The WNBA announced on Wednesday that a WNBA Canada game will be played on Saturday, May 13 in Toronto, the first-ever league preseason game north of the U.S. border.
Minnesota, which has two Canadian natives—Natalie Achonwa and Bridget Carleton—on its roster, will play Chicago, which won the 2021 WNBA championship and features three former Finals MVPs, Kahleah Copper, Candace Parker, and Emma Meesseman.
Two previous WNBA preseason games have been played outside the United States: Detroit (now Dallas) played San Antonio (now Las Vegas) in Monterrey, Mexico in 2004, and Atlanta played the Britain women’s basketball team in Manchester, England in 2011.
“We are looking forward to participating in this historic game for the WNBA,” said Minnesota Head Coach and Basketball Operations President Cheryl Reeve in a released statement. She was on the Detroit coaching staff at the 2004 preseason exhibition in Mexico. “I am pleased our team will be a part of continuing to pave the path for the WNBA by bringing our game to Canada,” noted the Lynx coach.
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert told reporters during a Zoom media call how important it is to hold the May preseason game in Canada.
“We were about to announce having a game in Canada in March of 2020” but COVID shut down all sports, recalled Engelbert. At the time, Minnesota and Chicago were selected to play in that game, she added.
“Obviously, we love to have a team that has Canadian players on it, which Minnesota does with Natalie and with Bridget,” the commissioner pointed out. Furthermore, with the Sky’s star power—they were 2022 WNBA Commissioner’s Cup runners-up, and the Lynx’s storied franchise history (four W championships from 2011 through 2017)— “this seemed to be a great matchup,” noted Engelbert.
Canada has a huge fan base as well, which Engelbert stressed as another reason to stage the game in Toronto, which also has an NBA and MLB club located there. “We’ve seen record WNBA viewership over the last two seasons,” she reported. “I’m told we have over five million WNBA fans in the country. So we’re excited to bring a boon to those fans … globalizing the WNBA game has been a key pillar of how we’re trying to grow the league.”
League games also have been available for Canadian fans through streaming services, NBA TV, and Sportsnet among other media sources said Engelbert. “We’re broadening the exposure of the game, not only in Canada but around the world. I think women’s basketball is so becoming so popular around the globe.
“We’re just excited to see the passion for the game in Canada,” said Engelbert, who stressed that the May 13 game also can serve as a measurement source to assess the popularity of the sport in Canada.
“We’re really excited to do this to see what the support is,” she concluded. “I know that this market is hugely into women’s sports.”
Ticket information and the start time for the WNBA Canada Game will be announced in the near future. The game also will be broadcast live in Canada on Sportsnet and TSN, and available to U.S. fans on WNBA League Pass.
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