COVID-19 has forced another Canadian sports league to push back its start date.
The Canadian Elite Basketball League had been scheduled to tip off its second season on May 7 with the expansion Ottawa BlackJacks taking on the Niagara River Lions, but is postponing the start date to at least June.
“We put a June timeframe in there just to revisit it, I don’t anticipate that we’re going to start up at that point,” league commissioner Mike Morreale said. “We’ve been quiet because we… wanted to wait until we knew for sure, and now it’s time to make the inevitable announcement that we’re going to delay.
“We’ll revisit all our options and look at the world around us and make sure that we’re all safe and sound before there’s a return to normalcy for anything.”
The Canadian Football League, which was scheduled to kick off June 11, announced last week it wouldn’t start before the beginning of July.
Morreale, who played a decade in the CFL, said the fact the provinces have different rules about public gatherings during the global pandemic makes planning more difficult. Four of the CEBL’s seven teams are in Ontario, with a team each in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.
“One province saying one thing can throw everything out of whack,” Morreale said. ”We’ve told our staff, we’ve told our players and coaches, we’ve kept them up to date on everything so fully transparent and aware of what’s going on.
“It definitely does not mean the end of what we’re doing, it’s all hands on deck to try and look at ways to either salvage part of the season, look at different alternatives and take advantage of the fact that we’re Canadian, and our coaches are in town and our players are in town.”
The CEBL had been scheduled to wrap up with Championship Weekend, Aug. 13-16. It’s designed to run through the spring and summer partly to take advantage of a down time in the sport and allow Canadians in leagues abroad a chance to play in what would be their off-seasons.
The league had been making headlines heading into its second season, adding the Ottawa franchise and signing a broadcast partnership deal with CBC through 2022 which included live streams of all 70 regular-season games and five playoff games.
The CEBL had also been scheduled to play Canada’s men’s national team on June 12 in Hamilton as a tuneup to Canada’s last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament in Victoria.
Victoria is expected to host the qualifier next summer for the Tokyo Olympics, which were postponed to July 23, 2021. Morreale said he expects the CEBL’s exhibition game versus Canada — the Northern Showcase — to go ahead next summer as well.
Xavier Rathan-Mayes (Hamilton Honey Badgers), Duane Notice (Hamilton), and Junior Cadougan (Fraser Valley Bandits) are among the CEBL’s recognizable Canadian names.
The Saskatchewan Rattlers beat Hamilton to win the inaugural CEBL championship last season.
Major League Baseball, whose Opening Day was scheduled for March 26, remains on hiatus.
The NHL and NBA previously suspended play due to COVID-19.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 15, 2020
Lori Ewing , The Canadian Press