Professional basketball: place at the Ottawa Blackjacks
After losing their baseball and soccer team in a matter of two months, Ottawa is making the jump to the hardwood and will become the seventh franchise of the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) in 2020.
The e commissioner of this first division professional circuit sanctioned by FIBA, Mike Morreale, on Wednesday confirmed the rumor circulating since the beginning of the week. Better, he announced that this training will be called the Blackjacks and will evolve at the arena of TD Place next year.
“The first local match will be held on May 14,” Morreale said in a press briefing.
The media event was anything but hay pins. The team logo, a hare, was unveiled. The impressive trophy awarded to the league’s champion team, which is partly made of hardwood, was also on hand. T-shirts and caps were already available.
Screens were set up to present the highlights of the first season of the CEBL that was played from May to August. The circuit has teams in Edmonton, Guelph, Fraser Valley, Hamilton, Niagara and Saskatoon.
“On average, we attracted crowds of 2,000 spectators,” said Morreale.
This is the target set for the year one of the Blackjacks, whose uniforms will be unveiled at the beginning of the new year. Black, red and white may be in the spotlight.
It will reflect the uniforms of the other two sports teams at TD Place, the Rouge et Noir (LCF) and the 67’s (LHO).
Morreale admits that RedBlacks’ English-language name, the RedBlacks, served as an inspiration for choosing the BlackJack name. It’s also a nod to the hare playing on the football pitch during CFL games two years ago.
“I hope you’ll like the name. I expect some people do not like it. But we will offer basketball entertaining. And that’s the important thing. ”
This is a return of pro basketball in Ottawa. The defunct SkyHawks had survived only two seasons in 2013 and 2014 in a rival circuit, the National Basketball League of Canada.
The commissioner believes that the new team will succeed where the deceased SkyHawks have failed. “They were playing in an amphitheater much too big, which will not be our case,” he said.
The SkyHawks played their home games at the Ottawa Senators Canadian Tire Center in their first season. They then shared their time between Cégep de l’Outaouais and Algonquin College in year two.
The arena at TD Place can seat about 9000 spectators. The Blackjacks may close some sections to halve the capacity of their home games.
“Ottawa-Gatineau is an interesting basketball market with two leading university teams, the Carleton Ravens and the Ottawa Gee Gees. That’s not counting the many local players who are now in the professional ranks in Europe. There is a large pool of amateurs, “said Morreale.
Richard Petko is the owner of the league and seven formations that will play from May to August. The schedule of the next season should go from 20 to 24 or even 28 matches.
Morreale says attracting players to the CEBL has not been a problem in Year One. “Our players are averaging $ 800 per game. That’s more than a player wins in the G-League, “he said of the NBA Development League, which includes the Raptors school club in suburban Toronto.
Local players in the sights
Who will run the BlackJacks? Who will dribble the ball? Will there be local players?
Questions remain unanswered for the moment in the bosom of Ottawa’s new pro basketball team. A head coach and a director general will be appointed shortly, the commissioner says.
“We already have discussions with some people. Fans will be very happy, “said Mike Morreale. Could it be Dave Smart, the former Ravens head coach at Carleton University? This is the most famous name in basketball in the area. As for the Blackjacks’ lineup, it will begin to take shape only at the end of the winter. CEBL will not hold an expansion repechage.
“We thought about it, but the team will be built through the free agent market,” Morreale said. The first hires should take place in February. The Blackjacks will have to respect the ratio imposed by the circuit which requires that seven of the 10 active players of each club are Canadian. All teams must also bet on a Canadian university player in its ranks. Morreale insists on another point. Ottawa will rely on local products.
“It’s important for our fans to identify with the team. It can be players who have played in one of the two university courses in the area or who have grown up here before moving to other places, “he said.
A little two that Blackjacks will try to attract at least one free player. Kevin Zabo, from Hull, is currently playing in the third division in Spain, while Olivier Hanlan, Aylmer’s guard, is continuing his career in Greece at Iraklis.
This is without counting the striker Eric Kibi, of Orleans, who wears this winter the colors of the Sunchales of Libertard, in Argentina. Former Carleton Ravens Guillaume Boucard was part of the Niagara River Lions lineup during the inaugural CEBL season.
“We will not hide it. Ottawa-Gatineau is a gateway for us on Quebec. It’s a big market that we have in our sights, “confirmed the commissioner.