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Get stung by championship basketball in Edmonton

Despite being reigning champs, Stingers face uphill battle to draw crowds that come easily for hockey in E-town.
Stingers
Some of the most entertaining basketball you'll see is at the Edmonton Expo Centre, where champions the Stingers will defend their title in late August. Photo supplied.

Just one bite from a Stinger is enough to get you hooked.

“You have to see it to believe it,” said Britt Prendergast, communications coordinator for the Edmonton Stingers basketball team, which plays in the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL), a league created by Canadians for Canadians.

“I brought three friends to a game and now they are hooked,” said Prendergast, whose father Kevin was the head scout and then assistant general manager of the Edmonton Oilers.

 "I’ve never seen anything like the Canadian Elite Basketball League. With the stars dancing with the fans, it’s an unbelievable experience.

“At one of our home games Xavier Moon was dancing on the court with a two-year-old girl,” Prendergast said of the CEBL’s reigning back-to-back Most Valuable Player. “Xavier should be the MVP for a third straight year. If I was gambling I’d hand it to him already.”

“It’s the most entertaining basketball you will see in Canada outside of the Toronto Raptors,” said Mike Morreale, Commissioner & CEO of the CEBL, which is in its third season. "Nothing else comes close.”

With games at the Edmonton Expo Centre--which seats 3,512--the Stingers are the defending CEBL champions, winning it all last year when all the games were played in a bubble in St. Catharines, Ontario.

But getting fans out to home games has been difficult. Only about 800 fans have been showing up for Stingers home games.

Contrast that with the Fraser Valley B.C. Bandits which have been selling out their 1,800-seat arena.

“Fraser Valley is a strong basketball community; Edmonton is a strong hockey town.

“We’re working as hard as possible,” said Predergast, of the league which uses FIBA (International Basketball Federation) rules.

“Nobody knows about the Stingers which is disappointing. It’s not just a professional basketball team in Edmonton, it’s a championship team and the calibre of basketball is so high--yet, we haven't scratched the surface."

Prendergast said "COVID-19 is still a big fear. Some people still don’t feel comfortable sitting next to someone who isn’t wearing a mask. But we’re hoping for bigger turnouts for August games."

That should be doable because Edmonton will host the Championship Weekend August 18-21.

“I am thrilled to have Championship Weekend come to Edmonton this year,” said Morreale. “This five-day event promises to be a celebration of basketball, music, and entertainment along with the top teams battling it out to win the championship trophy. "

As the host city, Edmonton is guaranteed a spot in the championship along with three other teams. Not that the Stingers need the exemption. The team won its first seven games this year and led the league in wins at press time.

The other six teams in the CEBL are the Fraser Valley Bandits which play out of Abbotsford, B.C.; the Saskatchewan Rattlers, who play out of Saskatoon; the Ottawa BlackJacks; the Guelph Nighthawks; the Hamilton Honey Badgers and the Niagara River Lions which play out of Niagara Falls. Montreal will join the league next year.

Regular season games are also live streamed around the world on the free CBC Gem streaming service, cbcsports.ca, Twitch and the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices.

Ticket prices range from $25-$79.

curtisstock@icloud.com

Follow me on Twitter at CurtisJStock





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