Niagara-based professional basketball league continues to grow

The Canadian Elite Basketball League, headquartered in Niagara, has expanded into Canada’s third largest city. The new Calgary Surge franchise was unveiled this week. Usman Tahir Jutt (left) and Jason Ribeiro (right) are credited with bringing pro basketball to Calgary. Photo credit: LiveWire Calgary/Aryn Toombs


It might just be the best kept secret in Niagara. 

Answer me this, if someone were to tell you the largest professional sports league in Canada has its headquarters here in the Niagara Region, what would you say?

Exactly. Most wouldn’t know.

The Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) is proud to call Niagara its home. 

The CEBL features 10 teams in six provinces, making it the largest pro sports league in Canada.

The league is made up of the Niagara River Lions, Hamilton Honey Badgers, Scarborough Shooting Stars, Ottawa Black Jacks, Montreal Alliance, Newfoundland Growlers, Saskatchewan Rattlers, Edmonton Stingers, Vancouver Bandits, and just unveiled just this week, the Calgary Surge.

The Calgary franchise originated as the Guelph Nighthawks in 2018, one of the six founding members of the CEBL. The organization was relocated from the league’s smallest market to Calgary in August as part of the growing league’s business strategy to have teams in Canada’s largest metropolitan areas. 

“Calgary has been one of our target markets for a long time and relocating a franchise from our smallest market to Canada’s third-largest city will allow the team to remain financially competitive as our league continues to experience tremendous growth,” said CEBL Commissioner Mike Morreale back in August. 

Five-time Canadian Screen Award winner and proud Calgarian Andrew Phung, of sitcom Kim’s Convenience fame, revealed the team’s name and logo to the public for the first time. 

Surge reflects both the continued positive economic and social momentum of Canada’s third-largest city and its fast-paced growth in areas like clean energy, digital transformation and creative industries. It also speaks to the athleticism fans will appreciate from the FIBA style of basketball the CEBL plays. The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) plays a faster-paced game and is infused with rule changes that differ from what basketball fans are accustomed to from the NBA, NCAA and U SPORTS.

The Calgary Surge will begin play when the 2023 season tips off in May, with WinSport Event Centre serving as the team’s home. Usman Tahir Jutt and Jason Ribeiro were introduced as the duo who are bringing pro-basketball to Calgary.

“I love Calgary and have chosen to build my life and family here. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be a part of the Calgary Surge and combine my passions for sport and community and youth development,” said Usman Tahir Jutt. “Basketball is one of Canada’s fastest growing sports, and I want to make Calgary a basketball town. We can do that with the Surge.”

“I am thrilled we are partnering with one of the most exciting leagues in professional sports and am humbled by the opportunity to give back to a city I love in my bones,” said Jason Ribeiro. “Basketball fans know that the game’s influence transcends what happens on the court and I will do everything I can to ensure the Calgary Surge becomes a magnet for art and culture, economic development, and civic pride across all four corners of the city.”

In keeping with the tradition of the Calgary sports market, the team colours are red and black and feature grey and white accents. The icon is a menacing hawk with a wing shape that represents all four quadrants of the city uniting as one. The teardrop-styled graphic is a deliberate acknowledgement of the franchise’s origins as the “Nighthawks” and the team’s fans across the country.

Josh Knoester is a proud Brock University graduate, Niagara resident, and Senior Vice-President of the Canadian Elite Basketball League.

“CEBL has proudly called Niagara home for the past five years,”said Knoester 

“Niagara Region’s business community is one the CEBL is proud to be a part of.”

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