The inaugural season of the CEBL was a complete success in every shape and form. Everything seemingly went right for CEBL Commissioner Mike Moreale. Highlighted by an incredible Championship Weekend, Moreale shocked the pain-numb Canadian basketball fans with a league that not only garnered attention, but has completely revolutionized the Canadian basketball scene. The CEBL was so successful, that expansion was possible after just one season! But we’ll get into that later. With all the excitement and hype surrounding the CEBL, fans can’t help but wonder what’s next? Are we getting more of the same? Is Mike Moreale going to take it a step further? Is the league going to continue it’s growth rate? To answer these questions, we are going to take a look at some key topics regarding the CEBL next season.
Ottawa Blackjacks – The Expansion
Fans were teased all season about an expansion team in the CEBL. Moreale dropped hints left and right as to where the newest CEBL team would be. Many had speculated Montreal, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Maritimes and Victoria as potential suitors for the 7th CEBL team. Eventually, the CEBL announced the introduction of the newest franchise – the Ottawa Blackjacks. Basketball will finally be back in the nation capital. Ottawa’s expansion not only opens up a whole new market, and a brand new fan base, but it also opens the door for even more expansion. If Mike Moreale deems his league fit for expansion after just one season, where does he stop? Or does he stop at all? Moreale has the ability to unleash a basketball market within every Canadian city. From Victoria to Halifax, there’s Canadians who want to watch good basketball. With the decline of the NBL, the CEBL’s timing is becoming better and better with every NBL team’s folding.
Ottawa itself will also embrace it’s newest sports team. People in Ontario are just dying for more basketball, so it makes sense that the city of Ottawa finally gets redemption in the pro basketball world. It will be super exciting to see how Ottawa goes about their inaugural season, where they select their players from, how long it takes for them to establish a reasonable fan base, what their attendance is like. This expansion is super exciting for the CEBL because of both it’s current attractive features, and long term promise.
Edmonton Hosts Championship Weekend
The Edmonton Stingers received a phenomenal support wave from Edmontonians, who consistently packed into the Edmonton EXPO Center and supported their team. The CEBL rewarded Stingers fans for their support by selecting Edmonton as the host city of Championship Weekend 2020. First of all, Edmonton is going to put on a great show. The Stingers were one of the more competitive teams last season, and intends on bringing back their core players to make another run at winning the title on home court, and recreating the Rattlers magical victory. The EXPO center is a fantastic facility, with large open spaces for festivities, concerts, and anything else Mike Moreale deems necessary. The city of Edmonton is also known as the city of festivals. With hundreds of festivals every year, Edmonton is no stranger to a party, and will surely be at it’s best for the Stingers.
It’s likely that the support from the Stingers fans, who took to their team very well last year, will match or exceed the support from Rattlers fans last year. The environment is shaping to be a special one, and the lights will be shining bright for Xavier Moon and the Edmonton Stingers. I know I’ll certainly be there to witness it.
Playoff Format Changes
Among the many changes in the second CEBL season, is a brand new playoff format that will be unveiled on Championship Weekend. This year, 6 of the 7 teams will make “Championship Weekend”. But not really. First of all, the host team (in this case the Edmonton Stingers) and the top non-Stingers record will receive a bye – where they’ll automatically advance to the semi finals in Edmonton. The lowest seeded team will be eliminated, marking the conclusion of their season. The remaining four teams will face off in a single elimination quarter finals, to see who will move on to face the Stingers and the top non-Stingers team. This quarterfinal will supposedly be held in Edmonton on August 9, 5 days before the actual start of Championship Weekend.
For those of you familiar with the CFL, and the NFL, this format somewhat mimics the standard “football bracket”. By having a quarterfinal the week before Championship Weekend, the CEBL is giving top teams a week off, much like we see in the CFL and NFL. It’s also a single game knock out once again, another characteristic that rejects the NBA, NBLC and NHL rules. Teams will have one shot to win it all. Whether or not fans or teams like this, it makes the game more meaningful, and more like March Madness in the sense that you can’t just lose a game but come back and win 4 in a row. You need to be on your A game the entire time. On top of the new 4 team bracket on August 9, the rest of the playoff format remains the same.
CBC Sports Broadcasting Deal
The CEBL announced this winter that they had reached an agreement with CBC sports that would allow certain CEBL games to be Nationally televised. This means if you can watch hockey night in Canada, you can watch the CEBL on your TV. 8 games will be televised all across the country;
- Sat., May 30, 4 p.m. ET: Ottawa at Hamilton
- Sat., June 6, 4 p.m.: Edmonton at Guelph
- Sat., June 13, 4 p.m.: Fraser Valley at Edmonton
- Sat., June 20, 4 p.m.: Saskatchewan at Fraser Valley
- Sat., June 27, 4 p.m.: Hamilton at Guelph
- Sat., July 4, 2 p.m.: Hamilton at Niagara
- Sat., July 18, 4 p.m.: Niagara at Saskatchewan
- Sun., Aug. 16, 4 p.m.: CEBL championship
This is fantastic news for the CEBL. Every team with the exception of the Ottawa Blackjacks have at least one home game being broadcast live around the country. The Guelph Nighthawks and Edmonton Stingers will have two home games (Edmonton has 1 + Championship Weekend). All of these games, with the exception of the CEBL championship will be televised on Saturday evenings, which should mean great viewership. Of course the championship game on Sunday should be a smash hit. For those of us who like to watch every game, CBC sports will also be live streaming all 70 CEBL games, however at this point the future of the CEBL’s independent streaming platform “CEBL TV” is uncertain. Regardless, this is great news as CBC sports can now take over the streaming, and reach a far bigger audience.
Free Agency – Rebuilding the Teams
Free agency in the CEBL began February 1, and holds on players with team options expire in March. This is the beginning of the rebuilding of the teams. Here we will see which teams bring back their core group of players, and which teams go for a new look. It should be very interesting to see how many familiar faces return to the CEBL. As of the time of this article, 4 days into free agency, there have been only two signings. The Edmonton Stingers signed both MVP Xavier Moon, and Two Way guard Mathieu Kamba. This indicates that the Stingers at least are hoping to bring back their core group of players, however the lack of signings 4 days into free agency is… curious. This indicates many teams could be experiencing roster turnover. Regardless, the free agency process has until mid-season to unfold, so who knows when the bulk of players will be signed. Perhaps teams could sign their whole team at once, or do as the Stingers are doing and work the pieces one at a time.
An Excited Fan Base
The CEBL has done a phenomenal job of getting it’s fans excited for the upcoming season. The offseason was nothing short of long and painful, but with the start of free agency, we’re finally seeing the light. A new fan base is emerging in Ottawa, and 6 existing fan bases’ anticipation is rising up. Canada’s premier basketball league is shaping up to carry over a phenomenal first season, into an even better second one.
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