There’s Magic happening at the Avenir Centre

Photo by: Jacinthe Leblanc
Photo by: Jacinthe Leblanc

Story by: Steve Malloy - Times and Transcript

I haven't really paid much attention to professional basketball since the days where guys like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michel Jordan dominated the game. My interest was recently rejuvenated when my 10-year-old son decided to join the Kiwanis youth basketball program in Moncton back in the fall.

His enthusiasm for basketball grew with every game and practice he went to. Because of his newfound love for the game, my interest in basketball began to creep back as well and it was nice to have a sport other than football to focus on for a while - I even got to coach a couple of games this season! It was decided that, as a possible catalyst to his further understanding of

the game, my son and I would attend a Moncton Magic game at the Avenir Centre and plant our posteriors court-side to get an unhindered view of all the action.

We got to watch our hometown Magic crush the rival Saint John Riptide and my son got to interact with players during warmups, hold the ball during a few timeouts, and laugh every time the team mascot, Dunkin, snuck up behind me for a hug or acted like he was taking a big swig of my water bottle. After the game, the players headed directly for the merchandise area to sign autographs for every fan who wanted them – and they engaged in some meaningful banter with my son, instead of avoiding eye contact like many folks do in 'meet and greet' situations.

What was amazing about the entire experience for me is that our two seats on the floor, courtside, cost far less than a single ticket for your average big-name concert that rolls through the city.

As of this writing, the Moncton Magic hold the top spot in the 10-team National Basketball League. Not having attended a game since back when they were still known as the Miracles, I was a little shocked about how good our hometown team suddenly was. What also shocked me was the fact that the stands in the Avenir Centre weren't jam-packed with fans coming out to see our first- place team!

Everyone loves a winner. Usually, when a sports team is leading their league, you will have a percentage of people in your audience coming out to support them simply because they like to say they back a first-place team. Even though the game we watched was the best-attended of the year, there were still quite a few empty seats in the bowl. With the quality of basketball being played on the court and the low ticket price, this really didn't compute for me.

I have started calling the Magic 'Moncton's best-kept secret' now because we have a potential championship team playing some high-level basketball in our city, and the number of people I know who have never attended a game is staggering. I get it, we're a hockey city (Go Wildcats!) That doesn't mean everything else should be ignored, though.

The City of Moncton agreed to support the Moncton Magic financially this season, if needed, because of the fear that revenue would dwindle after their move from the Coliseum to the Avenir Centre. The good news is that average attendance is up roughly 30 per cent from last year. The bad news is that some evening games still don't crack the 1,000 spectators mark, so it's unclear as to whether the city will need to contribute any money to the team.

There are only a few more games left in the regular season and my son and I are hoping to catch a few more before the playoffs start. How great would it be if more of our city stopped in to catch some of the action and build some team momentum? Better yet, how amazing would it be if support for the team could suddenly catch fire and we had some playoff games packed to capacity with loud and rowdy Magic fans?

We all know the old saying,'you don't know what you've got until it's gone', and Moncton was in real danger of losing its NBL basketball team in the past. Right now we have a winning, exciting team right on Main Street and there aren't enough people getting out to support it. I will admit that I was one of those people who hadn't been out to see a game in many years, and I'm sorry that I denied myself and my kids the opportunity to support a great local squad.

How sad would it be if we ended up with an NBL champion in our city, and most people in the Metro area had never even been to a game? There's Magic happening in the Avenir Centre – get out and experience it!

STEVE MALLOY

is a retail manager and freelance writer who lives in Moncton. Sorting It Out appears every Monday. steve.malloy@gmail.com

https://www.telegraphjournal.com/times-transcript/story/100857964/steve-malloy