Canada hasn’t played host to pro basketball since last August when the Canadian Elite Basketball League wrapped up its brief Summer Series.
And should the Toronto Raptors continue to take up residence in Florida because of the ongoing pandemic, the CEBL will again take centre stage when its 2021 season begins in June. The league released its schedule on Thursday.
“The last basketball that was played in Canada, we played it in 2020,” commissioner Mike Morreale said. “The first basketball that is going to be played in Canada in 2021 is most likely going to be the CEBL. That means something.”
The CEBL tips off its third season June 5 with a championship rematch featuring the Edmonton Stingers and Fraser Valley Bandits in B.C.
Seven games, including the opener, will be broadcast nationally on CBC TV, and games will also be streamed on CBC Gem, CBCSports.ca, and the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices.
A CEBL all-star team will face the Canadian men’s national team in a showcase game on June 18, less than two weeks before the national team plays in the final Tokyo Olympic qualifier in Victoria.
WATCH | Stingers win 2020 CEBL championship:
Morreale said the young nature of the league made it even more imperative to ditch the bubble format it used last year and return to each of its cities.
“You really are incredibly tied to your community, or you want to be. That’s one of the biggest touch points when you start a league. So we lost that last year, as did everyone in sports,” Morreale said. “But we made the decision that if we could return to our markets in 2021, even without fans to start or with the recognition that there could be no fans, we wanted to make that [decision].”
Fans in stands a possibility
Four months away from the start of the season, the league is making plans for fans to be in building amid the coronavirus pandemic but not necessarily expecting it to happen.
That decision will be guided by public health. Morreale said the league has already spoken with every province except B.C. and provided its plan for a safe season.
“And so we’re going to take their lead if they suggest that there are no fans or at the very worst, you can’t return to your market, which again, is harder for me to understand because I’ve seen other leagues do it now back in Canada,” he said.
If the home-market plan is shut down by local governments, Morreale said the CEBL may look into a regional bubble format, with separate East and West Coast hubs.
The document outlining health protocols is a living one, covering everything from player travel to games to where fans would be allowed to eat inside arenas.
The schedule is set up such that coast-to-coast travel is limited and flights are minimized.
“I know that we have a willing group of players and coaches that want to see this work for all the right reasons. And we’ll just continue to follow the guidelines that are set for us and make sure that we’re prepared no matter what happens,” Morreale said.
National broadcast schedule
Note all games available Saturdays at 4 p.m. ET on CBC TV, though times are subject to change. For the full schedule, visit CEBL.ca.
- Stingers at Bandits, June 5
- Ottawa BlackJacks at Guelph Nighthawks, June 12
- BlackJacks at Niagara River Lions, June 19
- Hamilton Honey Badgers at Stingers, June 26
- Nighthawks at Honey Badgers, July 3
- Stingers at Saskatchewan Rattlers, July 10
- Stingers at BlackJacks, July 17