The Toronto Raptors have had the title of Canada’s team ever since the Grizzlies move to Memphis. But is it time for Canada to make a run for another NBA team?
There is no doubt that basketball is more popular than ever since the NHL lockout, as the Raptors have consistently sold out games.
The former Vancouver Grizzlies, suffered being crushed by a lockout, as the bad timing created money loss and lost patience. With the Raptors gaining a league known star in Vince Carter, Steve Francis just didn't cut it in Vancouver.
But with the recent success of Toronto FC in the world of soccer, Vancouver was awarded a team. With that in mind, it is easy to see why the Vancouver Grizzlies failed having two Canadian teams, rather than one being known as “Canada’s team”.
So should the NBA move another team to Canada?
Here are some pros and cons:
Canadian markets offer large number of fans compared to small American cities like Charlotte and Oklahoma City. While population doesn’t equal financial success, it sure doesn't hurt during these tough economic times.
Another positive is that more Canadian teams, equal more money back into Canadian basketball. With the Canadian program in limbo of success and failure, more money and attention is needed to help create better basketball players; much like Canada has done in baseball and in hockey.
While the questions linger about Toronto signing any NBA talent due to higher taxes and bad weather, the Raptors recently signed star free agent Hedo Turkoglu to a long term contract, and are currently looking to lock up star forward Chris Bosh.
While the NBA may not want to be in Canada, here’s a list of the top six cities the NBA should take a look at north of the border.
With the loss of the Expos and the miss of Major League Soccer (MLS) with the Impact, Montreal has the recipe for success for an NBA team looking for a new home.
On a list of the most populated cities in North America, it ranks 7th with 1,620,693 people living in the city, which also ranks it second in Canada.
Montreal’s main facility is the Bell Centre where the Montreal Canadiens currently play. The building can hold 21,700 for a basketball game, which is almost 2,000 more than the Air Canada Centre can hold for Raptor games.
Currently, Montreal has an ABA team called the Montreal Matrix which is a part of a league that has had financial trouble, and has taken a beating from the rise of the Development League, which is run by the NBA.
While many know about the sucsess of the Canadiens in Montreal, their (Canadian Football League) CFL team also gains big crowds in the summer as they hold 14 out of the top 20 attendance records in CFL history; resulting in a two sport town, but is that enough to gain an NBA team?
The basketball season is during the hockey one which means ticket competition. Canadiens games are hard to get tickets. But would fans be willing to pay and root for a team in a hockey market? It’s definitely hard to tell, but Montreal has to be a huge option if David Stern ever decides to put another team north of the border.
Could Ontario support two NBA teams?
The capital of Canada, Ottawa, has a population of 812,000 people and is behind Toronto in highest population in Ontario.
Facility wise, Ottawa can hold 20,500 in the Scotiabank Place where the Senators play. 40 out of the 41 home games were sold out, but the location of the arena is considered a pain to get to by many.
Though Ottawa has not had a basketball team from any league enter the city, it rules the world of college basketball in Canada.
The Carleton Ravens have won six out of the past seven Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships in men’s basketball. The success of college basketball did not find it on the football field, as Ottawa has failed twice with the CFL due to money troubles; which means if any NBA team was to come there, the owner might need money to handle the tough times that have cost Canada numerous teams, including Ottawa’s CFL team.
Aside from the money problem and proximity to Toronto, Ottawa is a great destination for a basketball team. The border to Quebec is only kilometres away, which allows a French Canadian connection without having a team.
The "Battle of Ontario" has also become a huge draw in the hockey world, in which the basketball world could benefit as of right now. The Raptors have no rivals since the Grizzlies moved to Memphis.
Rivals or no rivals, Ontario has the population and fan support to welcome another basketball team to their ever growing province.
An underdog to gain any sports team, Winnipeg. A big city with a small town feel like Oklahoma City and Utah.
