Kitchener-Waterloo

Canadian Elite Basketball League's bubble season featured in new documentary

A new documentary called 'Our Game' from a Guelph, Ont. filmmaker looks at the bubble season the Canadian Elite Basketball League played in 2020, with its 26 match season played when the league's teams all gathered in St. Catharines, Ont.

'It was something I'll remember forever,' says point guard Myles Charvis

Guelph Nighthawks centre Jabari Craig gets a COVID-19 test ahead of the 2020 summer series of the Canadian Elite Basketball League. The bubble season held by the league last year is part of a new documentary called Our Game. (Ward 1 Studios/Alex Vander Vlugt/Our Game documentary)

A new documentary airing on CBC Sports and CBC Gem looks at a sports success story from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Canadian Elite Basketball League was one of the few to hold a complete — albeit shortened — season last year, holding a bubble season with 26 games played over 15 days with all the games played in St. Catharines, Ont.

The league has teams in Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan and B.C. and plans an expansion to Montreal in 2022.

The documentary Our Game features on-court action in empty arenas and also tells the stories of five players — their backgrounds, their stories and their journey to the league.

"We do focus a lot on the Canadian side of things, because what this documentary will show is that Canada has a lot of great basketball talent," said co-director and co-producer Alex Vander Vlugt of Guelph, Ont.

"Basketball in Canada is such a growing sport. We had Raptors-mania a couple of years ago. We're seeing participation at youth league level increasing like crazy," he added.

"Just the fact that so many kids are seeing this as a viable pathway to being an athlete, they're seeing this league grow that they want to be a part of ... the seeds are being planted now so that basketball can really be a major sport in this country."

Guelph Nighthawks point guard Myles Charvis shares a laugh with filmmakers during the 2020 bubble season of the Canadian Elite Basketball League. (Ward 1 Studios/Alex Vander Vlugt/Our Game documentary)

'Something I'll remember forever'

For Guelph Nighthawks player Myles Charvis, playing in the 2020 bubble came with a lot of mixed emotions. 

On the one hand, he said it was a relief to get back to playing basketball. Charvis said the bubble season also reminded him of college basketball tournaments, with all the teams gathered in the same place. 

"That was cool, you get some camaraderie with your teammates and other guys you played in the past," said Charvis, 26. 

At the same time, Charvis said he missed having fans in the stands. 

"You have to be really self motivated when it came to games ... because that fan aspect was taken out of it," he said.  

Overall, he said the bubble season "was different, but it was something I'll remember forever."

Charvis hopes audiences come away from the documentary with a new understanding of Canada's professional men's basketball league, and the hard work that goes on in players' lives behind the scenes. 

While the CEBL held its bubble season in the summer of 2020, there were conversations happening in society about Black Lives Matter. Charvis says the league used the phrase 'racism is not our game' on the basketball courts and on T-shirts during the shortened season to help give players a voice while they remained in the bubble. (Ward 1 Studios/Alex Vander Vlugt/Our Game documentary)

New season June 24

The 2020 Summer Series marked just the second season for the league and commissioner Mike Morreale said that was why there was a push to ensure it happened anyway possible.

"The CEBL Summer Series was the result of an excruciating amount of hard work from all our league and team staff, volunteers, players, doctors, coaches, broadcast teams, and partners during a very challenging time," he said in a release about the new documentary.

The 2021 CEBL season is scheduled to tip-off on June 24 when the Niagara River Lions take on the expansion Ottawa BlackJacks. The league is not planning a bubble season this year: teams will travel and play their home games at home.

Guelph Nighthawks head coach Charles Kissi talks to players after they won their first game of the summer series. (Ward 1 Studios/Alex Vander Vlugt/Our Game documentary)

The documentary Our Game from Guelph filmmakers Alex Vander Vlugt and Garrett Smith, along with co-producer Ansh Sanyal from the league will air Saturday at 1 p.m. on CBC Sports and it will stream on CBC Gem.

Watch the trailer:

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