Bridget Carlton, Lynx The Chicago Sky will play a WNBA pre-season game in May in Toronto

TORONTO – The WNBA is coming to Toronto, for at least one game.

the Minnesota Linuxwhose list includes Canadians Bridget Carlton And Natalie Ashunwawill play Chicago Sky at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena for a pre-season game on May 13, the first WNBA game to be played in Canada.

But WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said the game, which is being held in partnership with NBA Canada and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd. , is more about the globalization of the game than it is a quiz of excellence in Toronto.

“Obviously we’re working here in the off-season on expansion. It’s one of the things that both the media and the fans ask me the most and I get direct messages all the time from fans who want a team and their market,” Engelbert said on the conference call, which I’ve said from the start. A league of our size and size in a country of our size and size, driving the momentum of women’s sports, we will expand in due course.”

Engelbert said about 100 cities are on the league’s radar for expansion.

“You’ve talked about narrowing it down, Toronto is definitely one of the names on the narrow list, but we’re in talks with several potential owner groups and several markets at this point. And we’re excited to see our passion for the game in Canada.”

The WNBA was just days away from announcing a preseason game in Canada in March 2020, Engelbert said. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

The selection of teams was due to the Canadian content in Minnesota. Canadian guard Kia Nurse affiliate Phoenix Mercury He is an unrestricted free agent. There was also Toronto’s proximity to the two franchises.

She added, “I think playing at the Scotiabank Arena is a really important part of this, where men play, etc., to get the message of equality out there as well so we can draw in an arena like that.” Toronto RaptorsThe main court, which has a capacity of 19,800 fans.

Of the 207 countries and territories where the league broadcast last season, Engelbert said, Canada was an obvious choice to host an exhibition game because of the growing popularity of the league — and basketball and women’s sports in general — here. She noted the success of the Toronto Raptors and the Canadian women’s soccer and hockey teams at the Olympics.

“We’ve had record WNBA viewership over the past two seasons in Canada, and I’m told we have over five million WNBA fans in the country,” she said. “The globalization of the WNBA game has been a key pillar of how we try to grow the league…through the transformation of our business. Playing a game in Canada is a significant milestone for us.”

Engelbert added that the league would also love to host matches in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), as well as South and Latin America, and eventually Asia.

The Lynx won four WNBA championships from 2011 through ’17 and made 11 consecutive playoff appearances beginning in 2011. Achonwa, who will not be available for the game in Toronto due to her pregnancy, led Carlton Canada to the semifinals of the FIBA ​​Women’s World Cup last fall. Carlton, a native of Chatham, Ontario, led Canada in scoring (12.8 points per game), while Atchunua, of Guelph, Ontario, was the second-leading player on the team (6.1 points per game).

“We look forward to participating in this historic WNBA game,” Lynx coach and president of basketball operations Cheryl Reeve said in a statement. “The league’s global popularity has shown incredible growth, and I’m thrilled that our team will be a part of continuing to pave the way for the WNBA by bringing our game to Canada.”

The Sky won the WNBA Championship in 2021, and reached the semi-finals last season.

Toronto celebrates the third WNBA pre-season game to be played outside the United States. In 2004 the Detroit Shock and San Antonio Silver Stars met in Monterrey, Mexico and in 2011 Atlanta Dream The Great Britain team played in Manchester, England.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on January 18, 2022.

Laurie Ewing, The Canadian Press

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