditioned for American Idol. After being eliminated from the show, she continued to pursue music and eventually got discovered by manager Scooter Braun (who also manages Justin Bieber!).

Follow Tori Kelly on Twitter and Instagram

MEGHAN TRAINOR

Did you know… Before her breakthrough hit, ‘All About That Bass’, Trainor was a songwriter and wrote songs for Hunter Hayes, Rascal Flatts, and Sabrina Carpenter, (just to name a few). She was also offered a full scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music, but made the decision to pursue a career in songwriting instead.

Follow Meghan Trainor on Twitter and Instagram

Check out the full list of nominees HERE.

WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE NEW ARTIST? Tell us on twitter @bttoronto and @EntCity and use the hashtag #CityGRAMMYs!

Make sure you tune into City Monday, Feb. 15 at 6:30 p.m. ET to watch Entertainment City: Live from the GRAMMYs, then stick around for a live broadcast of the awards!

GRAMMYs 2016: Record vs. Song of the Year

Carina Kresic | posted Friday, Feb 12th, 2016

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The 58th annual GRAMMY Awards will be live on Monday, Feb. 15, and we want you to be well informed before watching the star-studded show!

Listen to our top three picks from Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year categories.

Record of the Year vs. Song of the Year

Did you know… Record Of The Year category recognizes the artist’s performance as well as the overall contributions of the producers, recording engineers, and mixers, if other than the artist. The Song of the year category recognizes the songwriters.

RECORD OF THE YEAR: Nominees

  • ‘Uptown Funk’ – Mark Ronson Ft. Bruno Mars
  • ‘Thinking Out Loud’ – Ed Sheeran
  • ‘Blank Space’ – Taylor Swift
  • ‘Really Love’ – D’Angelo and The Vanguard
  • ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ – The Weeknd

OUR PICKS…

#1 ‘UPTOWN FUNK’: Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars

Did you know… Parts of the song were recorded in Toronto, and Burlington native Charles Moniz, is one of the sound engineers on the track.

#2 ‘BLANK SPACE’: Taylor Swift

Did you know… Swift wrote the song based on the media’s perception of her “crazy dating style” and portrayed this made-up character in the video.

#3 ‘CAN’T FEEL MY FACE’: The Weeknd

Did you know… A Toronto native, The Weeknd’s real name is Abel Tesfaye. He got his stage name from a time he dropped out of high school, left home for a weekend, and never went back. The rest is, well, history!

SONG OF THE YEAR: Nominees

  • ‘Alright’ – Kendrick Lamar
  • ‘Blank Space’ – Tswift
  • ‘Girl Crush’ – Little Big Town
  • ‘See You Again’ – Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth
  • ‘Thinking Out Loud’ – Ed Sheeran

OUR PICKS…

#1 ‘ALRIGHT’: Kendrick Lamar  kendrick

*Music video for ‘Alright’ can be found on VEVO.

Did you know… The song is about hope. Lamar was inspired to write it after a trip to South Africa and witnessing other people’s problems in the country.

#2 ‘SEE YOU AGAIN’: Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth

Did you know… Puth first gained popularity by posting videos on YouTube. He was then approached to write a song that could play tribute to the late Paul Walker for Furious 7. Little did he know that the label would end up using his own vocals for published track, Khalifa would join the song and it would become a huge hit.

 #3 ‘THINKING OUT LOUD’: Ed Sheeran

Did you know…  Sheeran spent five hours each day for three weeks practicing the dance routine which he performs in the music video.

Check out the full list of nominees HERE.

WHO WILL YOU BE ROOTING FOR? Tell us on twitter @bttoronto and @EntCity and use the hashtag #CityGRAMMYs!

Make sure you tune into City Monday, Feb. 15 at 6:30 p.m. ET to watch Entertainment City: Live from the GRAMMYs, then stick around for a live broadcast of the awards!

Family fun, Valentine’s Day and NBA All-Star Game: now that’s a weekend

Patricia D'Cunha & Amber LeBlanc | posted Friday, Feb 12th, 2016

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It’s a three-pointer of a weekend with the NBA All-Star Game, Family Day and Valentine’s Day all coming together in the GTA.

The game tip-off is at 8 p.m. Sunday at the Air Canada Centre (ACC), but events get underway on Friday.

If you haven’t planned your long weekend yet, we have compiled some events for your perusal. For those heading around town on Monday, below is a list of what’s open and closed.

Also, starting Sunday, the TTC is adding extra trips on several bus routes including 25 Don Mills, 6 Bay, 16 McCowan, and 80 Queensway. Click here for a full list of service changes.


Family Day: What’s open and closed

A closed on a storefront. GETTY IMAGES/huePhotography.
A closed on a storefront. GETTY IMAGES/huePhotography.

