Sky, Lynx to play preseason game in Canada

Jan 18, 2023


CloseM.A. Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.

The WNBA will have a preseason game in Canada for the first time this year, as the Chicago Sky and Minnesota Lynx will meet May 13 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. The league begins its 27th season on May 19.

The WNBA announced its foray into Canada on Wednesday. Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said exposure globally is growing for the WNBA, which had native Canadians Natalie Achonwa, Bridget Carleton and Kia Nurse on rosters last season.

This is the third WNBA preseason game to be played outside of the United States, following games in Monterrey, Mexico, in 2004, and Manchester, England, in 2011.

“We’ve seen record WNBA viewership over the last two seasons in Canada,” Engelbert said in a video call with media. “So we’re excited to bring a fan to those fans live. Globalizing the WNBA game has been a key pillar of how we’re trying to grow the league and go through our business transformation. Playing a game in Canada is a significant milestone for us. This is just our first step in hosting more events like this.

“We’re looking to transform the economics of the league, and as players increasingly become global brands and household names, I think this will be important.”

Engelbert said the WNBA was close to announcing an exhibition game in Canada in 2020, but that was thwarted by the COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. men’s pro leagues, including the NBA, are now having regular-season games in other nations; the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons will play in Paris on Thursday, and the NBA is in discussions to host a preseason game in Africa.

The WNBA is looking to similar opportunities in the coming years. Engelbert was also asked to what degree the game in Canada indicated that Toronto, home of the NBA’s Raptors, was a potential expansion city for the WNBA.

The 12-team WNBA has been looking to expand for several years, but Engelbert continues to say the process can’t be rushed to make sure any future franchises will be successful. That said, there is definitely interest in Toronto.

“We’re going to expand at the right time,” Engelbert said. “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.

“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.”

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