CEBL

CEBL's Guelph Nighthawks relocating to Calgary for 2023 season

One of the Canadian Elite Basketball League's original six franchises is moving across the country. The league announced on Wednesday that it is relocating the Guelph Nighthawks to Calgary in time for the 2023 season.

Team to play out of WinSport Events Centre, will be renamed and rebranded

The Canadian Elite Basketball League announced on Wednesday it is relocating the Guelph Nighthawks to Calgary for the 2023 season. (Nick Iwanyshyn/The Canadian Press)

One of the Canadian Elite Basketball League's original six franchises is moving across the country.

The league announced on Wednesday that it is relocating the Guelph Nighthawks to Calgary in time for the 2023 season.

The team, which will play out of Calgary's WinSport Event Centre, will be renamed and rebranded.

Commissioner Mike Morreale said in a press release that the league has been eyeing a move to Calgary "for a long time."

"Relocating a franchise from our smallest market to Canada's third-largest city will allow the team to remain financially competitive as our league continues to experience tremendous growth," Morreale said.

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In speaking with CBC Kitchener-Waterloo, Morreale added that the lack of local media hampered the league's ability to grow effectively.

"The Guelph market is tremendous in many, many respects, but it also unfortunately had some gaps that we just couldn't work around," Morreale told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo. "One of them, truthfully, is media. There is no local media. There is no daily paper. There is no way for us to really get the marketing of our brand and the stories of the players and the game out other than what we do through our team and league channels."

Morreale also said the league will continue to own and operate the franchise, as it does for eight other clubs. The Scarborough Shooting Stars are the only team that is privately owned.

The Nighthawks matched their best-ever season in 2022, finishing the regular season with a .500 record before losing in the quarter-finals.

"The reality is that there is a ceiling in a market of Guelph's size that will prevent the franchise from being able to compete on a sustained basis," Morreale said. 

"When we launched the CEBL in 2018, it made sense for Guelph to be among our founding franchises. However, we are moving into the country's largest markets at a pace much faster than we originally anticipated and the economic realities of pro sports forces us to have to make this difficult decision."

The CEBL held its home games of the Basketball Champions League Americas (BCLA) in March at WinSport in Calgary.

The league pointed to Calgary's growing basketball culture, noting that basketball enrolment in the city has more than doubled in the past seven years. The University of Calgary men's basketball team has been among the best in U Sports for years.

The league expanded to seven teams with the addition of the Ottawa BlackJacks in 2020, and grew to 10 last season when Scarborough, Newfoundland and Montreal also joined. Guelph was one of five Ontario-based teams, also including Hamilton and Niagara.

Hamilton won the 2022 championship.

With files from The Canadian Press and CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's Jackie Sharkey

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