Pro basketball is back in the Maritimes with the tip-off of the Eastern Canadian Basketball League.
The league comprises six teams spread throughout Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.
In Saint John, the Union kicked off their inaugural season against the Bathurst Bears Friday night with a 98-85 decision in front of nearly two-thousand fans.
The region has been without a league since the National Basketball League of Canada (NBL) left Atlantic Canadian cities nearly three years ago.
According to their head coach, the team came together at the last minute to pull together a win. He said the team dawned the hardwood just 24 hours before, practicing together for the first time.
“One player, Kamall Richards, just got off the plane today (Friday) at noon,” said Saint John Union head coach Rob Spon after their home opener.
“The other two guys came in yesterday, flew 12 hours, so I wasn’t expecting this.”
He said that even a week ago, it was hard to imagine a team playing at the TD Station.
That team on the court was partly helped by those from the Maritimes, where a percentage of players have to either go to school or be from the region. The team is hoping that those players can be a shining light on the league.
Randy Loatman, the team’s operations manager, told Global News that having those Maritimers on the team is what will make the league more successful than some of the other leagues that have come through Atlantic Canada.
Lotman was a player at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John and said being part of a league that opens up to Maritimers has been a goal of his. He said after seeing the talent at New Brunswick universities and a league without those requirements, he wanted to ensure his team had those players.
“I know the talent that I played with,” he said at Friday’s game. “If only we had this league when I played.”
He said the high school talent alone is enough to make the ECBL a competitive league.
Some of those high school kids were paid a visit by players throughout the week as the team looked to the community. The team hopes to work with high school kids throughout the region to help them grow their careers.
Loatman said the league would be a place for basketball students after post-secondary schooling.