Vancouver NBA team could win more fans than 10 years ago, but owner would still lose money, experts say

VANCOUVER -- JAN 20 2001 -- Vancouver Grizzlies Bryant "Big Country" Reeves shoots over Kevin Garnett of the Minnesota Timberwolves. PHOTO: GERRY KAHRMANN, THE PROVINCE
VANCOUVER — JAN 20 2001 — Vancouver Grizzlies Bryant “Big Country” Reeves shoots over Kevin Garnett of the Minnesota Timberwolves. PHOTO: Gerry Kahrmann, The Province

An online petition to bring the NBA back to Vancouver has caught the attention of basketball fans, but a Toronto business expert says the idea is unrealistic.

The petition sent to Francesco Aquilini, owner of the Vancouver Canucks, and David Stern, the NBA commissioner, says the city has been “deprived of professional basketball for over 11 years,” and it’s time to bring it back. The man behind the petition, Garret Fergusson, refused to comment.

However, other basketball followers shared their opinions on Fergusson’s petition. While many of them are excited about the possibility, they all agree on one point: the franchise would need a “community-oriented owner willing to take a risk and [suffer] financial losses,” as University of Ottawa sports business professor Norman O’Reilly put it.

Richard Powers, academic director at the Rotman School of Management in Toronto, does not believe Vancouver can support an NBA team.

“The lack of head offices, the smaller population and the obvious other entertainment choices make an NBA franchise a hard sell in Vancouver. Vancouver is a great, wonderful city and they have shown that they can deliver on a sports platform – hosting the Olympics is the best example of that. And they support the Canucks and the [B.C. Lions football team].

“But to put another professional team in the city is a stretch.”

Ontario sports experts may be skeptical, but local basketball-watchers are more optimistic about the idea

Langara Falcons basketball player Matt Madewan said basketball is a lot bigger in Canada than it used to be, especially since the Grizzlies were here [1995-2001]. The NBA team moved to Memphis in 2001. “Vancouver has got some good fans. The Canucks fans around here are crazy and I think if they can get used to an NBA team, they could probably be just as good,” he said.

Paul Eberhardt, Langara Falcons head coach for the men’s basketball team, said there is a “core of diehard basketball fans that would like to see it come back.” He believes that is a highly unlikely possibility, but encourages those who signed the petition. “I would love to see it happen,” he said.

The Rogers Arena can host games and the Richmond Olympic Oval would be the perfect training facility, he added.

“Having talked to many people in the basketball community and the NBA, I think there’s a little bit of guilt about what happened in Vancouver,” Eberhardt said. “Some of the higher-ups in the NBA recognized we weren’t really given a fair shake.”

The best bet would be getting the franchise back in Seattle, he said. “At least have some presence back in the West Coast.”

To bring a team to Vancouver, a committed person with lots of money would have to buy a struggling team and move it north

Sean Shook, head organizer for PacWest men’s basketball, believes a franchise could survive but whether it would thrive is a different question.

“For sure, it would not be an expansion franchise like the first time,” he said.

An expansion team is a brand new team in a sports league, usually in a city that has not hosted a team in that league before. Two NBA cities, Sacramento and New Orleans, are struggling to hold on to their teams. Chris Hansen, a wealthy hedge fund manager, has made a bid to bring the Sacramento Kings to Seattle.

Reported by Deanna Cheng

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  1. Myorollers says

    This already happened once before in the 90’s. And they were called the Vancouver Grizzlies, and they sucked. Who knows if it will happen again, but another sports team in this market would take a lot of pressure off of Luongo and the rest of the Canucks.

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