Calgary to host Edmonton Stingers, two other teams for BCLA group stage games
In the middle of March, Winsport arena will transform from a hockey rink into a basketball court.
That's when Calgary will host the third window of group stage games for the upcoming Basketball Champions League Americas.
The BCLA features 12 teams from seven countries in the Americas competing over four months for a berth in the 2023 FIBA International Cup.
The four games in Calgary, to be held March 14-16 at the WinSport Arena, will mark the first time Canada has hosted the league.
The Canadian Elite Basketball League champion Edmonton Stingers will play a pair of games over the window, facing Puerto Rico's Cangrejeros on March 14 and Nicaragua's Real Esteli on March 16.
Cangrejeros and Real Esteli will face off March 15.
It's the first time Canada has hosted this event and the President and C.E.O. of the Canadian Elite Basketball League Mike Morreale says this will be a big for his league and for Calgary basketball.
"You look at participation in this event alone for us is massive as you know the champions of Canada," Morreale said.
"You know joining forces and playing against 11 other countries that are all championship teams. To go head to head in incredibly important and to bring that to Calgary is really special."
The BCLA kicks off Dec. 13 with Edmonton travelling to Nicaragua to begin pool play.
The other teams in the competition are: Quimsa (Argentina); Boca Juniors (Argentina); Obras (Argentina); Sao Paulo (Brazil); Minas (Brazil); Flamengo (Brazil); Bigua (Uruguay); Nacional (Uruguay); and UdeC (Chile).
STINGERS TO REPRESENT CANADA
Even though it's an Edmonton team playing in Calgary, Stingers head coach Jermaine Small is hoping his team gets a warm reception.
"I would've loved for it to be in Edmonton but you know what right now we're Alberta's team," Small said.
"You know I actually got the Edmonton taken off the jersey. We are the Stingers and the Stingers right now, you know until Calgary has a team, we're representing the whole entire province."
CALGARY IN LINE FOR TEAM?
Edmonton can't host the event in March because the Stingers' arena is being renovated.
As for the chances of Calgary getting a C.E.B.L. team that's a very real possibility.
Executive Director of the Alberta Basketball Association Paul Sir believes it has to happen.
"It's critical," Sir said.
"To really make the C.E.B.L. whole coast to coast and to not have a pro team is Calgary really is unthinkable," he said.
"You have to be here," he added. "It's a great city, a basketball city and great sports city."
TURNING WINSPORT INTO BASKETBALL VENUE
According to Morreale having a team in Calgary is on the radar. This event will be a bit of a test to see how well it's supported.
They also need to nail down a venue and Winsport, which will seat around 3,000 for the games in March, is definitely a viable option.
"This venue is certainly more than suitable. We have to add a few bells and whistles to make it really basketball-friendly," Morreale said.
"The support is here from tourism, the support is here from the venue itself and I think it will be a pretty big catalyst into whether we see a team here in the future."
The event is expected to inject an estimated $2.4 million into our visitor economy.