New Brunswick

Maritime Women's Basketball Association gears up for May tip-off

The founder of the new Maritime Women's Basketball Association says planning a new league during a pandemic has been challenging. But Brad Janes says it will be worth it when the first game starts in May.

New Brunswick teams are still finishing last-minute details for new league

The Maritime Women Basketball Association will kick off in May, despite the challenges of planning a league in the midst of a pandemic. (Rich Barnes/CSM/Shutterstock)

The tip-off for the inaugural season of the Maritime Women's Basketball Association is going to happen about a month later than planned.

But the new amateur league for women over the age of 19 plans to hold its first game in May.

Brad Janes, the founder of the MWBA, says starting a new sports league in the middle of a pandemic hasn't been easy, but a lot of people are committed to getting it off the ground.

"The one vision we always had that's kind of kept us going is that we want to play in 2022," said Janes, who is involved with the Fredericton Freeze.

Brad Janes, the founder of the Maritime Women's Basketball Association, says plans for the league have taken some twists and turns because of COVID-19. (Courtesy of Brad Janes )

"This whole format started in April of 2020 and I don't think any of us would have thought two years later we'd still be fighting this pandemic and yet here we are."

There are six teams in the league: Moncton Mystics, the Port City Fog of Saint John, the Fredericton Freeze, the Halifax Thunder, the Halifax Hornets and the Windsor Edge.

Originally, each team was supposed to have six home games and six away games, but because of ever-changing circumstances, the format will be different.

"What we're looking at are three tournament-style weekends where all six teams will be under one roof," Janes said. "And then the championship weekend of course would be in Halifax in late June.

"The New Brunswick teams will play six games against each other, like on a Thursday night or Wednesday night or whatever it is."

The league is looking at tournament weekends in Fredericton, Moncton and Bedford.

So far about 130 women have signed up.

Shannon Parlee, the owner and director of the Moncton Mystics, said there's still room for more.

Shannon Parlee is encouraging women over the age of 19 to try out for the new league, which offers women the opportunity to play high level basketball. (Submitted/Shannon Parlee)

"It's built for women that have played high level, yes, university and beyond, but we have spots on the roster for anybody passionate about the game. … We want any woman that wants to continue to play, to come on out, and so not to be shy and to show up at our open gyms and give it a go."

Jillian Wilton, the franchise owner of the Port City Fog, said that until now, there hasn't been an opportunity for women to play at this level.

"It's the first of its kind right, and we're in 2022 and we haven't had a professionally run — although it is an amateur league now — in Canada, a league for women," Wilton said. "So we see it all the time for men, but it's overdue."

Wilton is hearing from former professional players and university players who are interested. She's even had people reach out from Ontario.

Jillian Wilton, the franchise owner of the Port City Fog in Saint John, says she's been getting a lot of support from the community, and a lot of women are expressing interest in playing. (Courtesy: Port City Fog)

Janes said that despite having to constantly change plans because of COVID-19, he knows it will all be worth it when the first whistle blows.

And the first season will be a learning experience, he said.

"I've said all along we'll scrape our knees and we're going to bruise our elbows and that's just part of it," Janes said. "The first year, once it's over, we'll have so much more information to plan for 2023."

The league is hoping to nail down venues and schedules in the next few days.