Windsor Express, NBL 'did the best they could' to have Halifax Rainmen compete
Halifax Rainmen cited 'safety concerns' ahead of NBL championship game
The Windsor Express say their team and the National Basketball League of Canada "did the best they could" to have the championship game go ahead against the Halifax Rainmen, before the latter team forfeited Game 7 of the final.
Initially the league said the game had been postponed after the Halifax Rainmen failed to show up. Then, the league announced the Rainmen had forfeited the final as news spread about a scuffle between the two teams earlier in the day.
"It's certainly not how we had drawn it up but we'll take it, I guess," Matt Dumouchelle, a spokesman for the Windsor Express, said Friday morning.
The Windsor Police Service said they were called at 10:40 a.m. on Thursday about a fight in the main bowl of the WFCU Centre in Windsor, Ont.
Between 15 and 20 men were involved in the fight, which had ended by the time officers got to the scene. The Halifax Rainmen had already left the arena on their team bus, said police.
No one was injured and no one wanted to file a report.
Gerry Brumpton, the assistant coach of the Windsor Express, said Thursday that the Halifax Rainmen showed up too early for their scheduled for 1 p.m. shoot around.
Brumpton said Bill Jones, the Windsor Express head coach, tried to retrieve a basketball from one of the Rainmen players. He said when the player refused to hand the ball over, an altercation ensued.
The Halifax Rainmen did not return calls for a comment on Friday.
Unspecified safety concerns
On Thursday night, the Halifax Rainmen said in a statement that the game was cancelled "citing safety concerns for its players and coaches."
Dumouchelle said extra security was brought in after the scuffle, but he doesn't know why the Rainmen felt unsafe.
"There was some extra precaution put in place, in case. Nothing was going to happen, hopefully, during the game or after the game but there was precautions in place put in there by us, by the city, by the arena so nothing would happen," he said.
"I don't know what they thought was going to happen during the game."
Some Halifax Rainmen fans who spoke to CBC News on Friday said they are confused and disappointed with the result of the championship, but are waiting to see what team owner Andre Levingston has to say.
Dumouchelle says all day, arena staff in Windsor, Ont., were told to prepare for a 7 p.m. game start and it was assumed the Rainmen would take to the court, but he says there were rumours in the afternoon that Halifax might not play.
Arena staff told game would go ahead
"But [those rumours] went from a wide range of, 'They had already checked out of the hotel and left,' to 'They had left kind of in a huff but were coming back,'" he said.
"The decision to forfeit the game or to postpone the game at that point wasn't made until 6:45 — 10 to 15 minutes before the game was supposed to start."
The CEOs for both the Windsor and Halifax teams communicated with each other during the day to "ease the situation," says Dumouchelle.
However, about 10 to 15 minutes before the championship game was scheduled to begin, fans were told the game would be postponed. A short time later, the forfeit was announced.
Dumouchelle says the NBL did everything it could to have Halifax compete.
"As much as it seems like it's a black eye for the league — and obviously there's no sugar-coating it, it doesn't look good — this wasn't a league decision," he says.
"The league did the best they could, as far as we're concerned, to try and talk to the parties involved to try to make sure this game actually happened because, obviously, it would look bad to have a forfeit or a cancellation of Game 7 of the championship. From our perspective, the league did as much as they could to get this game played."