Open

  • Most tourist attractions and museums: Art Gallery of Ontario (10:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.), Royal Ontario Museum (10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.), CN Tower (10 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.), Casa Loma (9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.), the Toronto Zoo (9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.), and Hockey Hall of Fame (10 a.m. – 5 p.m.)
  • TTC runs on a holiday schedule and GO Transit operates on a Saturday schedule
  • Transit riders can also ride the UP Express free this long weekend
  • Some malls: Bramalea City Centre (11 a.m. – 6 p.m.), Eaton Centre (10 a.m. – 6 p.m.), Pacific Mall (11 a.m. – 8 p.m.), The Promenade (11 a.m. – 6 p.m.), Square One (11 a.m. – 6 p.m.), and Vaughan Mills (10 a.m. – 7 p.m.), Toronto Premium Outlets (9:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.), and select stores at Yorkville Village (10 a.m. – 6 p.m.).
  • Some grocery stores, but call ahead for hours
  • Most city-run ice rinks and arenas
  • Federal government offices and mail will be delivered

Closed

  • LCBO and beer stores
  • Municipal buildings and banks
  • Schools and public libraries
  • Post offices located in closed retail outlets

Family Day and Valentine’s Day events

Fun fests for kids 
Hey kids, want to go bananas this weekend? And parents: do you want to bring back good old-fashioned fun for your children? You can this long weekend in Toronto and Mississauga.

The Family Fun Fest at Downsview Park. Photo via familydayfest.ca.
The Family Fun Fest at Downsview Park. Photo via familydayfest.ca.

Downsview Park will be transformed into an indoor playground for Family Fun Fest with more than 30 rides, jumping castles, giant slides, carnival games and an arcade. There will also be strolling entertainers and interactive stage shows featuring Doo Doo the Clown.

At Kids Fest Toronto, the International Centre will be home to more than 30 inflatable rides, including toddler-appropriate attractions. There will also be interactive games, magic shows, science experiments and mini-putt.

Share the love at Casa Loma
Expect to see lots of couples feeling the love this weekend, with Valentine’s Day this Sunday (hint, hint).

Casa Loma is inviting you to “share the love” with a special event for couples and families as they explore the castle, which is equipped with an underground tunnel that leads to Edwardian stables and a greenhouse.

Casa Loma in Toronto. Photo via Wikipedia/Creative Commons/Maria Carmen.
Casa Loma in Toronto. Photo via Wikipedia/Creative Commons/Maria Carmen.

There will be live shows featuring jugglers and ventriloquists to entertain you and your family, as well as an indoor bouncy castle. You can also make your own Valentine’s Day and Family Day cards – homemade cards are so much better than store-bought, don’t you think?

Anti-Valentine’s Day Mixer
On the other end of the spectrum, an Anti-Valentine’s Day Mixer takes place in North York. Battle Sports says it’s designed for people who don’t want anything to do with the holiday. Events planned include shooting arrows at Cupid targets, and relieving some singleton anger in a “rage room.”

History of TTC subway
The TTC is always a subject of contention in the city, but how often do you take the time to applaud its achievements? Over the past 60 years, the subway system has moved billions of passengers and continues to adapt to the needs of the growing population, amid all the bureaucracy.

One of the artifacts on display at the "Tunnel Vision: The Story of Toronto's Subway" exhibit at the Market Gallery. Photo via Facebook/MarketGallery.
One of the artifacts on display at the “Tunnel Vision: The Story of Toronto’s Subway” exhibit at the Market Gallery. Photo via Facebook/MarketGallery.

TTC riders can explore the history and complexity of the subway system at Tunnel Vision: The Story of Toronto’s Subway – an exhibit being held at the Market Gallery from Saturday until June 11 – through the lens of photographs, maps, plans, and artifacts.

Munsch Mash
Get ready to laugh like a kid. Relive classic stories from children’s author Robert Munsch in a theatrical adaptation at the Solar Stage. Several of his stories, including Angela’s Airplane and Jonathan Cleaned Up, will be performed in one play. Family Day weekend showtimes: Saturday-Sunday (11 a.m. and 2 p.m.) and Monday (10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m.).

Canadian International Auto Show
You may think the auto show is boring for children, but they love shiny new things so why not make it a family event.

Canadian International AutoShow preview

More than 1,000 cars, trucks and SUVS, will be on display at the auto show, on from Saturday until Feb. 21 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. There will also be various activities for families on Family Day as well as giveaways.

City-run events in the GTA

People skating at Nathan Phillips Square. Photo via Twitter/@HiltonToronto.
People skating at Nathan Phillips Square. Photo via Twitter/@HiltonToronto.

  • City of Toronto: Some of the events include a skating party at Nathan Phillips Square from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., as well as arts, sports and other programs at various community centres.
  • Click here for Brampton and Mississauga events.

Mayor Tory to present key to the city to Drake Friday night

Christine Chubb | posted Friday, Feb 12th, 2016

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Mayor John Tory is about to give out his inaugural key to the city and he’s picked one of the most high-profile Torontonians to receive it.

Tory announced on Thursday that international rap superstar Drake will get the city’s highest honour on Friday night.

“When we give out a key to the city, we want it to be something really special,” Tory said a video posted to Twitter. “I believed the key should go to individuals who make people across the city feel good about themselves and about their city.”

