Toronto Raptors, Leafs to visit London in solidarity against hate

Budweiser Gardens in downtown London. (File photo by Craig Needles, Blackburn News)

The Toronto Raptors and alumni of the Toronto Maple Leafs announced they will be travelling to the Forest City next month to show support following the tragedy that left four members of a local Muslim family dead and one an orphan.

As part of the Raptor’s pre-season, they will hold their opening practice at Budweiser Gardens on October 2. The next day, two groups of Maple Leafs alumni will play against each other.  Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) decided to bring the two events to London in an effort to stand against hate by using the power that sport has to bring the community together.

“As was famously said by Nelson Mandela, sport has the power to unite people in a way that little else does,” said Senior Vice-President of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Teri Dennis-Davies. “MLSE and its teams wanted to show support to London and the Muslim community following the tragic events this past summer and to use our teams’ voices to stand against hate, violence and racism.”

In early June, four members of the Afzaal family died when they were hit by a pick-up truck while out for walk in northwest London. The youngest family member, a 9-year-old boy, was the only survivor. Prosecutors working on the case have called the attack a hate-crime and allege the accused suspect in the case committed an act of terrorism.

MLSE said it is working with the City of London and local Muslim community stakeholders to create a lasting change by developing a legacy project in London. The project is said to be rooted in the community’s need as an infrastructure investment that will formally be announced during the event weekend.

“I will remain forever grateful for the love and support my family has received. My aunt, Madiha Salman, was the epitome of strength, the embodiment of hard work and a pillar for her community. An event like this, which champions community and stands for anti-hate, is a perfect way to honour her legacy,” said Hajra Najam, a family member to the Afzaal’s.

To comply with health and safety protocols, capacity for the events at Bud Gardens will be limited to 1,000 people. A minimum donation of $20 will be requested for the Raptors open practice and a ticket price of the same amount will be required for the Leafs alumni game. Toronto Maple Leafs alumni facing off in the game against each other will include Wendel Clark, Darcy Tucker, Tomáš Kaberle, Nik Antropov, and Rick Vaive.

Tickets go on sale September 23 at 10 a.m. and can be purchased online at budweisergardens.com. Each day, 250 tickets will be donated and distributed among London’s Muslim community.

All proceeds will benefit the MLSE Foundations’ Change the Game campaign. The movement aims to bring awareness to and eliminate barriers youth face by offering them more equitable opportunities to reach their potential.