National Basketball League of Canada

United States 2013–14 NBL Canada season 2011–12 NBL Canada season
National Basketball League of Canada (NBL Canada)
Ligue nationale de basketball du Canada
Current season, competition or edition:
Current sports event 2019–20 NBL Canada season
Logo NBL Canada
Inaugural season2011–12
CEODante Lerra
PresidentMark Lever[1]
No. of teams8
Country Canada
ContinentFIBA Americas (Americas)
Most recent
Moncton Magic (1st title)
Most titlesLondon Lightning (4 titles)

The National Basketball League of Canada (NBL Canada; French: Ligue nationale de basketball du Canada) is a Canadian professional men's basketball league. The NBL was founded in 2011, when three teams formerly of the Premier Basketball League joined with four new franchises to form the NBL's "Original Seven". The league has changed in size multiple times and currently has eight teams; four located in the Atlantic provinces and four in Ontario. The most recent champions are the Moncton Magic, having defeated the St. John's Edge 4–0 in the 2019 NBL Finals. The league's season begins in November and ends in April of the following year.



In mid-2011, discussion began of a domestic basketball minor league in Canada. Three franchises from the Premier Basketball League (PBL), the Halifax Rainmen, Quebec Kebs, and Saint John Mill Rats were the first to join the National Basketball League of Canada (NBL).[2] The teams had been unhappy with the officiating in the PBL.[3] On May 12 of that year in Halifax, Nova Scotia, league CEO Andre Levingston held a press conference regarding the creation of the NBL Canada.[4] By the end of the summer, the London Lightning, Moncton Miracles, Oshawa Power, and Summerside Storm were established and had announced that they would join the league.[5][6][7][8] There had also been unsuccessful attempts to start up teams in Fredericton, New Brunswick and Kingston, Ontario.[9][10][11]

The Halifax Rainmen (pictured in 2008) chose to partake in the NBL Canada due to the poor quality of the PBL.

John Kennedy, a native of Windsor and a sports executive based in Los Angeles, was named the first commissioner of the NBL. He previously had experience working with the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). League president Andre Levingston spoke on his expectations of the commissioner, saying, "We wanted to make sure we had a person who was going to be committed and was willing to roll up his sleeves and work very hard, someone who understood business, had business relationship and a person who was going to govern the league the right way."[12]

In June 2011, the league finalized rules for its first season.[13] There would be seven teams, four of which qualified for the playoffs, and no divisions.[14] It would follow FIBA rules and each team would play 36 games in the regular season. Team rosters could contain 10–12 players, at least two of them Canadian, and they had a salary cap of $150,000 Canadian.[13] Players could earn potentially $70,000 in one season, and each game would draw an average of 3,000 fans, varying by location.[15] Levingston envisioned the NBL Canada as a more stable alternative to other North American minor basketball leagues with players living close to home while playing professionally.[15]

The NBL Canada held its first draft on August 21, 2011, at Rogers Centre. The Power selected Morgan Lewis of the University of Findlay with the first overall pick.[16] Jerome Brown, who was picked fifth overall by the Mill Rats, was the first Canadian to be taken in the draft.[17] The event was viewed by more than 6,000 people online from 93 countries.[14] 180 players from across the world attended the preceding NBL Canada combine.[18]

First seasons

The first player to be signed into the NBL Canada was Canadian Yannick Anzuluni, who joined the Kebs on a three-year contract on August 17, 2011.[19] On October 29, in the first game of the NBL Canada's inaugural 2011–12 NBL Canada season, the Kebs defeated the Miracles at the Colisée de Laval.[20] Within a week, every team in the league had played at least one game.[21] The NBL Canada's opening season brought in marquee players such as Gabe Freeman, Anthony Anderson, and Lawrence Wright.[14] Amid the 2011 NBA lockout, six players with past experience in the National Basketball Association (NBA), including Eddie Robinson and Rodney Buford, joined the NBL Canada.[14][15]

Progression of expansion
Season No. of teams
2011–12 7
2012–13 8
2013–14 9
2014–15 8
2016–17 10
2019–20 8

