Raptors maintain rhythm to beat Pelicans on SVG Night
By Darnel Harris
The sights and sounds of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines starred last Thursday night, as the Toronto Raptors hosted the New Orleans Pelicans at the Air Canada Center. In both teams’ first game back after the All Star Break, the Raptors showed no signs of rust, and secured a mostly comfortable win (115-110). However, before and between the basketball game, the crowd revelled in the warmth of Caribbean steelpan, soca and carnival costumes on a chilly February night.
Toronto’s acclaimed Pan Fantasy Steelband kicked off Caribbean Heritage Night with a beautiful rendition of Canada’s national anthem, then Kevin Lyttle took the stage and delighted swaying fans with his worldwide soca hit, “Turn Me On”. Pan Fantasy then delivered an encore during the second quarter, before Trinidad and Tobago’s Patrice Roberts halftime soca show wrapped up the night’s major acts.
Patrice’s performance had people dancing in the aisles, while others joyfully waved Trinidad’s red, white and black banner, and Barbados’ Trident in the crowd. All night, a crew of Caribbean dancers decked out in either Raptors gear or colorful, feathered costumes gave viewers a beautiful slice of Vincentian talent and culture, and in the Caribbean as a whole.
Discover St Vincent and the Grenadines (the island’s tourism office) said on social media: “In addition to 20,000 screaming fans (and millions more viewing) being able to take home a bit of St. Vincent and the Grenadines with their rags and a taste of the Caribbean cultural experience, one lucky fan won 2 tickets to SVG, compliments Air Canada and 7 nights’ accommodation (with meals), compliments Young Island Resort. If you add the fact that the Toronto Raptors also got the W, then just about everyone was a winner at their Caribbean Heritage Night on Thursday February 23rd, 2023!”
In speaking with Mrs. Shelly John (Director of Sales for the St.Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority), she noted that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment approached their public relations partner with an offer which they decided to accept, as the Canadian market is very important for St. Vincent.
Given the large number of fans in person and international viewing audience, Mrs. John and her team wanted to showcase their island as a vacation destination on the rise. St. Vincent’s Argyle International Airport (opened just six years ago) now welcomes direct flights from London, Toronto, and Miami to their thirty-two keys and islands — ensuring that there is likely an island to delight everyone.
As for the Raptors, Pascal Siakam, Toronto’s only all-star this season, returned from Salt Lake City and led his team to victory with 26 points. Jakob Poeltl (21 points), Scottie Barnes (18 points), Gary Trent Jr. (18 points) and OG Anuoby (12 points) led a true team effort to secure a valuable win in the playoff race. Toronto’s sixth win in seven games as the Raptors claw their way back into the NBA Eastern Conference’s post-season picture.