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CEBL confirms July restart with tournament in St. Catharines

The Canadian Elite Basketball League is set to become the first professional league in Canada to return to play following the COVID-19 outbreak.

On Thursday, CEBL commissioner Mike Morreale told CBC Sports the league has finalized plans to play a month-long tournament at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines, Ont., starting July 15.

“The CEBL has been at the forefront of the return-to-play efforts by major sports leagues across Canada, and we’re ecstatic at the prospect of being able to return live professional sports to Canadians,” Morreale said.

All seven teams will play a round-robin competition — featuring 26 games — that will lead into a single elimination playoff, followed by the championship game on Aug. 9.

Morrealle said it’s been a long journey navigating a safe return for the league and its players, but he is confident in the plans they’ve put in place. 

“After exhausting all contingencies to get our teams back on the court this summer, a single-site competition, closed to fans but with all games available for free to viewers across the country and internationally, will enable us to again showcase the players who help make Canada the second-leading producer of pro basketball talent in the world,” Morreale said. 

Watch games live on CBC platforms

As the media partner of the CEBL, CBC Sports will offer live streams of every game to audiences across Canada via the free CBC Gem streaming service, and the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices. 

CBC will also provide broadcast coverage of select games, with details to be revealed in the coming weeks. The CEBL and CBC announced a three-year partnership on November 26, 2019 that includes broadcast and streaming coverage each season. 

The seven teams from Ottawa, Hamilton, Guelph, Edmonton, Saskatchewan (Saskatoon), and Fraser Valley (Abbotsford) will be joining the hometown Niagara River Lions on July 15 for the opening of each team’s training camp — teams will get 10 days for training camp. 

All seven teams will stay in a bubble-like setting in St. Catharines, playing games at the Meridian Centre and practising at a nearby facility. League officials said players, coaches and personnel will be separated from the general public and strict screening and COVID-19 protocols will be adhered to under the supervision of medical officials.

The league also said extensive health and safety measures will be maintained for the participants, including social distancing and other specialized practices designed to limit interactions amongst participants. 

The 2020 CEBL season was meant to start in early May but has been sidelined due to the pandemic. The Saskatchewan Rattlers won the inaugural title last season.

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