“We could call them the T. Rexes”: Toronto WNBA fans explain why they want a team of their own
On Saturday, Scotiabank Arena hosted Canada’s first-ever WNBA match. These fans want women’s basketball to have a permanent home in the north
Amid rumours that the Women’s National Basketball Association is looking into a northern league expansion, Toronto is out to prove that it’s prime real estate for a team—and Saturday’s pre-season game at Scotiabank Arena had all the hallmarks of a successful tryout. The sold-out match between the Minnesota Lynxes and the Chicago Skies was the first WNBA game ever hosted in Canada and only the third played outside the US. It was a nail-biter, with Chicago clinching an 82-to-74 victory in the last few minutes. Meanwhile, the crowd that packed the stadium was eager to make the most of this rare opportunity to show that Toronto basketball enthusiasts can handle more than just the Raptors. Before tip-off, we asked fans about the rising popularity of women’s sports, whether they think the city could sustain a WNBA expansion and what they’d suggest for a new team name.
University of Alberta basketball players Morgan Harris, 20; Jenna Karish, 20; and Reece Hall, 18
You’re all from the University of Alberta team. That’s quite a commute.
Jenna: USports, the governing body for university sports, sent us out to watch. The whole team is here to represent Western Canada.
Are you excited to see the match?
Jenna: Yes—this is a big step for women in sports, especially in Canada. Since we don’t have a WNBA team here yet, maybe it’ll inspire people to actually make it happen.
What would you call a Toronto team?
Reece: Definitely something that starts with a T. Maybe the Toronto T. Rexes.
Morgan: They could also be the Toronto Triceratops or the Toronto Pterodactyls. But, on second thought, maybe it should be something not related to dinosaurs—that way they won’t get compared to the Raptors.
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Malcolm Richards, 31, customer service representative
Do you think Toronto could sustain its own women’s team?
Absolutely, just based on population alone. Other, smaller cities are already hosting teams. It’s just a matter of getting it set up.
If you could pick any player to be on it, who would it be?
Brittney Griner, of course. She’s the biggest superstar. She would draw the most people in, and she’d be the best player. I think she’d be happier in Canada too.
Who are you cheering for today?
I’m just hoping for a fun, exciting game—that’s all anyone really wants. Especially in the pre-season, it doesn’t matter who wins or loses. If they go out and test their skills, everyone will have a good time.
Joyce Slipp, 73, retired coach and national player
Did you used to play basketball yourself?
I did. In 1976, the very first year the Olympics had a women’s basketball event, I was the captain of Canada’s team. I’m retired now, but I also used to coach.
How much has the women’s basketball scene changed since you played?
There was never anything on TV back then—you’d never get to watch women’s basketball or any women’s sports for that matter. I’m a firm believer in having to see it to believe it. You’ve got to see women playing, officiating and commentating in order to dream of something like this. We had none of that, no female role models. We were the guinea pigs. So it’s nice to see how much it’s grown.
Why do you think so many people came to the game today?
They’ve been putting women’s basketball on radio and broadcast more, so more people are following it—the numbers are out of the park. They’ve also got a varsity league here in Toronto, the HoopQueens, and we have a league in the Maritimes, where I’m from. Its popularity in general is skyrocketing. I think, for that reason, a WNBA team here would really work.
Jessica Carrera, 29, student
Do you think Toronto should have a WNBA team?
Yes. Women athletes are getting more appreciation, and I love that so many fans these days support everyone. Women getting an opportunity that men have had for a long time is great. That’s why we’re all here.
What would you call the team?
The Toronto Strength. And their mascot would be—maybe a goose? Even if we called them the Toronto Geese, that could be something. Geese are scary. I wouldn’t go near them.
Zoha Naghar, 19, student
Why did you come to the game today?
I love basketball, and I love this city. It’s a historic day and a chance to prove that there’s interest in seeing women play and show the league that we want a team of our own. We’re seeing a lot of advancement in terms of equality for women. But we haven’t yet seen what I’m sure is one of the most wanted teams in the city, in the country even. It’s common sense to have one—and based on the turnout today, there’s clearly demand for it.
Is there another women’s sport you’d like to see expand into Toronto?
Soccer is a big one—and that’s happening, luckily, with the Project 8 league that’s coming to Canada. So there’s a little more representation there, which is exciting.
Transway Girls Basketball players Alyna Cortes, 12; Maddy Labuckas, 13; Lucy Aire, 14; Naomi Stanley, 13; and Maliya Gooding, 14
Why did you come to the game today?
Lucy: There’s a lot of boys’ basketball but way less for girls. It gives us athletes to look up to.
Do you have any favourite players in the league?
Lucy: Kia Nurse, who plays for the Seattle Storm, is from our club, so definitely her. She’s from Hamilton. Fourteen years ago, she was on the exact same team we play for.
Jas Woods, retiree, and Jesse Kambakos, 23, Scouts leader
Who are you rooting for today?
Jas: The Lynxes, no question. They have two Canadian players, Natalie Achonwa and Bridget Carleton. Natalie’s a Torontonian, and Bridget is from the GTA.
Would you rather see them on a Toronto team, if we get one?
Jesse: For sure. They’d bring a lot of hype.
Jas: We should just bring back all the Canadians playing the US and have them here instead.
Amanda Kassaday, 12, competitive girls’ basketball player
Do you think Toronto should have a women’s team?
Yes. It would be really inspiring for girls who play basketball. It’s cool to see women playing and know that there are equal opportunities for us.
Do you have any favourite players?
I like Angel Reese. She’s not on either of the teams playing today; she’s an NCAA player. But she’s good.
Would you want her on a Toronto team, if we get one?
Yes! But maybe that’s kind of a long shot.
These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.