VIDEO: Toronto Raptors announcer credited with calming crowds after shooting

Matt Devlin, the Raptors’ play-by-play announcer since 2008, was praised for preventing panic from spreading

The Toronto Raptors’ seasoned play-by-play announcer is winning widespread praise for calming a jittery crowd after gunfire broke out at a jammed Nathan Phillips Square, convincing fans to remain strong and “stay together.”

As people at the edges of the crowd fled gunshots in panic, Matt Devlin calmly announced a brief suspension of Raptors’ NBA Championship festivities on Monday, promising more information soon and reminding fans they were there to celebrate.

READ MORE: Two shot, two arrested at Toronto Raptors victory rally

“This is about love, it’s about rejoicing,” he told an estimated one million people gathered in and around city hall’s iconic public square.

Devlin, the Raptors’ play-by-play announcer since 2008, was soon credited with preventing panic from spreading.

“Amazing job … taking over the mic and keeping all under control during police response. You my sir settling the crowd saved (many) injuries, great work!” one Toronto police officer tweeted.

Police later said four people suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries.

The heroics come just weeks after Devlin became a Canadian citizen — he was sworn in at a ceremony May 31, the day after Game 1 of the Finals series between the Raptors and defending champs Golden State Warriors.

As several people hailed him a Canadian hero Monday, Devlin said by phone that he went to the side stage for information after hearing there was an emergency. He then asked Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of Raptors’ owner Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, if he could make an announcement to keep everyone calm.

Devlin then told the crowd: “We’re here to celebrate, which we will. But I just want everybody to just take a moment, please stay strong. There is an emergency that is being dealt with,” he said, speaking for about two minutes.

Devlin is used to delivering rapid-fire on-air reactions to live courtside action for TSN and Sportsnet. During the welcome home celebrations, he said he had an earpiece, but largely spoke off-the-cuff.

“I had … to make sure everybody was calm, because you don’t want that to trigger something else. Hopefully I was able to do that in some small way,” said the Syracuse, N.Y., native, also known as Matty D.

“I felt like I wanted to keep talking, because the longer that I talked, the calmer people would be. And hopefully that’s the case.”

Scott Reid, a former senior adviser to prime minister Paul Martin, had praise for the authorities’ overall response, and for Devlin in particular.

“The decision to concentrate immediately on quelling the specific risk of a public stampede — and to do it from the stage, interrupting the owner while shrewdly choosing to not mention a shooter. That all took balls. And brains,” Reid tweeted.

“Finally, giant props to @Matt_Devlin who, by definition, could not have known what was in motion but had the steel and professionalism to deliver that message, striking just the right balance. With the team, the city and the world watching. Impressive.”

The festivities quickly resumed as police continued their investigation and arrested a total of three suspects and seized two firearms.

Jack Rozdilsky, professor of disaster and emergency management at York University, said the dangerous episode was handled well by all.

“Authorities moved in quickly, they made decisive actions, they isolated the area. Somehow information was either relayed up to the stage or on the stage, maybe things were noticed and then the MC knew what to do immediately with public messaging.”

Anytime such threats emerge, he says the goal by authorities is to minimize chaos and injury.

Unfortunately, we’re now in an era where such tragedies are becoming increasingly common in large cities such as Toronto, he added.

“It’s not a question of if these events are going to happen but it’s a question of when these events are going to happen.”

Devlin says he remained focused on making sure “the situation would not grow.”

Many TV viewers were unaware of the drama as local cameras remained focused on the stage while rumours emerged online of a possible shooting, with some people sharing cellphone footage of panicked fans fleeing the area.

Bell Media spokesman Scott Henderson said in a statement that the media giant’s flagship channel CTV followed the lead of what was happening on stage with information available at the time. He said the shooting was addressed later in CTV’s broadcast after police confirmed details, while Bell’s local all-news channel CP24 later provided continuous coverage of the incident.

Cassandra Szklarski and Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Annual Windermere Fire Halloween Haunted House bigger than ever

Less scares earlier; more scares later at annual haunted house

Kootenay-Columbia candidate cautious after getting threats

Trev Miller of the Animal Protection Party carries on campaigning under shadow of threats, abusive emails

Kootenay-Columbia riding candidates have Canada’s highest expense limit

Facebook data also shows who is buying ads on the social media website

Stuck skunk a stinky situation

Area resident concerned over use of mouse traps that may trap other animals instead

Students offer a taste of Diwali

Diwali celebration FRIDAY, October 25th!

Spotlight on B.C.: Liberals need at least 10 B.C. ridings to take the election

Black Press Media presents a four-part series into how B.C. will affect the federal election outcome

Kawhi Leonard, former Toronto Raptor, welcomed back to Vancouver at pre-season game

Fans go wild at pre-season game between L.A. Clippers and Dallas Mavericks at Rogers Arena

Greens and NDP go head to head on West Coast; Scheer takes fight to Bernier

Trudeau turns focus to key ridings outside Toronto after two days in Quebec

Canucks beat Stanley Cup champs 4-3 in a shootout

Leivo nets winner, Vancouver dumps St. Louis for fourth straight win

‘The more you test, the more you find’: Beef recalls a sign of success, experts say

Despite appearances, experts say a recent rise in major recalls is not a sign of food supply problems

Scholars say religious vaccine objections can’t be traced to Biblical sources

Vaccinations are a requirement to attend class in Ontario and New Brunswick, while B.C. launched a demand this fall

ELECTION 2019: How would the major parties address Canada’s housing crisis?

Promises include speculation taxes, more affordable housing, and declaring housing a human right

Two years later, City of Fernie remembers

Oct. 17, 2019 marks two years since the tragic ammonia leak at Fernie Memorial Arena

Japanese buyer expands wood pellet contract with B.C.’s Pinnacle

Mitsui and Co. increases contract with Interior energy producer

Most Read