It has yet to be officially announced by the National Basketball League of Canada, but the league is going to a one-division format, a move that pleases the St. John’s Edge, which had lobbied hard for such a change.
The Edge had played its inaugural season in the Central Division along with four Ontario teams, with plans for a natural shift to the Atlantic Division after the expansion Sudbury Five joined the league this fall.
But while Sudbury has been added, the Niagara River Lions have left the NBL Canada for the Canadian Elite Basketball League, which begins play next year. And plans to put a replacement NBLC team in the Niagara region for 2018-19 haven’t been successful.
Left again with four franchises in Ontario, the league had three options:
• To go with different-sized divisions, one with four Ontario entries and one in the east with six teams
• Convince the Edge to remain in the Central in order to keep two five-team divisions
• Put everyone together in one 10-team entity
They’ve gone with the latter and Edge star guard Carl English, who is also the team’s interim general manager, thinks it’s the most sensible call.
For one thing, he believes it should lead to a better playoff competition, in that the final should feature the two best teams regardless of their geographic location, not two divisional champs.
And for the Edge, whose road trips all involve a flight out of St. John’s followed by a bus tour to various cities, the change in travel won’t be as significant as perhaps it will be for other teams.
“For us, travel is travel. The way it looks, we’ll probably make three road trips to Ontario and three to the Maritimes,” said English.
But he believes the biggest winners will be Edge supporters, who only saw St. John’s play six teams at Mile One Centre last season. The Island Storm, Saint John Riptide and Cape Breton Highlanders didn’t travel here in 2017-18
“From the fans’ perspective, it’s better because they’ll get to see everyone,” said English. “If there’s a great player in KW (Kitchener-Waterloo), they’ll get to see them. If there’s a great player in Halifax, they’ll get to see them. They’ll have the chance to see everyone, and I think that’s kind of cool.
“It’s how it should be.”
With each team playing a 40-game schedule against nine opponents, the math doesn’t work as far as ensuring that every team will play the same number of games in each matchup.
“We’ll probably play two games extra against a couple of teams … something like that,” said English, who said a schedule is “really close” to being finalized.
“Right now, it looks like we’ll kick things off (on the road) around the 18th (of November) and our first home games look like they’ll be around the weekend of the 23rd.
Beside fine-tuning the schedule, English is also working on more player acquisitions.
Last week, the team signed former NBL Canada MVP Gabe Freeman and guard Drew Cushingberry, fresh off a collegiate career that saw him help Ferris State to an NCAA Division 2 title earlier this year.
“I’ve got another guy we’re going to announce that should generate a pretty big buzz,” said English.
“Let’s just say he’s huge and leave it at that.”