WNBA Returns to Canada: Edmonton Pre-Season Game Fuels Speculation on Toronto Expansion

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The WNBA is set to make its mark in Canada once again, as it announces the staging of a pre-season game in Edmonton on May 5th. 

This marks the second consecutive year that Canada will host such an event, with the Los Angeles Sparks squaring off against the Seattle Storm.

Last season’s inaugural WNBA Canada Game saw the Chicago Sky triumph over the Minnesota Lynx in a sold-out spectacle in Toronto. 

This encounter not only thrilled the fans but also set new benchmarks in broadcast viewership, attendance, and merchandise sales across Canada.

Edmonton Welcomes WNBA Pre-Season Clash

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The WNBA is set to make its mark in Canada once again, as it announces the staging of a pre-season game in Edmonton on May 5th.

Toronto, a city currently under consideration for WNBA expansion, could potentially join the league’s roster if the right ownership group is secured. 

Larry Tanenbaum, a prominent figure in Toronto sports circles and part-owner of MLSE (Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment), through his Kilmer Group, has expressed interest in bringing a team to the city.

While WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert confirmed that Golden State would be the sole expansion team for 2025, discussions are ongoing for potential additions in the 2026 season and beyond. 

She emphasized the league’s dedication to engaging with prospective owners across various markets, although no concrete announcements have been made yet.

The upcoming clash between the Los Angeles Sparks and the Seattle Storm holds particular significance, especially for Canadian basketball fans, as it will feature prominent Canadian talent like Kia Nurse, who plays for the Sparks. 

Magic Johnson, co-owner of the Los Angeles Sparks, expressed excitement about showcasing top-tier WNBA talent in Canada, aiming to further cultivate the league’s fanbase beyond US borders.

This event marks the fourth WNBA pre-season game held outside the US, following previous matches in Manchester, England (2011), and Monterrey, Mexico (2004). 

Commissioner Engelbert hinted at the possibility of staging regular-season games abroad, albeit under optimal conditions and scheduling considerations, possibly in non-Olympic years.

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WNBA Expansion Efforts and Edmonton’s Basketball Renaissance

Edmonton was chosen as the venue for the second WNBA Canada Game due to its vibrant sports culture, evidenced by fervent support for teams like the NHL’s Oilers and CFL’s Elks. 

The city’s basketball legacy, epitomized by the historic success of the Edmonton Grads, further bolstered its appeal as a host city. Engelbert cited the overwhelming success of an NBA exhibition game in Edmonton in 2022 as a testament to the city’s potential as a basketball hub.

Meanwhile, efforts are underway to establish a WNBA presence in Toronto, with Kilmer Sports Venture appointing seasoned sports executive Ivan Gazidis to spearhead the initiative. 

Gazidis, with his wealth of experience in European soccer and Major League Soccer, brings valuable expertise to the table. Teresa Resch, a former Raptors executive, is also expected to play a key role in this endeavor.

With the recent addition of the Golden State Warriors as the league’s 13th team, expansion discussions continue to gain momentum. 

However, Commissioner Engelbert emphasized the need for careful planning and deliberation, indicating that any potential expansion to Toronto or elsewhere would likely materialize in 2026 or beyond.

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