Toronto to host first ever WNBA game in Canada

A pre-season match between the Chicago Sky and Minnesota Lynx will be held at Scotiabank Arena on May 13.

Chatham's Bridget Carleton of the Minnesota Lynx is one of three Canadian players in the WNBA. (Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)
Chatham's Bridget Carleton of the Minnesota Lynx is one of three Canadian players in the WNBA. (Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

The WNBA has talked for years about expanding the league from its current 12-team format, with Toronto being one of the cities frequently floated as a potential destination.

Toronto will officially get to showcase its potential to house a WNBA franchise when it hosts the league's first game in Canada this spring. The pre-season exhibition match will be held at Scotiabank Arena on May 13 and feature the four-time champion Minnesota Lynx and 2021 champion Chicago Sky.

"Bringing a WNBA preseason game to Canada is an important milestone for the global growth of the league,” said WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert. “We’re looking forward to building on the momentum and excitement surrounding the WNBA in Canada with this historic game."

Entering its 27th season, the WNBA has been on the rise for years. According to The Athletic, the 2022 WNBA regular season recorded its highest viewership in the league's 14-year history with television partners CBS and Disney networks, averaging 379,000 viewers per game.

Internationally, the WNBA was broadcast in more than 207 countries – Canada included – during the 2022 season. There was a record number of games broadcast in Canada last summer, through both TSN and Sportsnet.

The Canadian women’s senior national basketball team has also been improving in recent years, placing fourth at the FIBA Women’s World Cup in Australia last fall. Three Canadian players, who represent the Canada Basketball program on the national team, currently play in the WNBA.

Bridget Carleton of Chatham, Ont., fresh off a 2022 FIBA World Cup All-Star Five accolade, plays for the Minnesota Lynx and will hopefully take the court in May’s game. Natalie Achonwa of Guelph, Ont., also plays for Minnesota, but will likely miss most of the upcoming season as she is expecting her first child.

Kia Nurse of Hamilton, Ont., is currently an unrestricted free agent in the WNBA. She has spent the past two seasons playing for the Phoenix Mercury after being traded from the New York Liberty in 2021. After spending the 2022 WNBA season rehabbing from a torn ACL she sustained in the 2021 playoffs, she made her return to the court in the FIBA World Cup for Canada.

This upcoming exhibition game in Toronto is part of an ongoing effort to bring a professional women’s basketball team to Canada. For years, reports have put Toronto high on the list of potential WNBA expansion locations – joined by the Bay Area, Philadelphia, Nashville, Portland, Charlotte, Boston and others. The league itself has hinted that it could add two teams as early as the start of the 2024 season.

For now, WNBA fans in Canada will have to show out on May 13 to convince the league there is serious interest in hosting a team.

This will be only the third time an WNBA game has been played outside of the United States. In 2004, the Detroit Shock played the San Antonio Silver Stars in Mexico, and in 2011 the Atlanta Dream travelled to Manchester England to play the Standard Life Great Britain women’s basketball team.

The Sky, coming off their championship run just two seasons ago, have a roster full of All-Stars including 2021 Finals MVP Kahleah Copper. We’ll have to see how free agency plays out to determine who else will be suiting up for Chicago this season as they make another run for the championship.

On the other side, the Lynx are in an era of transition as they said goodbye to generational talent Sylvia Fowles last season, as the champion and all-star retired. They’ll look ahead to the 2023 WNBA Draft to seek out their next big name, as the team currently holds the No. 2 pick.

Fans looking to stay informed on where to buy tickets for May’s game in Toronto can sign up at WNBACanadaGame.com to receive updates.

The game is also set to be broadcast live on both TSN and Sportsnet, and internationally on the WNBA League Pass app.

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