News last week of an all Canadian basketball league starting up. Glad to hear. Fact a couple of the people starting is from the Maritimes is nice for me to see. Andre Levingston of the Halifax Rainmen, Ian McCarthy of the Saint John Mill Rats and Vincent Bernier of the Quebec Kebs. Seeing as this blog started as one with my radio show on East Coast Music.
Now I was born in Newfoundland, then my Dad joined the army so moved around a lot. I did spend 4 years at CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick. During the heyday of AHL hockey in Atlantic Canada. A league with players looking to move up to the NHL, and players also just making a living at the AHL level. Late 1980’s/early 1990’s AHL out east was big. They had Fredericton Canadiens, Saint John Flames, Cape Breton Oilers, St. John’s Maple Leafs, Moncton Hawks, Halifax Citadels, PEI Senators among them.
Was quite a good time to live there as a sports fan. Cape Breton won a Calder Cup and Fredericton got to a finals. Over the years it ended up that all the teams from the Maritimes left. Only leaving St. John’s as a franchise in Atlantic Canada. Which as a Newfoundlander I knew wasn’t going to last long. When you are the only team east of Quebec just for traveling alone it doesn’t make sense for the Maple Leafs to have their farm team all alone on the Rock.
Reason the teams left was complicated. One reason is something the NBL doesn’t have to worry about. Having a team above you in charge of your roster. For example, the Edmonton Oilers having a farm team in Cape Breton was something that ate up a lot of funds. Calling someone up, or moving a guy down in the middle of the winter across the country is tough. Especially in the 90s when Canadian teams were struggling financially. Dominoe effect started once 1 or 2 teams left. Travel costs going higher without teams within an easy travel distance. Which then cost more money for everyone.
Roster thing also hurt in another way. Some teams would call up AHL guys to the big club right as playoffs began. If they were contibuting that would be one thing. But too many times they were just used as back up. Idea of having a player not dressing for an NHL playoff series instead of getting ice time in an AHL playoffs was one that fans did not understand. Also hurt attendance in some markets. If you follow a team all of the regular season then have the rug pulled out from under you, as a fan why would you come back?
Back to the NBL. As pointed out Canada is the only Top 40 country FIBA ranking without a domestic league. So I’m glad we would have one now. Idea so far is one that solves the traveling problem the AHL had. As of now they are planning some teams in Ontario along with the 3 teams who left the Premier Basketball League [Saint John, Quebec and Halifax]. Another in Moncton could happen. So if you are Saint John/Halifax/Moncton you can fly to Ontario and play a few teams at once. Vice versa a team in Kingston could fly to Moncton, as an example, and bus it to 3 teams on one trip.
With working on Queen’s sports broadcasts I know that’s what they try to do for University sports. Basketball team from Toronto on a road trip will visit Queen’s, Ottawa and Carleton. You don’t want Toronto taking a bus to Kingston one week or then Ottawa the next, if you can help it. Doesn’t make financial sense.
Official word on which teams will play in the fall hasn’t been announced. They have said which ones have letters of intent. So far they are picking good markets like Kingston and London. Both have university towns with good sports programs. Last year you might recall a brand new gym for the basketball program opened up. CBC even had a national broadcast one Saturday afternoon from the facility.
As for the Queen’s hockey team. Not so lucky. Jock Harty Arena was torn down a couple of years back and not replaced. So the hockey teams have to practice and play at the Memorial Centre which was built in 1950. Does show that basketball fans are in the area since they have a new facility while the hockey teams have been nomadic for a few seasons. Story I heard on Offsides with Tyler King on CFRC about 6am practices for example since the M-Centre is a public facitily and that’s the only time they could get. Hopefully that is not the long term case, but it might be.
Talking to a guy who is a casual sports fan he said ‘I’d say more people in Kingston would want to go to a basketball game as opposed to hockey’. Part of that is the Kingston Frontenacs years of struggles, which has translated to bad attendance. Also we have so much hockey in town. Frontenacs, Voyageurs and Queen’s [Men’s and Women’s]. The Vees have a great fanbase in the West End, Queen’s turnout with an arena not on campus is quite low.
As for me as a basketball fan. Watched quite a bit in the Jordan-era. March Madness is always something to follow. Over the years I watched less NBA/NHL and more NFL. Also following university. Until this past year. I started watching more Raptors games this season, I’m aware this wasn’t the best year to choose.
