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Edge of the Atlantic? NBL Canada says the plan is for St. John's to change divisions

Ryan Reid (7) and the St. John’s Edge went head-to-head with Billy White (23) and the Halifax Hurricanes in two NBL Canada games at Mile One Centre last season. They were two of four games at Mile One that saw the Edge facing Atlantic Division opponents. The number of contests against Maritimes-based teams will increase dramatically if the league officially follows through on plans for the Edge to move to the Atlantic Division in 2018-19. — St. John’s Edge photo/Jeff Parsons
Ryan Reid (7) and the St. John’s Edge went head-to-head with Billy White (23) and the Halifax Hurricanes in two NBL Canada games at Mile One Centre last season. They were two of four games at Mile One that saw the Edge facing Atlantic Division opponents. The number of contests St. John's will play against Maritimes-based teams will increase dramatically if the league officially follows through on plans for the Edge to move to the Atlantic Division in 2018-19. — St. John’s Edge photo/Jeff Parsons

But it's not official yet; still to be sorted out is how league will fill vacancy created by departure of Niagara River Lions

The St. John’s Edge could be on the move this off-season … to another division.

National Basketball League of Canada deputy commissioner Audley Stephenson said Wednesday the league is operating on the assumption the Edge will be slotted in the Atlantic Division for the 2018-19 season, joining the circuit’s five teams based in the Maritimes.

When the Edge entered the NBL Canada last year, they were grouped with the league’s four Ontario teams in the Central Division so as to provide divisional balance. However, with an expansion team in Sudbury, Ont., set to join the league for the 2018-19 campaign, there was an understanding the Edge would move to the Atlantic with its more natural regional rivals.

The Sudbury Five are indeed set to begin play in the NBL Canada this November, but it is not yet guaranteed that the league will have five teams in Ontario.

The Niagara River Lions, who were part of the NBL the past three seasons, recently announced they would be joining the rival Canadian Elite Basketball League, which will begin a spring-summer schedule in May of 2019.

Stephenson said Wednesday that the NBL Canada is determined to maintain a team in the Niagara region, preferably with a local ownership group, but that if necessary, the league itself could operate a franchise there.

However, without a new Niagara team actually in place, Stephenson could not definitively say the Edge will be shifting divisions. In fact, he says the St. John’s ownership has indicated that if it was absolutely necessary, the Edge could remain the Central Division.

St. John’s opened its inaugural season last fall with a road trip in the Maritime provinces, playing the Charlottetown, P.E.I.-based Island Storm, Halifax Hurricanes, Cape Breton Highlanders, Moncton Magic and Saint John Riptide. However, only the Hurricanes and Magic visited St. John’s for games against the Edge at Mile One Centre.

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The divisional set-up was one of the main points of discussion at the league's owners meeting earlier this month.

Also decided at that get-together: Halifax Hurricanes majority owner Mark Lever will become the new chairman of the board of governors of the National Basketball League of Canada.

Lever takes the helm from Vito Frijia, owner of the two-time defending champion London Lightning. Frijia stepped down as league president after three years.

Lever is the head of SaltWire Network, publisher of The Halifax Chronicle Herald, St. John’s Telegram and 33 other publications.

“Our league would simply not have survived without Vito Frijia,” Lever said in a news release from the league.

“Personally, I hope to work closely with the entire board to build on the foundation that Vito has provided all of us. Thanks to him, we can now take this league from surviving to thriving.

“Sales and marketing, a search for a commissioner and tightening our rules are the areas of immediate concern."

In the release, it was also announced that the NBL Canada salary cap will increase from $170,000 to $180,000 per team for the 2018-19 season. The team also implemented an increse in the number of players each team can add to its protected list, from six to seven.

The protected lists were released earlier this week.

brendan.mccarthy@thetelegram.com
Twitter: @telybrendan

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