The Ottawa SkyHawks have been kicked out of the National Basketball League of Canada (NBLC) by the league’s board of governors for failing to follow the league’s standards and deadlines.
A news release issued on Thursday indicated the SkyHawks franchise would not play in the 2014-15 season, while the league’s remaining eight teams were good to go.
The SkyHawks have played only one season in the NBLC, which is also entering just its fourth season. The team finished in sixth place out of nine teams and failed to make the playoffs.
The league’s board of governors voted unanimously, 8-0, to remove the SkyHawks’ owners, Bytown Sports & Entertainment, Inc., from the league, according to the news release.
The owners failed to "adhere to league standards as set out in the operating agreement, and deadlines set forth to prepare for the season."
'They had to pay back a certain amount of money by a certain amount of time. They were unable to do that' - NBLC Commissioner Paul Riley
The league’s release did say it is "100 per cent committed" to bringing a professional basketball team to Ottawa as early as the following season in 2015-16.
The rights to the six remaining players on the SkyHawks roster will be drafted to new clubs, according to the league.
SkyHawks needed loan to finish 1st season
Shortly after the league released the news, Bytown Sports & Entertainment said they would wait until Tuesday, Aug. 5 to issue a response.
The SkyHawks will be issuing a press release on Tuesday August 5 in response to NBL Canada’s press release issued today.— Ottawa SkyHawks (@OttawaSkyHawks) July 31, 2014
"They ran into some difficulty last year financially and the league had to bail them out to afford for them to finish the season," said league commissioner Paul Riley.
"They had to pay back a certain amount of money by a certain amount of time. They were unable to do that."
The team began their first season playing at the Canadian Tire Centre, which can seat more than 19,000 fans. But the SkyHawks struggled to sell tickets.
They ended up moving games between that arena and smaller gyms in Ottawa and Gatineau.
Paula Deek, one of the team's minority owners, said when the team needed a loan just after mid-season, she knew they would have trouble paying the league back. She said ticket sales were low and it was difficult to get sponsorship in the middle of the season.
Early adversity a sign of things to come
The team also faced some adversity when it revealed its original name — Tomahawks. That was soon replaced with SkyHawks after widespread criticism, including some harsh words from Ottawa's mayor.
The team also fired its head coach after just seven games.
Riley would not reveal the exact amount of money owed, but did say it was less than $1 million. Bytown has not paid back any of the loan.
"If they couldn’t [pay back the loan], then clearly they couldn’t fund the team going forward. They also don’t have a venue arrangement in place, investors they said they were going to be bringing on, that hasn’t happened either. They just haven’t been able to do the things they were obligated to do," Riley said.
Riley said the league schedule would be released in the coming days and the league could not wait on a last-minute arrangement. Riley also said he could not risk any more financial struggles from the ownership group.