I'm the rarest of Canadian sports fan. You ask me what my favorite hockey team is and my honest response is , "I don't really have one." I'll watch the Olympics and some playoffs and I would know who Sid the Kid is if I tripped over him, but on the whole, I'm indifferent. Truthfully, that has a lot to do with the fact that I was the worst hockey player that Canada ever produced….no exaggeration. The only goal I remember scoring was on my own net. Now it was a beautiful wrister low blocker side, but the goalie, and the rest of my teammates, weren't as impressed. Out of that great childhood trauma, however, came this revelation of an idea courtesy of my supportive mother: "how about next year we try basketball?!"
Not only wasn't there a pro franchise in the area at the time, Riverview barely even had a minor basketball association to speak of. That didn't temper the enthusiasm or performance of the coaches and parents though, and the sport took hold quickly in myself and in a growing and eager group of friends. My intro to the sport just happened to coincide with what even the biggest Lebron James fan would call the glory years of the NBA. Air Jordan, Magic, Larry Legend, The Admiral, The Human Highlight Film, The Mailman, The Round Mound of Rebound….the fellas and I had the best of the best to choose from for heroes and we carved out our little sections of loyalties and tormented each other with every win our chosen icon claimed over any of their rivals.
What the fans in Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston and Utah, and for that matter, Chapel Hill, Toronto and Halifax, had over us, was that tangible connection with these players. In all those cities, you could go see proof that the ghosts on your TV existed in real life. Now, Halifax never had a Jordan, but it had an Njoku and was visited by squads coached by Konchalski and Nutbrown and later, Smart, and hosted championships littered with some of the best players Canada ever produced. Every year Moncton had the Hoop Classic, the premiere high school tournament in the Maritimes, to look forward to and to aspire to play in. But if we wanted to see the artistry of those players ever again in person, it had to be on road trips to the south or northwest. With no Hub City university offering a basketball program, even the best of our local products had to forge their basketball futures in front of fans in other grateful and fortunate communities.
All these years later and I am in the enviable position to sit courtside at the Coliseum, commentating a professional basketball game involving as many as 5 Atlantic University Sport products, and 2 Moncton coaches in front of over a thousand fans. To say that I am lucky to be in this position is an all-time understatement. Last year, the Miracles franchise was stuck with no announcing team 3 weeks before what was to be their final season in operation, and a guy who had zero experience but who knew the right people was asked to step in. My enjoyment of the experience was mitigated ever so slightly by the presence of workers, season ticket holders and one fellow broadcaster who had been there since the beginning, supporting wholeheartedly a squad I had given mostly a passing glance, even when good friends were roaming the sidelines coaching.
In retrospect, it's tough to put a finger on exactly why my support of a team that the 12 year old me would have given anything to have was so dispassionate. I'm sure going to a game didn't fit into that week's budget on more than one occasion. My time was precious for the same reasons everyone's is; jobs, children, family. I'm sure thoughts of the effort of getting to the Coliseum on a cold evening tapped into my lazy gene more than once. But more than anything, I don't think I sensed it was permanent and I felt no connection. If you're reading this right now, you're either a friend of mine or already an NBL Canada fan, or both. Either way, I hope you take my personal connection with you as motivation. Get out to the Coliseum and support this team. Bring a friend. Bring your kids. If there is one thing that new Moncton ownership has brought to this organization, it's a sense of permanence and it's incumbent on those of who love basketball and love this community to strengthen the Magic's connection to both. If you come out to the games, or if you watch us on the website or You Tube, you can feel the effort the team has put forth into making this a professional operation in more than just name only. The NBL is here to stay in Moncton folks and it's going to be what basketball fans in the Hub City make of it. To paraphrase my mom Hub City….how about THIS year, you try basketball?
Story by: Dave Tingley, Official Colour Commentator of the Magic
Photo by: Jason Bowie