A sold-out crowd of nearly 20,000 people showed up and showed out at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto for the preseason matchup between the Chicago Sky and the Minnesota Lynx. Not only did they witness the best of the women’s game with the Sky coming away victorious 82-74, but they latched on to the moment, hoping for greater possibilities between the WNBA and Canada.
Specifically, the hope for an official WNBA team north of the border.
The league is entering its 27th season with 12 teams in total and 144 roster spots. At the moment, very good players are being waived and most likely looking to go overseas for paid professional opportunities. As a result, many players and fans are advocating for expansion.
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert stated that Toronto is on the short list of 10 potential cities the league is looking at for expansion. When a new team will come to be remains to be seen, but when looking at the landscape of Toronto, it would be an ideal location.
Toronto is a great sports city with the Blue Jays in MLB, the Maple Leafs in the NHL and of course the Raptors in the NBA.
The Raptors have produced some of the best fans in all of sports, in part because of the fact that they are so far the only professional basketball team in Canada. The city was in a state of complete euphoria when the Raptors won their first NBA title in 2019. Even with some seasons of struggle before and since, they have remained loyal.
Hip hop artist Drake and renowned businessman Nav Bhatia are two of the most notable faces in the crowd at seemingly every game. Bhatia was in attendance on Saturday wearing an orange WNBA shirt and spoke of his desire to have a team in Toronto.
When it comes to values, the city and the league are a match made in heaven. Both share progressive views on issues of race, gender and culture. Also, Toronto is a city that is known for its diverse population.
According to the Study Abroad Foundation, over 250 ethnicities are represented in Toronto, and over 180 different languages are spoken. The Raptors fans have their “We The North” campaign, which fosters a sense of community.
The WNBA continuously gets high marks on a yearly report card conducted by the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport when it comes to racial and gender diversity in hiring practices.
A team in Toronto will only add to that emphasis on inclusion, not to mention bring in a rich pool of high-caliber talent from not just the United States, but obviously Canada and other parts of the world where some WNBA players typically go during the offseason.
As the push towards expansion intensifies, the smart thing to do would be to look at the success of Toronto and use it as momentum. It is in everybody’s best interest and will demonstrate what many have been saying for a while and what the numbers show: that there are monetary and personal gains to be had in women’s sports.