And there’s no doubt the former Degrassi star has made a name for himself representing the city. He’s been a global ambassador for the Raptors since 2013, he prominently features Toronto in his lyrics and his upcoming album is titled ‘Views from the 6.’

The presentation will take place as the city kicks off the NBA All-Star weekend.

In a series of tweets, Tory explained his decision by recounting a conversation he’d had with Drake.

“He talked about wanting to contribute & for the city to see him as more than just a name – but a force of good” Tory tweeted.

Toronto ready to roll out red carpet to game’s biggest NBA stars

CityNews | posted Friday, Feb 12th, 2016

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Toronto is about to finally pull back the curtains on the first NBA all-star game ever to be played outside of the United States — an idea that had its beginnings with a pencil and a blank sheet of paper more than 20 years ago.

It was 1994 when Isiah Thomas, the Raptors’ first-ever general manager, and John Bitove, the Toronto businessman who led the club’s ownership group, sat down to draw up a wish list.

“Literally we were writing down our hopes, our dreams, our visions for the Raptors. And one of the dreams was to play the first international all-star game outside of the U.S.,” Thomas said. “That first year, we were just hiring staff, bringing people in, we hadn’t even brought in players, and we were talking about the all-star game.

“It’s remarkable to see the energy now around town, it’s remarkable to see the evolution of the sport, and the explosion of the sport that has taken place here,” he added, during a break at an NBA fan event at the University of Toronto.

Both the Raptors and the Vancouver Grizzlies played their first game in 1995. But while support for the Grizzlies fizzled in Vancouver — the franchise eventually moved to Memphis after the 2000-01 season — the NBA has flourished in Toronto.

The Raptors have sold out 63 consecutive games at the Air Canada Centre. Co-captains Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan will suit up for the East in Sunday’s 65th annual all-star game, marking the first time two Raptors have been voted into the game. The No. 2 Raptors are chasing the Cleveland Cavaliers for top spot in the Eastern Conference.

And a generation of Canadian kids that grew up on a steady diet of hihglights from high-flying Raptors superstar Vince Carter can be seen in reigning rookie of the year Andrew Wiggins and Kentucky Wildcats star Jamal Murray.

“We’re at that point where kids like Drake, who grew up on the sport, they’re now grown men, but they fell in love with the sport and they’re spreading the word about how good the sport is here,” Thomas said. “To see the evolution and the explosion of basketball across Canada, and to have the kids growing up and becoming lottery picks and becoming MVPs of the league, it’s pretty phenomenal what’s going on here.”

Three Canadians — Wiggins, Dwight Powell and Trey Lyles — will play for the World Team versus the U.S. in Friday’s Rising Stars game.

“To see the Jamal Murrays and the latest wave of Canadian players, and who knows who’s behind that wave, that’s exciting for Canada, and speaks well for the development that’s going on here,” said Glen Grunwald, who spent seven years as the Raptors’ GM.

 

And the Canadian influence on the game can be felt outside the boundaries of the basketball court, Thomas pointed out.

“Every time you talk about basketball nowadays, there’s some type of Canadian influence, whether on a team, or a coaching staff (think Jay Triano in Portland, or reigning NBA D-League coach of the year Scott Morrison), or in management,” said the 12-time NBA all-star. “It’s permeated the NBA.”

While the all-star idea was moved to the backburner from those early pencil-and-paper days of the Raptors, it re-emerged in the Bryan Colangelo era. Toronto was awarded the all-star game in 2013, and this week the city will roll out the red carpet for the game’s biggest stars, along with countless celebrities and more than 330 international journalists from 40 countries.

Raptors president and GM Masai Ujiri is looking forward to playing host to the league’s biggest party.

“We just want to show who we are,” Ujiri said. “Beautiful people, beautiful city, great restaurants, it’s a great festival.

“Beautiful weather,” he added, laughing. Temperatures are expected to plummet to —22 C on Saturday.

While the Grizzlies are long gone from Canada’s west coast, the game has continued to grow, not just in Toronto, but across Canada. Viewership of NBA games in Canada has doubled over the past three seasons according to NBA Canada, and last October pre-season games sold out in Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver and Winnipeg.

The Raptors take pride in being known as Canada’s team. They wear it in the red of their uniforms.

“(This all-star game) just continues to grow the game in Canada, and it gives Canadian fans the chance to experience the spectacle, the NBA spectacle, and we’ve witnessed it in the last several years,” said Wayne Embry, a five-time all-star and senior adviser to the Raptors. “The world should recognize that Dr. Naismith is Canadian, and he invented the game of basketball. It’s a global game, and Canada deservedly must have a place there.”

Some of the Raptors’ current culture, meanwhile, is a throw-back to those very early days. The circular locker-room, meant to give the players the impression of being in a huddle, has existed since Day 1. So has the Raptor mascot, and the way he drives the team flag into centre-court at the beginning of each game “to basically put the stake in the ground like ‘We’re here,’” Thomas said.

“To see people feeling it now, emotionally and energetically, it’s precious,” he added. “When people see the excitement and the energy and what’s really going on here (at this week’s all-star festivities), you can’t help but fall in love with what’s taking place and what’s been done. There’s no denying it.”

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