What Winnipeg does have is a state of the art facility in the MTS Centre. The building was built in 2004 and can seat 15,015, which seems small, but eight teams in the NBA only average 15,000 or less a game, which means they can still bring in the money.
Currently, the building is being used by the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League, and is a building block towards them regaining a NHL hockey team since they lost the Jets to Phoenix.
As for the city, Winnipeg is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada, and is aiming towards a business style, rather than an agriculture lifestyle. Money is coming in at a quick pace, as the city has already started developing the new CFL stadium for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and has many other projects on the go.
The problem with the town is that it ranks as North America’s coldest big city. While critics say Toronto is too cold for NBA players, Winnipeg could see the same fate happen, as nobody wants to go outside -23°C temperatures, when you can sign in Miami and be in the heat all year.
Edmonton holds the title of Canada's sixth-largest census metropolitan area, with a total of 730,372 people living in the city.
Edmonton does have a semi professional basketball team in the International Basketball League as they are one of two Canadian teams in the league. The Edmonton Energy were founded in 2007 and play their home games in downtown Edmonton. The city also has a well run senior and junior program.
Despite all this, basketball isn't popular in Canada.
Edmonton also has the largest mall in North America making it a great place for the wives of the players to enjoy themselves. Though Edmonton still does not have the same flare as a big city which has resulted in some complications as some big star wives have had a hard time adjusting to the Edmonton way of life.
The city holds a NHL team and a CFL team which are both successful with their province rivals in Calgary.
The arena most fitting for an NBA team in the city is the Rexall Place. While the building is not one of the biggest (holds 16,839 for a hockey game), it is known to be one of the loudest arenas in Canada.
While the town might not be a basketball hot spot, Edmonton is far enough away from Toronto that it can steal the fans from Western Canada, and also fill the missing void of the last Western Conference team.
A rival of Edmonton, Calgary is known for its beauty in winter and its love of sports.
Sitting around at just under one million people, Calgary is one of the most diverse cities in Canada, and one of the fastest growing. It is known as the “Nashville of the North” as the Western scene is high, but also has bits of every culture, much like Toronto.
Calgary has three prominent sports teams in the Flames, Roughriders and Roughnecks, which can all draw a crowd. The Flames have been in the top eight for attendance since the hockey lockout. They sell out almost every game.
The Pengrowth Saddledome is home to the Flames and the Roughnecks, and can hold 19,289 for a hockey game or a lacrosse game.
Plans are to have a new arena for around 2014, when the lease is up with the arena; but if a basketball team came, money for the arena would arrive much faster, creating a new home for the Flames and the basketball team.
Much like Edmonton, it’s definitely not a basketball playground, but the potential is there. Hardcore fans who root for anything in a city is key when creating a franchise, and Calgary has proved they are willing to do that with numerous franchises all being successful and making profit.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver part two? Why not!
While the NBA has came and went in Vancouver, better planning could make the franchise live again in Western Canada.
Vancouver has been ranked as one of the most liveable cities in the world, and has a wealthy atmosphere to add resulting in a wonderful place for a millionaire basketball player to reside.
With the Olympics coming to Vancouver this winter, General Motors Place will get some small updates to hold all the hockey fans who will be watching Canada take on the world. The building could already hold 19,193 fans when the Grizzlies were in town, but may fit even more with the recent updates.
Vancouver is home to the other Canadian team in the International Basketball League, the Vancouver Titans, which were created in 2008.
Aside from basketball, Vancouver is also home to an NHL, CFL and soon to be MLS team.
The MLS team, Vancouver Whitecaps, are a prime example of why the Grizzlies failed the first time; as it takes time and fan support of one team, before you can bring out another; and the time is now for Vancouver to be back on the NBA’s map.
The weather in Vancouver is one of the best for winter's, as it ranks as the fourth warmest city in Canada through the winter. Snow fall is also not a problem, as it only snows on average 11 days per year, resulting in a not so Canadian winter.
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