Calgary Pro Basketball Team Bring Alberta Battle to Hard Court
The news that a professional basketball team will be moving to Calgary next year has fans excited, and those involved in the sport believe it will go a long way in increasing interest.
The Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) announced this week that it is moving the Nighthawks from Guelph to Calgary, opting to bring one of its founding franchises to a much larger market.
Alberta is no stranger to CEBL. Edmonton is home to the two-time champion Stingers, and this move automatically sets up a new version of the classic Alberta battle.
“It’s not a rivalry that we have to manufacture, I think it’s built in,” said CEBL commissioner Mike Morreale.
Morreale said Calgary has always been a natural place for the league, but felt the time was not right to go to the city until now.
Basketball is becoming one of the most popular sports in the world, so it seems timely to take this chance.
“Obviously the success of the Raptors has really sparked an interest in basketball across the country, and especially in Alberta,” said Dale Oviatt, spokesman for WinSport.
WinSport, located in the northwest of the city, will be the team’s new home. It was previously the setting for the Basketball Champions League of the Americas tournament in March. It featured the Edmonton Stingers on the field, essentially serving as a preview of what was to come.
“Overall, it proved that Calgary is a potential basketball city and this site would be perfect,” Oviatt said.
“Great for Alberta”
Paul Sir, executive director of the Alberta Basketball Association, said it will have the added benefit of showing kids they could have a long-term future in the sport.
“Showtime is the NBA, sure, but that kind of experience is for very few athletes. So giving more Canadian athletes a chance to play and inspiring youth and the community to want to play, this is where CEBL provides great value,” he said.
The CEBL has already been a pipeline for some players to enter the NBA, and with 75% of the league made up of Canadians, it can provide a realistic option for young players already committed to the sport.
“Honestly, basketball has a swagger that other sports don’t have. It’s very appealing to young people,” Sir said. “Now to have professional franchises, with Battle Alberta, in our communities, in our province, as part of a national league, is something that I think is just great for Alberta and for the whole country.”
Dan Vanhooren, head coach of the University of Calgary Dinos basketball team, agreed that this will make the sport more locally competitive.
“We have a lot of great athletes in Calgary, and having more expertise and more people involved in coaching and running the game and helping each other out would be really great.”
Shoot for the future
Much like the Calgary Flames and Calgary Stampeders, there are likely to be fiercer rivalries than in Edmonton. The CEBL includes the Fraser Valley Bandits to the west and the Saskatchewan Rattlers to the east, surrounding the town with potential enemies.
If there is early success on the field for the Calgary team, it could create a bright future for the sport in the city after previous attempts failed.
There have been two professional teams to play in the city before. The Calgary 88s were active from 1988-92, then the Calgary Outlaws only lasted one season in 1994. Oviatt said something looks different this time around.
“This league seems to have a good foundation,” he said. “It just adds a bit of excitement for people to have another sporting opportunity in the city.”
The name of the team will be announced in the coming weeks and the season should start in the spring. As for what this new franchise should be called, Vanhooren seems to think it should go against the Western trend.
“To throw something there, I don’t know, Calgary Cowboys. It kinda sucks,” he said with a laugh. “They can come up with something better than that.”
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