The London Lightning, coached by Micheal Ray Richardson, soon emerged as the top team in the league, going 28–8 by end of the regular season, which lasted until March 4, 2012. The team defeated the Halifax Rainmen, 3–2, in the best-of-five NBL Canada Finals series to claim the championship.[22] They drew a league-high 5,106 fans to the John Labbatt Centre for the game.[14][22] Following the NBL Canada's inaugural year, Canadian sports analyst Alex Walling claimed it was a success, commenting, "The NBL could hold its head up high. It has been a great season and they've gained a great deal of creditability. They've earned the kudos."[23] Levingston touted the league because it "played a full schedule on every set date and never had a problem."[23] Shortly after the season, in April, the NBL Canada held its first All-Star Game at Halifax Metro Centre.[14]

For its second season, the team salary cap remained at $150,000, with the possibility of an increase in the future. The NBL Canada also considered several cities in The Maritimes, Ontario, and Quebec, including Sydney, Nova Scotia.[24] The league soon welcomed the Windsor Express after an ownership group from Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, led by Dartis Willis, Sr., began investing in the expansion team in June 2012.[25][26] The team, which was approved into the league in late July, would play out of WFCU Centre.[26][27] On the other hand, the Quebec Kebs, who had relocated to Laval, Quebec in the offseason, left the league after experiencing challenges in their first year.[28] By November, the Kebs were replaced with the Montreal Jazz, who would compete at Centre Pierre Charbonneau.[29]

In the 2012–13 season, the league consisted of eight teams separated into divisions: four teams competed in the Atlantic Division, while the remaining four competed in the Central Division.[30][31]

Following the 2013–14, the league announced its first national broadcast deal with beIN Sports. Starting with the 2014–15 season, 2 regular season games will be aired each week with special coverage for playoffs and special events such as the All Star Weekend. The deal runs through the 2016–17 season.[32]

The 2014–15 NBL season ended in controversy as the Windsor Express were declared winners of the championship series after the Halifax Rainmen failed to show for the seventh and deciding game. The Rainmen organization claimed that their players feared for their safety following a physical altercation earlier in the day with the Express, as the reason for not appearing in the game that night.[33]


National Basketball League of Canada is located in Canada
St. John's
St. John's
2019–20 NBL teams

Current teams

Team City Arena Capacity Founded Joined Head coach
Atlantic Division
Halifax Hurricanes Halifax, Nova Scotia Scotiabank Centre 11,093 2015 Ryan Marchand
Island Storm Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island Eastlink Centre 3,717 2011* Tim Kendrick
Moncton Magic Moncton, New Brunswick Avenir Centre 8,800 2017 Joe Salerno
St. John's Edge St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador Mile One Centre 4,800 2017 Steven Marcus
Central Division
KW Titans Kitchener, Ontario Kitchener Memorial Auditorium 7,312 2016 Cavell Johnson
London Lightning London, Ontario Budweiser Gardens 9,046 2011 Doug Plumb
Sudbury Five Greater Sudbury, Ontario Sudbury Community Arena 4,640[34] 2017 2018[35] Logan Stutz
Windsor Express Windsor, Ontario WFCU Centre 7,000 2012 Bill Jones
  1. An asterisk (*) denotes a franchise move. See the respective team articles for more information.

Former teams

Timeline of teams

Sudbury FiveSt. John's EdgeMoncton MagicKW TitansCape Breton Highlanders (basketball)Halifax HurricanesNiagara River LionsOttawa SkyHawksOrangeville A'sBrampton A'sWindsor ExpressMontreal JazzQuebec KebsIsland StormSummerside StormMississauga PowerOshawa PowerSaint John RiptideMoncton MiraclesLondon LightningHalifax Rainmen


Season Champion Finalist
2011–12 London Lightning Halifax Rainmen
2012–13 London Lightning Summerside Storm
2013–14 Windsor Express Island Storm
2014–15 Windsor Express Halifax Rainmen
2015–16 Halifax Hurricanes London Lightning
2016–17 London Lightning Halifax Hurricanes
2017–18 London Lightning Halifax Hurricanes
2018–19 Moncton Magic St. John's Edge
2019–20 Not awarded due to COVID-19 pandemic

The London Lightning have the most championships with four wins, the Windsor Express are second with two wins. The Halifax Hurricanes appeared in the finals in each of their first three seasons, winning in their first appearance. The Halifax Rainmen and the Island Storm have appeared in two league finals failing to win the trophy. The KW Titans and the Sudbury Five are the only active teams yet to reach the finals.

