Walling: Big day for National Basketball League of Canada

Alex J. Walling

8/11/2011 7:47:11 PM

There will be seven teams in the newly-formed National Basketball League of Canada. The final team was named Thursday and that is a club from Summerside, Prince Edward Island.

London is in. So is Oshawa. Then Moncton joined the lineup. And that's not all. Add on the three original teams, Halifax, Saint John and Quebec to the Summerside franchise and you get a glimpse of the National Basketball League of Canada.

It's been a big week for the fledging league set to open across Canada, make that Maritime Canada, Quebec and Ontario; as they've rolled out teams like Tim Hortons rolls out coffee.

Oshawa became the first team to have all their paperwork done, leases signed and all dots crossed and that happened on Monday. That was followed by London and then Moncton and finally on Thursday afternoon came Summerside PEI.

Four franchise announcements in four days, Wow. And it's big news for those cities since this sport will compete with major junior in all centres except Summerside, where there is a Maritime junior franchise that has been here for decades.

"It's a great day for Summerside and a great week for the NBL," said interim league president Andre Livingstone. "We are ready to roll and play basketball."

Play will start in late October or very early November. Each team will have a 36-game schedule, meaning 18 home dates. Each team will carry at least two Canadians on its active roster. Each team has paid their entrance fee of at least $100,000 dollars and has a place to play.

Oshawa will play at the General Motors Centre. The team is holding an on-line name the team contest. The names of their owners are impressive. Some of the centres are wellknown and are great places such as the Halifax Metro Centre for the Rainmen and the John Labatt Centre for the London team.

Livingstone made the announcement in London, heaping praise on the city and the mayor.

"Mayor Fontana and the London city council were extremely aggressive and supportive in welcoming professional basketball to the city," said Levingston. "They truly understand what professional sport will mean for their local economy and for their community. If we receive the kind of support across Canada that the city of London has shown us, I have no doubt that this will one day be the most successful league in North America and one of the best places to play in the world."

Now that's stretching it but there's enthusiasm.

In Prince Edward Island, it was a close call between the capital Charlottetown and Summerside the second city. The Summerside team will play in Credit Union Place that was built only a few years ago and seats 4,200.

"It's a great place to play," said owner Duncan Shaw.

Shaw and his partners had to decide between Summerside and Charlottetown and negotiated with both cities and opted out for Summerside.

Hockey was a factor. The QMJHL's PEI Rocket play in Charlottetown so they won't be competing with the Rocket for fans and attention.

"It's only 40 minutes between cities so we intend to get many from Charlottetown," added Shaw.

One thing is certain and that is the team will have a name that speaks, even screams PEI.

"It won't be the Spuds or the Stompin' Toms but the name and colours will tell everyone that we're an island team."

Shaw is a big sports fan and has done well in business.

"This league has so much potential. I'm excited to be part of it," said Shaw.

The last time a pro team came to PEI was the Senators in 1993 -1996.  They averaged 2,200-2,400 per game but folded in their last season.

"Lessons were learned from that," said Shaw.

It's been a great week for the league. Four new franchises join and the total that will start in the National Basketball League of Canada is seven. Will it be lucky seven, we will see. The next step is when these teams hit the court in late October or early November. But in the brief history of this league, certainly this week has been impressive.

For I'm Alex J. Walling

Alex J. can be reached via email at: