The “City of Champions” slogan was removed from the “Welcome to Edmonton” signs back in 2015. You can take down the signs but the great City of Edmonton still boasts a current champion in the Edmonton Stingers of the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL).
The Stingers Championship win came within the League bubble in St. Catharines, Ontario and the celebration was muted by Covid-19. To turn the volume back up on our Championship Basketball team, I reached out to the Stingers President Brett Fraser via e-mail with a few questions.
Q) As of this writing, the only Canadian League to release a schedule is the Canadian Football League (CFL). The CEBL played in “a bubble” last season. What can you tell us about what the league is planning for 2021?
The CEBL intends to play basketball across the country in 2021, and our League is working hard everyday for this to be reality. Our specific schedule is likely to change slightly due to the pandemic, so our announcement is on hold until we can do it once, and do it right for sake of clarity for our fans and community partners. Edmonton will have a few months notice, which traditionally is enough lead time for events in this region.
Q) Winning a championship usually means fanfare created through the opportunity for fans to celebrate (at least take pictures with) the Championship Trophy. Putting Covid-19 on the backburner, how would you and the Club like to share your championship win with your Edmonton fans?
The Championship Trophy has been quietly sitting in our Edmonton office awaiting its chance to meet the community… just another piece to the COVID story. We do intend to have a couple of fanfare programs set for 2021 to look back at our 2020 Summer Series win, and will be working with the government (AHS) as to when and how that looks exactly. Of course what I can confirm is we will be hoisting a banner in the roof of the Expo Centre and presenting rings to the players, coaches and staff from 2020 at one of our games (hopefully the 1st).
Q) The league as a whole has been quiet on the player signings/movement front – entering only the league’s third off-season – can you tell fans timelines such as free agency dates or draft dates?
The Stingers currently have our 2020 roster still under contract until March, which is great news for the Stingers especially. Of the many odd factors of COVID, having other leagues on modified schedules will directly impact availability of some of the best players, including the USPORT draft. Technically CEBL starts free agency signings in February, but I wouldn’t expect much for depth players being added until closer to the season.
Q) Their have been rumblings of a CEBL expansion team to Calgary. Please react to these rumblings.
Calgary is missing the infrastructure at this time to facilitate a league like ours, to build the vibe required we are looking for an arena of 5000 – 9000. Personally I would love to see the Battle of Alberta rivalry continue into basketball, as I know they have an amazing fan base and some of the best Canadian talent being produced there. Spent nearly six years living in both cities, what we have is special.
Q) As a former “account executive”, the off-season was spent doing anything and everything to sell tickets. In a pandemic, how do you try to sellout “the hive” when no ones knows if fans will be allowed to attend games?
The Stingers front office primarily have been listening to the community, respecting what is happening here and around the world, staying optimistic that our community will be able to heal in mid 2021. Right now, we are optimistic and realistic that we might be starting to less fans in attendance and building through the summer to more fans into the August finals.
We see ourselves as part of the restart this summer and continue to work behind the scenes on our organizational maturity to be our best in years to come, using our agility to its fullest.
Thank you for your responses Mr. Fraser, I look forward to the day I can interview you in person. Speaking on behalf of all Stingers fans, we look forward to re-uniting safely at the Edmonton Expo Centre and proudly cheering for our Championship Team!