Teams Win Loss Total Year(s) won Year(s) lost
London Lightning 4 1 5 2012, 2013, 2017, 2018 2016
Windsor Express 2 0 2 2014, 2015
Halifax Hurricanes 1 2 3 2016 2017, 2018
Moncton Magic 1 0 1 2019
Halifax Rainmen 0 2 2 2012, 2015
Summerside/Island Storm 0 2 2 2013, 2014
St. John's Edge 0 1 1 2019

Player records

Statistics below are for all-time leaders at the end of the 2017–18 regular season only.


The NBL Canada annually announces the winners of eight awards. Players can be named Most Valuable Player, Canadian of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year. The league also awards the Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year.[40] In addition, the top player in the NBL Canada Finals wins Finals Most Valuable Player.[41] After the 2015–16 season, the league started announcing Commissioner's Awards to groups that helped support it, including ownership groups, teams, and referees. These awards were first handed out by Dave Magley.[42]

Until the 2013–14 season, the NBL Canada held All-Star Weekend every year. In the 2012 game, players Joey Haywood and Eddie Smith chose each team through a fantasy draft.[43] The best performer in the game was named All-Star Game Most Valuable Player.[44] Starting with the next All-Star game, the league began matching top players from the Central Division with those from the Atlantic Division.[45] At least three Canadian players were required on each team.[46] The NBL Canada discontinued the event after the 2014 game.[14]

List of commissioners

The commissioner of the NBL Canada is the league's chief executive and is elected by the board of directors and[47] a group of representatives from each team.[48]

Commissioner Years Notes
John Kennedy 2011–2012 Resigned after the inaugural season due to a family emergency.[49]
Paul Riley 2013–2015 Stint ceased following the 2015 NBL Canada Finals controversy.[50]
Dave Magley 2015–2017 Oversaw the investigation of the 2015 NBL Finals.

