January 18, 2023
Lynx-Sky set to be first ever WNBA game held in Canada
'This is for the Canadian fans'
The WNBA announced today the Chicago Sky and Minnesota Lynx will play in the league’s first-ever game in Canada when the two meet in Toronto on May 13. It will take place at Scotiabank Arena which is home to the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs.
“Playing a game in Canada is a significant milestone for us,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said during a press conference on Jan. 16. “We have players from all around the world on our team rosters including a few from Canada. Outside of the Canadian market, we are continuing to see huge demand for the WNBA around the world. This is just our first step in hosting more events like this.”
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According to Engelbert, the WNBA was planning on announcing a preseason game in Canada in March of 2020 before the global pandemic forced the league to postpone its next international exhibition. The Sky and Lynx were going to be the two teams heading north to play in the preseason that year. Now, they will be a part of the first WNBA game played outside of the United States since 2011 when the Atlanta Dream played the Standard Life Great Britain Women’s basketball team in Manchester, England. The only other WNBA game not played on American soil came when the Detroit Shock and San Antonio Stars, who are no longer franchises in the league, in 2004 in Mexico City.
Head coach/general manager James Wade, who was recently an assistant at the 2023 Basketball Africa League Combine, expressed his excitement about expanding the league’s footprint across the border.
“It is monumental to be a part of history when it comes to being the first WNBA team to play a game in Canada,” Wade said in a statement. “This WNBA introduction will be a key moment when it comes to high-level professional basketball expanding into Canada and we are very excited to partake in growing the sport there. Being part of this story is amazing for an organization like the Chicago Sky and we cannot wait to grow the game in another country.”
As the WNBA makes its way to Canada during the preseason, the topic of expanding up north came up during the press conference. Engelbert said she was told there are over five million WNBA fans in Canada and Toronto is among the cities on the league’s narrowed list of potential landing spots for a new franchise.
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The preseason game will give the WNBA an opportunity to see how well-received the league is in Canada. Viewership, the fan and player experience and engagement around the events the league will hold leading up the game are among the barometers the league will look at for how viable having a team in Toronto would be.
Globalizing the WNBA has been a priority for Engelbert ever since she became league commissioner in 2019. The league will get one step closer to that when the Sky and Lynx tip off in May.
“We are looking forward to participating in this historic game for the WNBA,” Lynx head coach and
President of Basketball Operations Cheryl Reeve said in a statement. “The league’s global popularity has shown incredible growth, and I am pleased our team will be a part of continuing to pave the path for the WNBA by bringing our game to Canada.”
The game will be televised on WNBA League Pass — which typically doesn’t happen for preseason matchups — but make no mistake: the exhibition is for the fans up north who don’t usually get to see their favorite WNBA players up close.
“This is for the Canadian fans,” Engelbert said. “It’s for the U.S. fans too but this preseason game is for the Canadian fans.”