Saskatchewan Rattlers begin first season
Province’s only professional basketball team starts play
Who the hell cares? That is the question that is asked of any new endeavour in the entertainment business. The Canadian Elite Basketball League is betting that a lot of people in this country care about basketball and are willing to spend their money on it.
The CEBL is a professional basketball league with six new franchises. Our very own Saskatchewan Rattlers, based in Saskatoon, along with the Edmonton Stingers, Fraser Valley Bandits, Guelph NightHawks, Hamilton Honey Badgers, and Niagara River Lions. The league has been very strategic in trying to create the best opportunity for Canadian players to play in a quality professional league at home. They require that each team carry 70% Canadian players and 1 U-Sport developmental player as well.
Saskatoon’s own Michael Linklater described the experience of making history with a new basketball league,
“It’s really exciting, because basketball hasn’t been in Saskatoon for a very long time… to be a part of this home opener was amazing and something I will remember for the rest of my life”.
The Saskatchewan Rattlers have approached their business model very similarly to the Saskatchewan Rush lacrosse team, which has been raved about for the passion, excitement, and entertainment brought to the fans in a very niche sport. Saskatchewan has a reputation for being the most passionate fans in the country due to the support the RoughriRiders and Rush get. But the big question is if that translates to basketball as well.
I attended the CEBL’s inaugural season opener featuring the Rattlers facing the Niagara River Lions. Admittedly, I went in with low expectations, I was blown away with 3,399 fans in attendance and the building was loud for most of the night. Travion Dawson, the Rattlers leading scorer (29 points) shared this sentiment,
“I thought the atmosphere was great, I didn’t expect that many fans for the first game, but it was great.”
The biggest pop from the crowd came in the third quarter when Marlon Johnson (19 points, 10 rebounds) blocked Payen-Boucard, then ran the court in transition and dunked on Dorian Pinson for the and-1, the fans went nuts. The Rattlers ultimately lost 97-99. In the last minute an aAlley-oop for Johnson cut the lead to 2 points, and in the waning seconds Bruce Massey stole the ball from River Lions guard Alex Johnson, but fumbled it around a couple times before an Alex Campbell half-court heave to win the game fell short.
The fans who know basketball in Saskatchewan are eager to see it grow., HoopLife’s Executive Director, Habib Habib was in attendance for the game and said this about the future of the CEBL in Saskatchewan,
“They are going to be the next Rush. I think they are going to be as big, if not bigger than the Rush. Basketball is growing, even with the Raptors in the Finals that will spark the basketball interest around the country and in Saskatchewan.”