See also


  1. ^ "NBL guarantees a team in Niagara Region". The London Free Press. 19 June 2018.
  2. ^ Grange, Michael (May 14, 2011). "A league of our own?". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  3. ^ "Rainmen, Mill Rats ditch Premier Basketball League". Global News. April 19, 2011. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  4. ^ Sbiet, Tariq (August 22, 2011). "National Basketball League of Canada Comes To Life! Dreams Come True for Many Young Stars". Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  5. ^ "NBL: Does Moncton believe in Miracles?". Journal Pioneer. August 24, 2011. Archived from the original on May 11, 2017. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  6. ^ "Oshawa Power's the name, basketball's the game". August 19, 2011. Retrieved August 19, 2011.
  7. ^ Taber, Jane (November 2, 2012). "PEI's unlikely hotbed of pro basketball". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  8. ^ Dalla Costa, Morris (August 22, 2011). "New basketball era dawns". The London Free Press. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  9. ^ Edmiston, Jake (June 4, 2011). "Talks become more serious". Kingston Whig-Standard. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  10. ^ Drost, Philip. "Can Fredericton host an NBL team?". The Aquinian. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  11. ^ Kirkpatrick, Harvey (July 5, 2011). "Kingston Bows out of NBL". Kingstonist. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  12. ^ "National Basketball League names John Kennedy commissioner". Toronto Star. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  13. ^ a b Wuest, Matthew (June 30, 2011). "NBL Canada finalizes league rules". Metro News. Retrieved February 13, 2017.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g "NBL Canada 2016-17 Preseason Guide" (PDF). NBL Canada. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  15. ^ a b c Barrs, Rory (November 30, 2011). "Eddie Robinson hopes play with Halifax Rainmen leads him back to NBA". National Post. Retrieved February 13, 2017.
  16. ^ Kleps, Kevin (August 21, 2011). "Pro basketball: Harvey grad Morgan Lewis is drafted first overall in Canadian League". The News Herald. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  17. ^ Smith, Doug (August 21, 2011). "Brown returns home as top Canadian in NBL draft". Toronto Star. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  18. ^ "180 attend NBL combine in lead up to Sunday's draft". CBC. August 20, 2011. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  19. ^ "Canadian Yannick Anzuluni First Player Signed Into NBL of Canada". August 17, 2011. Retrieved February 13, 2017.
  20. ^ "Moncton Miracles 97, Laval Kebs 102". RealGM. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  21. ^ Gay, Carlan. "First Ever NBL Power Rankings Released!". Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  22. ^ a b Cochrane, Chris (March 26, 2012). "Lightning deserving NBL champions". The Chronicle Herald. Retrieved February 13, 2017.
  23. ^ a b Walling, Alex (March 26, 2012). "Walling: National Basketball League A Success In First Year". TSN. Retrieved February 13, 2017.
  24. ^ Sager, Neate (March 27, 2012). "National Basketball League of Canada's lack of stumbles make Year 1 a success". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  25. ^ "Pro basketball can work in Windsor, say some insiders". CBC. June 29, 2012. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  26. ^ a b Schmidt, Doug (July 25, 2012). "Pro hoops coming to Windsor". Windsor Star. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  27. ^ Schmidt, Doug (July 30, 2012). "Is it a train? No, it's Windsor's pro basketball team". Windsor Star. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  28. ^ Freeman, Brian (October 27, 2012). "NBL heading to Montreal". The Chronicle Herald. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  29. ^ "Montreal gets a new basketball team". CTV News. November 1, 2012. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  30. ^ "NBL Canada - A Truly Canadian League". NBL Canada. June 17, 2013. Retrieved February 16, 2017.
  31. ^ Dalla Costa, Morris (August 5, 2013). "Montreal Jazz decision sends message of failure". The London Free Press. Retrieved February 16, 2017.
  32. ^ "NBL Canada lands historic deal". 2014-04-23. Archived from the original on 2014-04-24. Retrieved 2014-04-23.
  33. ^
  34. ^ "Welcome to The Five". Sudbury Star. Retrieved 2018-05-24.
  35. ^ "Sudbury Expansion team to start fall of 2018". NBLC. 1 August 2017. Archived from the original on 3 August 2017. Retrieved 3 August 2017.
  36. ^ a b "NBLC Grants Riptide & Highlanders One-Year Sabbatical". OurSports Central. August 30, 2019.
  37. ^ "Halifax Rainmen file for bankruptcy". Global News. 2015-07-06.
  38. ^ "Professional basketball returning to Halifax for 2015-16 NBLC season with local ownership" (PDF). Halifax Hurricanes. 2015-09-03. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-11-23. Retrieved 2015-10-20.
  39. ^ "Magic retires Miracles: Moncton welcomes new pro basketball team". Retrieved 2017-06-23.
  40. ^ "NBL Canada Announces Postseason Awards For The 2015-2016 Season". NBL Canada. May 6, 2016. Archived from the original on May 10, 2016. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  41. ^ "Hurricanes Win NBL Canada Championship". Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  42. ^ "NBL Canada Announces First Annual Commissioner's Awards". NBL Canada. May 16, 2016. Archived from the original on February 14, 2017. Retrieved February 13, 2017.
  43. ^ "Haywood, Smith NBL all-star team captains". The Chronicle Herald. March 1, 2012. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  44. ^ "Halifax Rainmen Sign NBL Canada's Top Scorer and All Star MVP". September 17, 2012. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  45. ^ Bennett, Anthony (April 2, 2013). "2013 NBL Canada All Stars Named". NBL Canada. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  46. ^ "NBL All-Star team rosters announced". OurWindsor. April 7, 2014. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  47. ^ "NBL Canada Unanimously Hires New Commissioner". Retrieved 5 June 2015.
  48. ^ "NBL Canada 2013-14 Preseason Guide" (PDF). Retrieved 5 June 2015.
  49. ^ "Commissioner of Canada pro basketball league quits". Yahoo. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  50. ^ Gray, Devin. "Paul Riley Out As NBL Commissioner". Retrieved 6 June 2015.