Moncton, Sydney on PBL radar
By CHRIS COCHRANE Sports Columnist
Wed. Jun 23 - 4:54 AM
Expect Mondays announcement that the Premier Basketball League has officially landed in the Saint John, N.B., market to be only the start of a more aggressive league push into the Maritimes.
League president Andre Levingston, who is also the majority owner of the Halifax Rainmen, was impressed with the reaction at a Saint John news conference, where the long-rumoured move was made official. The new Saint John franchise is the former Manchester Millrats team and will begin play in 2011.
Levingston is clearly taking his new role as president seriously, most notably in relation to adding new teams to whats presently an eight-team league. He is hoping the PBL can further capitalize on Maritime rivalries by adding teams in Moncton and Sydney for play in two years time.
"Were definitely looking at other locations in the Maritimes for the next year (2012)," Levingston said. "We wanted to get Moncton for this (upcoming) year. Well have a pre-season game there this year. I like Moncton a lot. Ive already gone to Moncton several times and looked at the arena. I feel we could have got Moncton in this season, but I didnt want to rush it.
"I like Sydney, too. Ive got feelers out there. I know they have a beautiful arena, support hockey and its a sports town. Im definitely looking into it. Its always good (to have) a few teams in a region. It makes for better rivalries and less travel."
Since he was named president, Levingston has continued to push his belief that the league must be careful about the new franchises it approves. He said potential teams must show financial stability and have professional arenas. The message seems to be that the league wants to be done with franchises playing out of high school gyms and not having adequate funds.
He said the Maritime sites, with a history of support for minor pro and junior hockey, fit the right model.
"I would be happy with four or five franchises in the Maritimes, four or five cities that would support pro basketball and create great rivalries. I would like to see some of the hockey owners own professional basketball teams. Thats a model I really like."
The Maritimes isnt the only hot spot on the PBL radar these days as Levingston continues to talk with possible new teams for next season. Levingston was flying to Puerto Rico on Tuesday for discussions with the Baloncesto Superior Nacional president about having as many as four teams join the PBL.
Puerto Rico may seem like an unlikely place for the PBL to encourage expansion, given that last season the PBLs lone Puerto Rican entry, the Capitanes, had a bitter late-season dispute with the league. But the other side of the coin is that teams from that region are stacked with talent and play exciting basketball.
Levingston believes a more official arrangement with the BSN might help create a better relationship with any Puerto Rican teams that join the PBL.
Given the two hot spots for expansion the Maritimes and Puerto Rico I like the new franchise in Saint John and the potential in Moncton and Sydney as the safer bets. A second Puerto Rican experiment would need plenty of guarantees before it meets Levingstons requirement of adding to PBL stability.
Moncton adds one more team to the Canadian mix and makes a Canadian league a more viable option.
I also have extremely mixed feelings about the BSN thing. The league would need to move its schedule back to starting in December (probably not a bad thing) and get some firm commitments from both the BSN as a league and individual teams participating. At the end of the day I am just not sure if the PBL can offer enough to these PR teams to make it worth their while.
- South Coast United (Fall River) is not in PBL today (probably never will be.)
- July 1 is the deadline for new teams to commit for the upcoming season.
- Levingston says the PBL Currently has six teams. I think presumably are Halifax, Rochester, Lawton, Quebec, Saint John and Vermont? although South Coast United owner Mike Martin says it may actually be four.
- ... And he was spending time in Puerto Rico "trying to put together the deal to have several teams here."
Halifax Rainmen - Halifax, Nova Scotia
Lawton-Fort Sill Cavalry - Lawton, Oklahoma
Saint John Millrats - Saint John, New Brunswick
Quebec City Kebs - Quebec City, Quebec
Rochester RazorSharks - Rochester, New York
Vermont Frost Heaves - Burlington, Vermont¿?
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The proposed South Coast United expansion team based in Fall River (MA) is apparently on hold. The league previously dropped the Buffalo Stampede, while the Maryland GreenHawks franchise is not expected to return. The Vermont Frost Heaves have been given until August 1 to raise funds for the 2011 season. The PBL is talking with the Puerto Rican basketball league known as Baloncesto Superior Nacional about possibly four BSN teams joining the PBL. The Puerto Rico (Arecibo) Capitanes, which played in the 2010 PBL, is also a member of the BSN.