Three years in the making, halted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) will finally host its first WNBA game in Canada.
The Minnesota Lynx, featuring two of Canada’s three current WNBA players in Bridget Carleton (Chatham, Ont.) and Natalie Achonwa (Guelph, Ont.) will play Candace Parker and the Chicago Sky on Saturday, May 13th 2023 at Scotiabank Arena in downtown Toronto.
Carleton, a former 21st pick of the Connecticut Sun in the 2019 WNBA Draft, will be playing in her fifth season with the Lynx. Achonwa, a top pick of the Indiana Fever in 2014 is entering her third season in Minnesota. Currently, the longest serving Canadian WNBA player since Tammy Sutton-Brown, the former Notre Dame star has recently announced that she is entering the wonderful world of motherhood.
Parker, a former two-time WNBA most valuable player (MVP) leads a star-studded Sky team that is two-years removed from reaching their first WNBA Finals. In addition to Parker, the Sky feature two more WNBA All-Stars in Kahleah Copper and Emma Meesseman. Not to mention, finals MVP Courtney Vandersloot.
In the final planning stages and close to announcing a 2020 WNBA Canada Game between the Indiana Fever and the Phoenix Mercury, the league was forced to scrap those plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
WNBA Toronto expansion talks have heated-up, multiple parties, including recording and performing artist Drake, are aiming to claim a stake in what should ultimately develop into the WNBA’s first international franchise.
“We’re going to expand at the right time,” mentioned WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. “We’ve looked at about 100 different cities. I’ve talked about narrowing that. Toronto is certainly one of the names on the narrowed list. We’re just excited to see the passion for the game in Canada.”
The WNBA is one of the last major league organizations without a team in the City of Toronto. The booming metropolitan has professional franchises in the National Basketball Association (NBA) with the Raptors, the National Hockey League with the Leafs, the Blue Jays in the Major League Baseball (MLB) and Toronto Football Club (TFC) in Major League Soccer (MLS).
This will be only the third WNBA preseason game to be played outside the United States. In 2004, the Detroit Shock and San Antonio Silver Stars met in Monterrey, Mexico and in 2011 the Atlanta Dream played the Standard Life Great Britain Women’s basketball team in Manchester, England.
Boasting plenty of similarities as the boys and men sides, the game of basketball has exploded across the entire Canadian basketball spectrum. Increased participation at the female youth level has led to more players playing NCAA division I women’s basketball.
Naturally, the next step will be more Canadian WNBA players. Names like Shayeann Day-Wilson (Duke), Aaliyah Edwards (Connecticut), Cassandre Prosper (Notre Dame) and Yvonne Ejim (Gonzaga) and dunking high school phenom Toby Fournier (Crestwood Secondary Prep) could very well one day suit for Canada’s WNBA Toronto team.
Ultimately, the first WNBA Canada Game in Toronto be the first true measuring stick for a league which has seen record growth in viewership numbers over the last two seasons.
“Even beyond expansion, just growing our fan base north of the border. It’s important, given the success of the Raptors and the popularity of women’s sports and women’s basketball in Canada. We’re excited to see how the market responds.” concluded Commissioner Engelbert.