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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Curling Club comedy “Right on the button” for Vernon

Western Canada Theatre production throws humour into the mix of immigration

Missing Vernon man possibly sighted in Lower Mainland

Information leads family, friends to believe Jay Rosenberger near Lower Mainland Saturday

Museum digs up history for ’60s Vernon Winter Carnival

Get Groovin’ with the Grandkids or flashback to the ’60s with tunes, trivia and costumes

City of Enderby apologizes for cemetery damages

‘Very disrespectful’: Headstones at Enderby cemetery damaged by excavation crew

Two-month-old Kelowna boy diagnosed with rare heart disorder returns home from treatment

Arel spent two weeks at B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver after suffering multiple cardiac arrests

WATCH: Cougar caught on doorbell cam in Vernon

Glenn Gorham shares footage of late-night visit from wild cat

House fire quickly knocked down in South Kelowna

According to Kelowna Fire Department, the house sustained interior damage during the blaze

Prolific South Okanagan criminal will be freed for time served

Afshin Ighani pleads guilty to assault charges but will be set free for time served

Sap thief taps Saanich park maple trees, faces hefty fine

One tree found with four taps in Mount Doug Park

Shuswap man given six months jail time for possession of child pornography

Forty-six-year-old will be on National Sex Offender Registry for 20 years

B.C. reports first coronavirus in Vancouver region

First patient visited Wuhan, China, reported symptoms

Power outage at Big White

It’s unknown why the power went out Tuesday afternoon

Uber threatens legal action to ‘defend its right’ to operate in Surrey

‘I have no concerns,’ Mayor Doug McCallum replies

Victoria resident says WestJet employee uttered racist comment, refused to let her on plane

Customer claims she was told ‘You guys can’t handle your alcohol’ by WestJet employee

Most Read