WNBA announces another Canada game, commissioner addresses Toronto expansion rumours

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert speaks to Lindsay Dun about the potential of an expansion team in Toronto.

By Lindsay Dunn

The first Canadian WNBA game sold out in minutes and they are hoping for a repeat, this time in a different location.

The WNBA and NBA Canada announced on Thursday afternoon that they will be hosting another preseason game in Canada after an immensely successful first game in Toronto last May, this time in Edmonton.

On May 5, the Los Angeles Sparks and Seattle Storm will tip off at Rogers Place in downtown Edmonton.

The first game saw Team Canada’s Bridget Carleton and the Minnesota Lynx beat the Chicago Sky in front of a packed Scotiabank Arena of almost 20,000 fans.

This time Carleton’s Team Canada teammate Kia Nurse will get to shine in front of the home country. Nurse was traded to the Sparks in the off-season from the Storm and will take on her former team, which is led by her current Team Canada Assistant Coach Noelle Quinn.

“We are thrilled for the opportunity to be a part of the WNBA Canada Game presented by Tangerine and showcase the incredible talent in the WNBA in Edmonton,” Quinn said in a press release.

“I’ve been honoured to work with the Canadian Senior Women’s National Team and witness firsthand how Canada continues to be out front when it comes to advocating for women and investing in women’s sports.”

“This game represents the growth of women’s basketball both in Canada and on a global stage.”

The game follows a report by CBC’s Shireen Ahmed that stated billionaire Larry Tanenbaum is pursuing a WNBA expansion team for Toronto.

In a media availability ahead of the game announcement, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert spoke about the potential of an expansion.

“We continue to engage in a lot of very productive conversations with several interested ownership groups in a number of cities and markets and have no news to report at this time,” Englebert stated. “I did want to note that any future expansion teams would begin to play in 2026, which was incorrect in a report saying 2025.”

CityNews asked the commissioner what the league looked for in an expansion city and how Toronto faired when they hosted the game last May.

“Last year we were thrilled with the way Canada and Toronto, Toronto specifically, but I would say how the country responded to having our first-ever game there and globalizing the game is an important part of our strategy. And given that Canada is our neighbour to the north here in the U.S., I think the success of that game was amazing,” said Englebert.

“For me to see Scotiabank Arena packed, the fan merch lines and fans coming up to me, and I was surprised they even knew who I was and saying like, You have made our dreams come true by having a WNBA game here. So I get chills still thinking of that vibe last year.”

She added, from an expansion perspective, they are looking for any city or market is a committed ownership group with a great arena situation, practice facility, and what the player experience would be.

“Obviously, financial wherewithal is important as well. Valuations of our teams are going up, so obviously owners have to be in it for the long term and that’s what we look at demographics and psychographics. I’m a data person and I look at a lot of data about the market and kind of our typical WNBA fan, but how can we grow that fan base in other fan segments? And certainly, Toronto did great on that last year.”

The WNBA announced in October they were expanding for the first time since 2008 when they awarded the Golden State Warriors a WNBA Expansion team that will start play in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2025.

Tickets for the 2024 WNBA Canada Game presented by Tangerine will go on general sale on March 20 on Ticketmaster. Fans in Canada can register to be notified of presale ticket access at WNBACanadaGame.com.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today