TORONTO (Reuters) - A National Basketball Association (NBA) pre-season game rarely holds any importance and a meeting between the Toronto Raptors and Maccabi Haifa on Wednesday held even less relevance as Canadians digested a day of terror.
The exhibition contest in Toronto went on but a National Hockey League game in Ottawa between the home-town Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs did not after a morning of gunfire in the Canadian capital left two men dead and a city on edge.
Minutes after a soldier on guard at the National War Memorial was shot and fatally wounded, a suspected gunman was shot dead in the parliament building, prompting police to lock down large sections of the downtown core as they assessed an uncertain threat.
While Canadians were left stunned and shaken by the unfolding events, coaches and players on Maccabi Haifa were respectful but unrattled.
For a team that plays under constant threat of all manner of attack from rockets to suicide bombers, it was business as usual on Wednesday for the Israeli Basketball Super League finalists despite a beefed-up security presence ordered by the NBA.
”I am aware of what happened but in Israel we see stuff like this a lot of times,“ Maccabi Haifa coach Rami Hadar told Reuters. ”I sympathize and hope everything will be ok.
”It was not a shock but coming here it was something less expected.
“We don’t feel this in daily life in Israel, it is something that can happen sometimes but we are not affected in our daily work.”
The game between the Raptors and Maccabi Haifa was played under heightened security that many of those slowly filing into the Air Canada Center feared was about to become the new normal.
The Raptors move to boost a police presence followed similar decisions made by cities and towns across Canada to hike security around government buildings, schools and mass transit systems.
In a city where sightseers regularly walk up to Parliament Hill and have their picture taken at the doors to the seat of government, there was a jarring sense that those days were disappearing.
“I fear this is the way it will be, it’s just the way it is, get use to it,” warned Raptors fan Simon Pollard as he joined a line to enter the arena.
A gun attack targeting the heart of government also struck at the heart of Canadian culture, stopping a game between the rival Senators and Leafs.
The sports world circled the wagons around the Senators, their fans and the city offering support in word and song.
At an NHL game in Pittsburgh between the Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers, fans sang the Canadian national anthem while the stadium was bathed in red with a giant maple leaf shining on the ice.
”It is bound to happen worldwide,“ Rene Rougeau, an American playing for Maccabi told Reuters. ”It is something you think about. It was kind shocking to see.
“It was only a matter of time.”
Editing by Ian Ransom