With my use of social media and Twitter especially I’ve found a lot of basketball fans. Also basketball media people who use it a lot. Kat from the RaptorSpace show for example. Found out she was also with the Raptors Dance Pak along with others in the group. I follow almost 500 people so it’s good to have a good cross section. So while I’m online while hosting the radio show on Friday night I started to come home and watch the 2nd half of the Raptors games. When a lot of people are talking about a game that night it makes you want to watch.
Kat pointed out Annalise from the group was from Nova Scotia so started following her. She told me about a musician friend who I played on my radio show. Stuff like that helps the connection between fans and a team. [We’ll ignore the fact most people don’t have a radio show to play music on]
Ended up I even watched the Raptors-Heat game that ended the season. Taped it on the PVR, since I work midnights. Thought it would be Chris Bosh vs Toronto. Then realized the Heat’s playoff spot couldn’t move up or down. So they rested the starters. Yet, I still watched the entire game. Thought I might see a victory with LeBron/Wade/Bosh out. Nope. Lost 97-79. Very close game for 3 quarters though. You wouldn’t know if you hadn’t watched.
Also glad to see NBL starting off slowly, too many leagues try and get too many teams at once. Better to have strong teams first then add down the line. Major League Soccer for example. I didn’t think after the 1994 World Cup that MLS would be around 5 years later let alone 15. Similar structure to MLS in that the NBL will be owned by its member teams. Different way of thinking when MLS started but it has worked out well. Less in-fighting. Now MLS is in Toronto/Vancouver and has a TV deal with TSN.
When it comes to Canadian players there will be a quota for each team, which helps the CFL in the eyes of their fans. The timing of the fall will be good for one big reason, no NBA basketball. A lockout is coming to that league too. Not a question of ‘IF’ there will be a lockout just how long it will be. Owners looking to have a ‘hard salary cap’ and a much lower amount than the current system. If you have TSN and Sportsnet’s multiple feeds you know how much NBA is on them. NHL lockout gave us the rise in poker programming, which is something I don’t watch on sports channels. I have to draw the line somewhere. It is a spot for some NBL games to be shown. Halifax Rainmen and Saint John Mill Rats have their games aired on Rogers TV so the set-up is there.
Kingston is a TVCogeco market which does Frontenac games along with Queen’s Football and other sports from time to time. I volunteered there when I moved to Kingston before doing my CFRC volunteer gig. Good to have a place in town to show games.
For more reading check out the following stories and a TV interview with Andre Levingston from CBC Martitimes. Runs almost 22 minutes.
Hoop owners got it right this time http://thechronicleherald.ca/Sports/1243145.html
Rainmen’s new league takes flight http://www.metronews.ca/halifax/sports/article/858480–rainmen-s-new-league-takes-flight
Alex J Walling http://www.tsn.ca/columnists/alex_walling/?id=365599
Canadian hoops league a slam dunk http://www.torontosun.com/2011/05/12/canadian-hoops-league-a-slam-dunk
Quebec Kebs help form new National Basketball League of Canada
Mill Rats join select crowd in Canadian pro hoops loop
National hoops loop announced
Andre Levingston interview, runs about 22 minutes. CBC Maritimes
Fredericton group exploring new hoop loop
Professional basketball just might work well in Moncton
Good luck to the Kingston team, if they start this fall. As locals know the city government has been dealing with K-Rock Centre shortfalls. A new tenant is much better than the building sitting empty, which I’ve seen quite a few times. Someone else at work this week asked if there was anything else in the paper about the basketball team.
As for the previous blogs posts looks like Natalie Thomas from The Weather Network has the advantage in the NHL Playoff Picks against me. Since she played Division I Basketball for Appalachian State she will like this basketball news too. Like me she’s working the long weekend so check her out on TWN. Hopefully where you live will have less rain than we’ve had here.
Live radio show tonight as usual. Next week the plan is to celebrate the 4th anniversary of the program with an interview. As to with who I’ll mention that on the show tonight. Someone I’ve spoken too before. That time I got a lot of messages and comments about it. On the weekend I’ll blog about who it is.
Enjoy the long weekend, if you have it off.