Edmonton Stingers could be city's first pro team to get back in action
EDMONTON -- The first pro team from Edmonton to get back in action could be the Edmonton Stingers, but the city’s basketball team won’t be playing at home.
The Canadian Elite Basketball League is creating a hub in St. Catherines, ON to launch its second seaon. Training camp comes first, followed by a tournament in July. But the plan is contingent on Ontario’s phase three reopening measures.
“We don’t compete until July 25, so we got about a month from here to then to navigate the stage three opening protocols. So it is a somewhat calculated risk,” league commissioner Mike Morreale said.
Every player and staff member on the league’s seven teams will be tested, and will be required to follow strict medical guidelines.
League officials said a survey done online shows 95 per cent of players approved the return to play scenario.
Former University of Alberta Golden Bear Brody Clarke is one of those players.
“Now I’m just full on pursuing pro basketball. That’s going to be my life now,” he told CTV News Edmonton.
Clarke decided to forego his final year of eligibility and is now a full-time pro with the Stingers. But the new reality does create some uncertainty.
“At this point I am unequipped to make a full rating about my comfort level. There’s a lot of details that we don’t have as players.”
Some American players won’t be returning.
“We had a small handful of our international players, who were mostly American that you know they had to undergo the quarantine, and I completely understand that being isolated for 14 days upon arrival, that’s a tough thing to commit to,” Morreale said.
If the CEBL does tip off, the July tournament will feature a round robin competition, followed by a single game elimination playoff round, a format conducive to upsets.
“The beauty of it is its going to come down to every single game and every single basket quite frankly because point differential may be a huge factor here,” Morreale said.
The league has taken a big financial hit because of the pandemic. The tournament will be expensive, but league officials say it’s worth the cost. Players will get to play, make money, and showcase their talents, while the league becomes one of the few in the world to resume operations, and promote its brand.
And Clarke isn’t limiting his options. He has also signed with a pro-European team, and plans to travel to Germany after the tournament in July.
“It’s really difficult to make any plans right now except everything is a plan A, B and C just in case one of three different things could happen so it’s a weird time to be going pro,” he said. “Very weird time to be going pro but also probably a better time than were I going back for my fifth year.”
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Adam Cook