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Professional Basketball is coming back to Saskatchewan

The Bridge City will soon be home to another professional sports franchise at SaskTel Centre. The Saskatchewan Rattlers will be joining the six team Canadian Elite Basketball League which is a professional level NBA feeder basketball league and the Canadian version of the the G League. 2019 will be the inaugural season for the CEBL. The Rattlers will play against five other Canadian teams: Edmonton Stingers, Fraser Valley Bandits, Guelph Nighthawks, Hamilton Honey Badgers and the Niagra River Lions. The Rattlers will play a 20 game season with 10 games being played at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

2019 Saskatoon Rattlers Logo (CEBL)

The Rattlers bench and executive will have some familiar faces to the city of Saskatoon. Lee Genier, President of the Saskatchewan Rattlers is also the President & COO, Western Operations for the Canadian Elite Basketball League. His deep sports management experience includes 19 years with the Calgary Stampeders, where he held the position of Senior Vice President, Business Operations and earned three Grey Cup rings during his tenure. In 2010, Lee joined the Board of Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton where he led the organization to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, which saw a gold medal winning run in Bobsleigh. Since 2015 Lee has served as the founding President of the Saskatchewan Rush, winning a championship with the team in the 2016 season. This success earned Genier the 2016 NLL Executive of the year award.

Canadian Elite Basketball League Logo

Another familiar face to basketball in Saskatoon will be Head Coach and General Manager Greg Jockims. Jockims joins the Rattlers after coaching the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s basketball team for 13 years. From 1998 to 2011 Jockims helped rebuild the Huskies and coached them to seven straight playoff appearances which included Central Division Regular Season Titles in 2005 and 2006 as well as a Central Division Championship in 2006 and a Canada West Championship in 2010. That same year, Jockims lead an underdog Huskie team to the pinnacle of men’s university basketball in Canada by becoming the first men’s program in Saskatchewan to win the CIS National Championship.

The Saskatchewan Rattlers are now the fourth attempt at establishing a professional basketball team in the province. The last time Saskatchewan had a professional basketball team was in the early 2000's (1999-2001). The Saskatchewan Hawks competed in the International Basketball Association beginning in the 2000–2001 season. The team's ownership group was composed of Tom Tao and former NBA owner Ted Stepien, as well as local private owners. The team's best season was during the 2000–2001 season that saw the Hawks finish second in the division and defeat the Billings RimRockers in the first round of playoffs, before eventually losing to the eventual IBA Champion Dakota Wizards in round two. That season, the team was coached by Rob Spon, before he was unexpectedly let go with two games remaining in the regular season. The team then joined the Continental Basketball Association in 2001 when the IBA folded, along with former IBA rivals, the Dakota Wizards and the Fargo-Moorhead Beez. In their first and only season in the CBA, the Hawks compiled the worst record in the league (8–32), and the team folded during the off-season.

The initial attempt to establish a franchise in the city of Saskatoon was in the early 90's when the Saskatchewan Storm were were a professional basketball franchise based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan from 1990 until 1992. The team played in the World Basketball League. When the WBL folded, the owners of the Canadian franchises formed the National Basketball League, which was formed in 1993 and lasted for a season and a half before also folding. The ownership of the Storm franchise decided to rename their franchise in the new league, so the Storm became the Saskatoon Slam.The Storm played their home games at Saskatchewan Place which is now named SaskTel Centre.

Next came the Saskatoon Slam. The Saskatoon Slam were a professional basketball franchise that played in the National Basketball League in 1993 and 1994. The teams in the NBL were the Canadian franchises of the World Basketball Association, which folded in 1992. The ownership of the WBL’s Saskatchewan Storm franchise chose to re-name the team as the Saskatoon Slam in the new league. The Slam played its home games at Saskatchewan Place. In the NBL's single full season, 1993, the Slam captured the league championship. They defeated the Cape Breton Breakers three games to one. All the games were played in Saskatoon to reduce travel costs. The Slam returned for the 1994 season, but the league folded on 9 July that year.

The Saskatchewan Rattlers will take to the court this Spring with the first home game scheduled for Thursday May 9th at 7:00 pm in Saskatoon at SaskTel Centre vs the Niagra Lions. Season tickets are on sale online, with very limited court side seats available, groups of 12 or more can book at a discount. Season ticket prices start as low as $175. The CEBL season runs from May until August. The Rattlers will also have a professional dance team. Information on dance team try outs can be found on the team's website.

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