May 12, 2023 

Bridget Carleton, the pride of Chatham, preps for ‘surreal’ WNBA Canada game

"It's been a whirlwind week, so I'm just starting to process that it's actually happening."

Halfway through the Minnesota Lynx’s media day on Wednesday, a visibly hyped Bridget Carleton stepped into the team’s press conference room. On a day filled with photo shoot after photo shoot, and constantly being ‘on,’ Carleton showed no signs of fatigue despite arriving from Spain just two days earlier and just three days since her final game with Perfumerías Avenida concluded.

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If Carleton was feeling disoriented or sleep deprived, she didn’t show it. She came into the room wearing her crisp white No. 6 jersey, pressed and clean for media day, absolutely beaming. This surprised no one, as the Chatham, Ontario, native was just days away from being part of the WNBA’s first-ever preseason game in Canada.

“I’m so excited. It’s been a whirlwind of a week, so I’m just starting to process that it’s actually happening,” Carleton said. “It’s cool because I’m excited to be part of Minnesota and the WNBA experiencing what Canada is like, but also, Canadians being able to experience what the WNBA is like … So I see both sides of it, and I’m just super excited to be a part of it and obviously play in the game.”

Bridget Carleton addresses the media at the Lynx’ 2023 media day (Photo Credit: Terry Horstman)

The time crunch wasn’t the only obstacle potentially keeping Carleton from participating in this historic occasion. She had a minor back issue a couple of weeks ago while playing for Avenida. 

“We have to get her in, she had a little bit of a back issue,” Cheryl Reeve said after the team practiced on May 8. “She will be there. She will absolutely be there. And I know BC, even if it’s limited time, she’ll play.”

Now, with the tip-off of the first-ever WNBA Canada Game just hours away in Toronto, participation is inevitable for the pride of Chatham, Ontario.

“I played Sunday. Got here Monday. It’s Wednesday [laughter]. So I’m still recovering, jetlag-wise,” Carleton said. “I had a little back issue two weeks ago, but it’s nothing serious and I’m planning on playing on Saturday.”

Carleton’s fellow Ontarian, Natalie Achonwa, is out indefinitely due to her pregnancy, but she will be in attendance at Scotiabank Arena and also participating in various player appearance festivities in the city.

Carleton herself took center stage less than 24 hours before the Lynx meet the Sky on the hardwood, taking the mound and throwing the ceremonial first pitch at the Toronto Blue Jays game at the Rogers Centre on Friday night.

“I haven’t thought about [the pitch]. I’m nervous,” Carleton said. “I don’t want to think about it too much. I’m just gonna wing it when I get out there. Keep it simple, though for sure. Aim high.”

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The anticipation of the WNBA’s first game ever on Canadian soil has been well-documented. The 22,000-seat Scotiabank Arena sold out in 10 minutes. A healthy contingent of the crowd will be those making the nearly three-hour trek from the southwest to see Carleton in action in person.

“I think the whole city of Chatham is going. My parents texted me today and said they’re trying to rent out a space for us to gather after the game for 100 people,” Carleton said. “So that’s like friends and family so it’s gonna be exciting. Obviously, I haven’t seen them since I was overseas, so I’m excited to see them again.”

The opportunity is a significant milestone for Canadian women’s basketball but also carries a ton of weight personally for Carleton. Not only will she be seeing most of her family for the first time since Christmas, but her grandma will also get to see her play professionally in person for the very first time.

“Obviously it’s going to be overwhelming and I’m preparing myself for that,” Carleton said. “Just to see so many familiar faces in the crowd. Obviously all my connections through so many coaches that have been a part of my career. It’s gonna be pretty surreal just to see them all.

“I probably won’t be able to talk to half of the people I want to talk to. Not enough hours in the day, but just to see so many familiar faces. It’ll be really really special, especially playing for the Lynx, a franchise I’ve played with, this is my fifth year. To have the Canadiens see this side of me or see this part of my professional career is pretty cool.”

Written by Terry Horstman

Terry Horstman is a Minneapolis-based writer and covers the Minnesota Lynx beat for The Next. He previously wrote about the Minnesota Timberwolves for A Wolf Among Wolves, and his other basketball writing has been published by Flagrant Magazine, HeadFake Hoops, Taco Bell Quarterly, and others. He's the creative nonfiction editor for the sports-themed literary magazine, the Under Review.

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