As the Toronto Raptors continue their run for the NBA championship, few people have the pulse of excited fans more than a member of their security team – and fulltime GO customer service ambassador – Zohaib Khan. As Canada goes wild, he explains why he must remain so very cool.
He wants to yell.
He wants to scream, celebrate and revel in the Toronto Raptors historic season run, as they continue in the championship NBA finals, against two-time defending champs Golden State Warriors.
But GO train customer service ambassador, Zohaib Khan, has had to keep his cool as other fans have exploded with emotion. Beyond his duties interacting with GO customers on the Lakeshore East line, Khan works as a personal security guard for the Toronto Raptors, making sure the players get on and off the court safely.
So he has a unique view of constantly dealing with the players, as well as daily engaging with their excited supporters – especially as the dial has been turned up on Raptors fever.
“It is very difficult to hold my emotions as a fan when I’m working, but I have to be professional,” admits Khan.
“When we win the finals it’s going to be really hard not to show emotions.”
Khan sees the support – many fans are literally wearing the Raptors’ colours every day.
“About 80 per cent of the (GO train) passengers got some sort of raptors merchandise on, whether it’s a hat a t-shirt or a jersey,” he notes.
Khan has been balancing both jobs for quite some time. He’s been with the Raptors for almost 13 years and GO transit for about seven years. What he’s now witnessing on his trains is a first – a burst of pride and collective excitement of what could be.
“Everyone is talking about the Raptors on the train from the Kawhi (Leonard) buzzer beater to the team making the finals,” he says.
He’s even noticed a lot more fans taking the train early to head to Jurassic Park, the public gathering point for fans, located outside Scotiabank Arena.
Thousands of fans lined up around the block – including neighbouring Union Station – to get in on the celebration for the recent game six against the Milwaukee Bucks in the last round. Khan expects even more energy now that the Raptors face the Warriors for the city’s first ever final.
“Our city needed this eastern conference (win), but Raptors are not done yet because our city needs the championship,” Khan says.
As a die-hard basketball fan, he has always dreamt of being a part of the team. He found his calling as a security guard for the players. Now he has another dream: the Raptors lifting the Larry O’Brien trophy and becoming NBA Champions.
But it’s not just the game and the players he has his mind on. It’s also getting fans safely to their destinations – even those who may not really care about basketball.
Safety is his number one goal.
“Even if it’s to get on the coach and put the ramp down for wheelchair access, it’s all very important to me,” he says. “I’m always vigilant and alert.
“Anything can happen, whether it’s on a train or on the court.”
Over at the Scotiabank Arena, Khan takes the same approach to the safety of the players. Through the years, he says he’s met quite a few players, both from the home and visiting teams. Protecting basketball legends like Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter and Michael Jordan is just part of his second job.
He can now add the likes of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and the rest of the star-studded Golden State Warriors.
To his regular GO customers, Khan has become a bit of a celebrity – or at least sounding-board for Raptors talk.
While some have said Toronto is the underdogs, Khan doesn’t agree.
“They said we were going to lose to (the Philadelphia) 76ers, lose to the Bucks and now saying…we’ll get swept by the warriors. Do you see the trend? That’s all I gotta say,” he explains.
Khan says he’s looking forward to getting fans to the final games and Jurassic Park safely on his train, and protecting the Raptors as they hope to win it all.
As always, outside he’ll be calm.
Inside, his heart will be pounding as loudly as any train engine.
There are many GO Train and bus options to get you downtown for the game, for schedules and trip information head to the GO Transit website – just click here.
Story by Nitish Bissonauth, Metrolinx bilingual spokesperson, media relations and issues specialist