TORONTO, ON — The WNBA will head north for a preseason game in Canada.
Minnesota Lynx will take on the Chicago Sky on May 13 in Toronto in the first WNBA game to be played in the country.
“Bringing a WNBA preseason game to Canada is an important milestone for the global growth of the league,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. “I’ve spoken often of the global popularity of women’s basketball and, this past season, WNBA games were broadcast in 207 countries and territories, including in Canada, where fans have shown a great appetite for WNBA action."
This will be the third WNBA preseason game to be played outside of the United States. In 2004, the Detroit Shock and San Antonio Silver Stars met in Monterrey, Mexico, and in 2011 the Atlanta Dream played the Standard Life Great Britain Women’s basketball team in Manchester, England.
Canada has been on the rise in women's basketball, coming in fourth at the World Cup last year. Minnesota has Canadians Bridget Carleton and Natalie Achonwa on their team. Achonwa announced she was pregnant in November and won't play in the game.
“We are looking forward to participating in this historic game for the WNBA,” said Lynx Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations Cheryl Reeve. “The league’s global popularity has shown incredible growth, and I am pleased our team will be a part of continuing to pave the path for the WNBA by bringing our game to Canada.”
Engelbert said the WNBA was close to announcing an exhibition game in Canada in 2020, but that was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve seen record WNBA viewership over the last two seasons in Canada,” Engelbert said. "So we’re excited to bring a game to those fans live. Globalizing the WNBA game has been a key pillar of how we’re trying to grow the league and go through our business transformation. Playing a game in Canada is a significant milestone for us. This is just our first step in hosting more events like this.
“We’re looking to transform the economics of the league, and as players increasingly become global brands and household names, I think this will be important.”
Engelbert said there will be other events around the game in Canada. The league hosted a basketball clinic in Toronto in November.
The Commissioner said Toronto is one of the cities on the league's shortened list for expansion.
“We’re going to expand at the right time,” Engelbert said. “We’ve looked at about 100 different cities. I’ve talked about narrowing that. Toronto is certainly one of the names on the narrowed list. We’re just excited to see the passion for the game in Canada.
“Even beyond expansion, just growing our fan base north of the border. It’s important, given the success of the Raptors and the popularity of women’s sports and women’s basketball in Canada. We’re excited to see how the market responds.”
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