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Sports: Meet Newfoundland's new pro basketball team, the … Growlers? Yep, the Growlers

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From left: Canadian Elite Basketball League commissioner Mike Morreale, Memorial University president Vianne Timmons and Deacon Sports and Entertainment owner Dean McDonald announce the arrival of the Newfoundland Growlers Basketball Club on Friday. © Terry Roberts/CBC From left: Canadian Elite Basketball League commissioner Mike Morreale, Memorial University president Vianne Timmons and Deacon Sports and Entertainment owner Dean McDonald announce the arrival of the Newfoundland Growlers Basketball Club on Friday.

The owners of the Newfoundland Growlers are expanding from the hockey rink to the basketball court in 2022, launching a new team in Canadian Elite Basketball League.

The league, along with team ownership group Deacon Sports and Entertainment, announced Friday that the Newfoundland Growlers Basketball Club would be the leagues' 10th franchise, and will play at Memorial University's Field House in St. John's starting in May.

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The Canadian Elite Basketball League began play in 2019, and has become the largest professional sports league based entirely in Canada.

"I think you're going to see an amazing brand of basketball. This league is so exciting," Growlers owner Dean MacDonald said Friday.

MacDonald said the basketball team will use the same name and logo as the hockey team because Deacon has built a strong Growlers brand, and the decision will allow the organization to expand team programs and charity organizations to basketball.

"When you come into a league and you have to talk to the principals of the league about what your logo is going to be and what your brands going to be, it was about a two-minute conversation, I think," he said.

MacDonald said the team is not affiliated with the St. John's Edge of the National Basketball League of Canada, which is on hiatus after being unable to find a home to play in this year. MacDonald had tried to purchase the team, but the deal fell through.

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Meanwhile, the Newfoundland Rogues, St. John's other fledgling basketball team, will begin their season at home in the Mary Brown's Centre on Saturday.

Field house will be upgraded

League commissioner Mike Morreale said the league is thrilled to come to Newfoundland, making the league a true coast to coast experience.

"We couldn't be more excited," he said. "The players that will come grace this floor, starting in May, will be some of the best players this country has produced, with some of the best import players available to us."

He said the venue also makes the experience special due to the league's connection to the national USports program. CEBL teams are mandated to include roster spots for university players, and one Growler spot will be reserved for a graduate of MUN's basketball program.

As part of the deal to play in the field house, Deacon will pay the university's athletics department $75,000 annually to fund scholarships and athletic awards. The contract also shares revenue from food and beverage sales, according to MacDonald.

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The field house will also be upgraded to improve the basketball atmosphere, said MacDonald, who expects the team to draw around 2,500 fans per game. The use of the court will not affect the schedule of the Memorial Sea-Hawks, as the league plays in the spring and summer.

The team has a three-year contract with the university.

"The opportunity to work with the university and give back to the university through scholarships and fundraising for the sports program here is like a double bonus," MacDonald said.

"Bringing more basketball fans into our facility is a way for more members of our community to come on campus and feel that sense of ownership. This is a university of the community," said Memorial president Vianne Timmons on Friday.

The move is a big step for basketball in the province, said Sea-Hawks star Cole Long.

The St. John's native is a fifth-year player for the Sea-Hawks and was drafted into the CEBL by the Guelph Nighthawks in 2021 but missed the season with the team due to injury.

An open slot for a local player presents a tremendous opportunity, said Long, whose 21 points per game made him a Top 10 scorer in Atlantic Canada in 2020.

Memorial Sea-Hawks Centre and St. John's native Cole Long says the team's arrival presents a unique opportunity for local basketball players. © Terry Roberts/CBC Memorial Sea-Hawks Centre and St. John's native Cole Long says the team's arrival presents a unique opportunity for local basketball players.

"This is very exciting. I've always wanted to play at home, and this kind of builds more to that, keeps adding to the motivation.… I think it kind of paves a path for the next generation," he said.

"I think it's going to bring the whole sports world together and create new opportunities for everyone."

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