Toronto will host first-ever WNBA game

January 20, 2023
On Wednesday, the league announced a preseason game between the Chicago Sky and Minnesota Lynx at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena on May 13th that may serve as a bellwether for the city’s expansion credentials.
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SOURCE: DAVID BERDING/GETTY IMAGES
SOURCE: DAVID BERDING/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: The WNBA’s first-ever Canada game is officially hitting the court. On Wednesday, the league announced a preseason game between the Chicago Sky and Minnesota Lynx at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena on May 13th that may serve as a bellwether for the city’s expansion credentials.

The details: NBA Canada and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) — owner of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and Scotiabank Arena — will partner with the WNBA to host the inaugural event. MLSE will also help promote the game, while Sportsnet and TSN will air the matchup across Canada, and WNBA League Pass will carry the game stateside.

  • This marks the WNBA’s first international game since a 2011 preseason U.K. trip and finally fulfills a years-old intention — the league scrapped plans for a 2020 Canadian preseason game due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The expansion angle: Though the league remains tight-lipped as it vets 10 prospective ownership groups, commissioner Cathy Engelbert did confirm the 6ix is in the mix. This preseason trip represents a major test for Toronto as it competes for a new WNBA franchise.

  • Engelbert acknowledged as much: “This is a way to assess the popularity of the sport in Canada. We’re certainly excited to see how the market responds and certainly the fans in the country from a viewership perspective as well.” Same.

Zooming out: Toronto will likely be the only expansion candidate able to bolster its case with a standalone event, a huge advantage as it competes against other cities with minimal women’s sports experience to back up their candidacy. Of the markets listed in a report last year, only Portland currently hosts a women’s sports team.

  • The NBA’s lone Canadian city also already has major basketball creds. A marketing refresh before the Raptors’ 2019 championship win turned the franchise into a business success story, and fans continue to put their money where their mouths are.
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