The National Basketball League of Canada is a professional men’s minor league basketball organization based in Canada. Three current Premier Basketball League teams and four new clubs merged to establish the NBL Canada for the 2011–12 season. The league’s strength has varied numerous times and currently includes four active clubs for the 2023 season, all in Ontario, although it has previously had several in the Atlantic provinces. The season of the league usually begins in November and finishes in April of the following year. The London Lightning are the most recent winners, having defeated the Windsor Express 3-2 in the 2023 NBL Finals.
Throughout its history, the NBLC has had multiple teams. The following are some of the teams who have competed in the league:
- London Lightning
- Halifax Hurricanes
- Windsor Express
- Sudbury Five
- Halifax Hurricanes
- Island Storm
- Moncton Magic
- Halifax Rainmen
- St. John’s Edge
- St. John Riptide
- Moncton Miracles
- Ottawa SkyHawks
- Mississauga Power
A domestic basketball minor league in Canada was brought up in mid-2011. The Halifax Rainmen, Quebec Kebs, and Saint John Mill Rats were the first Premier Basketball League (PBL) franchises to join the National Basketball League of Canada (NBL). The clubs were dissatisfied with the officiating in the PBL. On May 12, league CEO Andre Levingston held a news conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to announce the formation of the NBL Canada. By the conclusion of the summer, the London Lightning, Moncton Miracles, Oshawa Power, and Summerside Storm had all stated their intentions to join the league. There had also been failed efforts to form teams in Fredericton, New Brunswick, and Kingston, Ontario.
The NBL’s first commissioner was John Kennedy, a Windsor native, and Los Angeles-based sports businessman. He formerly worked for the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers. “We needed to be certain that we had somebody who was going to be devoted and prepared to work hard, someone who knew the business had business relationships, and a person who was going to govern the league the right way,” league president Andre Levingston said of the commissioner.
League changes (2013–2019)
In the 2013–14 season, the league expanded to nine clubs with the addition of the Brampton A’s and Ottawa Skyhawks, while the Montreal Jazz went out of business. Oshawa Power moved to Mississauga, while Summerside moved to Charlottetown to become the Island Storm. Two teams relocated inside their respective territories. The next season, there were eight clubs instead of nine since Ottawa did not meet league criteria and did not pay back a debt to the league.
The league and beIN Sports established their first national broadcast partnership before the 2014–15 season. Two regular season games were slated to be broadcast each week beginning with the 2014–15 season, with additional coverage for playoffs and special occasions like the All-Star Weekend. The agreement covered the 2016–17 campaign.
The 2014–15 season came to a contentious conclusion: the Windsor Express were crowned champions when the Halifax Rainmen refused to show up for the decisive seventh game. Following a violent fight with the Express earlier in the day, the Rainmen organization stated that their players’ lack of participation in the game that evening was due to their concern for their safety. The league penalized the Rainmen and its players, and the team finally declared bankruptcy and disbanded. In place of the Rainmen for the next 2015–16 season were the Halifax Hurricanes. In their inaugural season, the newly formed Halifax squad returned to the championship game and won it by defeating the London Lightning. The Cape Breton Highlanders and KW Titans brought the league’s total number of teams to 10 for the 2016–17 year. Following the Miracles and A’s dissolving and the acquisition of the Moncton Magic and St. John’s Edge in the Maritimes, the league maintained 10 clubs for the 2017–18 season. the Edge to compete as a member of the Central Division after the league was forced to delay the creation of a Greater Sudbury franchise, leaving the league with four teams in Ontario and six in the Maritimes. The Lightning, who had already won four of the previous seven championships, won the title in each of those seasons. After their delayed debut, the Sudbury Five joined the NBL Canada in Northern Ontario for the 2018–19 season. The Niagara River Lions, who joined up with the rival Canadian Elite Basketball League to form it, caused the league to lose another Ontario club. St. John’s once more competed in the Central Division, although usually faced opponents from the Atlantic Division.
Pandemic and contraction (2019–present)
As their owners attempted to sell the clubs and the league shrunk to eight teams, the league granted the Cape Breton Highlanders and Saint John Riptide dormancy before the 2019–20 season. The COVID-19 epidemic during the season led to the suspension of play on March 12, 2020. As a result of the pandemic closing arenas and restricting travel, the season was ultimately called off. As the epidemic persisted into 2021, the league initially postponed the start of the 2020–21 campaign. The NBL Canada stated there will be no 2020–21 season on March 4, 2021. During the hiatus, the Halifax Hurricanes and Moncton Magic withdrew from the league while St. John’s Edge was not granted a new lease for their arena. To fill the schedule, the league decided to play inter-league series with the US-based The Basketball League (TBL), which is run by former NBLC commissioner David Magley and his wife Evelyn. The Island Storm withdrew from the campaign since it was the only Maritimes member team ready to compete in 2021–2022. The London Lightning, KW Titans, and Sudbury Five, three of the four NBLC Teams, will join the Basketball Super League, a new TBL spin-off league, for its debut 2023–2024 season, it was announced on May 11, 2023.