National pride washed over Canada on Feb. 23, the day Canada won the Olympic gold medal in men's ice hockey.
Hundreds of people filled the streets of downtown Toronto that morning. They swarmed Maple Leaf Square, adjacent to the city's main hockey and basketball arena, Air Canada Centre. Fans wore red and white, and they cheered and waved flags.
Perhaps, within a decade or so, Canadians will have a reason to celebrate their basketball players, too.
The country is experiencing a basketball renaissance these days. Eight Canadians dotted NBA rosters at the beginning of the 2013-14 regular season, including Andrew Nicholson of the Orlando Magic and Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Up to three more Canadians might become lottery picks in the 2014 NBA Draft: Andrew Wiggins of the University of Kansas, Tyler Ennis of Syracuse University and Nik Stauskas of the University of Michigan.
"I think really the sky's the limit for us," said Boston Celtics rookie Kelly Olynyk, a 7-footer who grew up in Ontario and British Columbia.
"There's a lot of guys coming up as well, with Wiggins and a couple of other guys in college. Then we've got the young guys in the NBA. . . . There's definitely a lot of talent and a lot of people who want to be a part of something. So we're definitely heading in the right direction."
That upward trend should be on display tonight at Amway Center, when the Magic host the Cavaliers.
Nicholson and Thompson, both power forwards and former first-round draft picks, could match up against each other at times during the game. (Bennett, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, has been excused from the Cavaliers' road trip to Orlando and Atlanta so he can return to the Toronto area to address a family health matter.)
Nicholson and Thompson starred for Team Canada last summer at the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship in Venezuela.
Canada finished that tournament in sixth place, which was a disappointment, but besides Nicholson and Thompson, Canada's team only featured two other NBA players: San Antonio Spurs point guard Cory Joseph and Boston Celtics big man Joel Anthony.
"We're all a bunch of young guys, young talent," Nicholson said. "So we're just going to continue to develop and get better."
Thompson and Nicholson competed against each other in high school, and they became stronger friends during the tournament.
The United States, of course, has the deepest talent pool in basketball.
At the start of this season, France had 10 players in the NBA, the second-highest number for any country.
Six of Canada's eight current NBA players are 24 years old or younger.
Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash, now 40 years old and beset by injuries, is nearing the end of his playing career. But he serves as the general manager of the Canadian men's national team.
"He knows a lot," Bennett said. "He knows all the ropes."
Wiggins and Ennis already have declared for this year's draft, and Stauskas is mulling his options.
"The future's very bright, especially with the guys we have coming up," Thompson said.
"Each of us individually has got to keep getting better in our craft, and I think that's something that's going to happen because if you look at all our body of work over the years, we've all gotten better, and I think we're going to continue doing that. And I think before it's said and done, we'll have a chance to compete for gold."
firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/magicblog and follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.