Despite COVID-19, Sask. Rattlers return to basketball court Saturday
The summer series kicks off next weekend but will be closed to fans
The Canadian Elite Basketball League starts its 2020 season on Saturday — one of the first professional sports leagues in Canada to do so since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
Returning champions the Saskatchewan Rattlers will start their season on July 26.
Lee Genier, president and chief operations officer for the Rattlers, said there were some concerns about how the team would start the season during COVID-19.
"As things went along and things started to open back up, it was always keeping your fingers crossed and hoping things would go well." Genier said. "And you know to this point they certainly have."
While the Rattlers can't play in Saskatchewan, the league has set up a hub city in St. Catharines, Ont., where the summer series will be closed to fans.
Genier said things are obviously a lot different due to COVID-19.
"It's interesting — a lot of protocols everyday, screening and wearing masks and the social distancing." Genier said. "And sanitizing every few minutes it seems but it's okay, those are the protocols in place and you know the most important thing is that everyone is safe and healthy."
The fairly new league is tipping off its second season and Genier said he hopes Saskatchewan can bring home a repeat championship win.
All seven teams will play in a round robin tournament, and one team will be eliminated at the end before they move to single game elimination, Genier said.
The 26-game series starts on July 25 with the championship game scheduled for August 9.
New additions to the Rattlers
Genier said the current roster for the Rattlers looks great.
"They are laser focused, I'm really excited about the team and I'm really looking forward to the 26th and their first game." Genier said.
For the 2020 season the Rattlers have a new head coach, Chad Jacobson, as well as a new general manager, Barry Rawlyk.
"They were part of the Rattlers last year in assistant roles," Genier said. "[Rawlyk] has great connections in the NBA and in basketball in general."
"Chad, yes he's a rookie head coach, but watching him today he just really commands the guys and there's a lot of mutual respect there," Genier said.
Genier acknowledged there's a history of basketball teams coming through the province but he said this franchise is much different.
"The trajectory of the league right now again is going into the stratosphere which is amazing to watch," Genier said. "I like where we're going."
Watch the Saskatchewan Rattlers play the Niagara River Lions on CBC Gem at 11:30 a.m. CT on July 26.
With files from Saskatchewan Weekend