SUMMERSIDE - The idea of bringing professional basketball to P.E.I. is something businessmen Duncan Shaw and Darren MacKay have talked about and studied for a while.
The two Cornwall residents have now realized those dreams. They are the co-owners of the yet-to-be-named "Island" franchise in the fledgling National Basketball League of Canada. The team's home will be Credit Union Place.
"Darren and I are both Island guys, grew up here and it's fantastic to be bringing this new product into Summerside," said Shaw following a Summerside Chamber of Commerce business mixer at Empire Theatres on Thursday. "It's a very exciting thing to get to do.
"It's an opportunity to bring another form of entertainment, and it's going to do wonderful things for the community."
MacKay added the team will be very active performing community work, from one end of the province to the other.
"The team is very focused on that direction at the grassroots level," said MacKay. "We're looking forward to participating with a lot of different organizations to contribute to youth and charities."
The seven-team league will begin regular-season play in early November.
"We just didn't want to put a team anywhere," said league president and CEO Andre Levingston, who owns the Halifax Rainmen. "We just didn't want any individual who is looking for a hobby to own a professional basketball team.
"We want the right individuals who are going to bring you the very best, because you deserve the very best. That is why we have these two gentlemen (Shaw and MacKay) here."
League co-founder Ian McCarthy, who is president and general manager of the Saint John Mill Rats, also attended the announcement.
Calibre of play
As for the calibre of play, Levingston said fans can expect to see an elite level.
"The majority of guys on our clubs are Division 1 (NCAA graduates), (former) NBA and professional guys," he added. "They are big, athletic, fast.
"I know a lot of people in the new markets don't know what to expect, but I can say you will be extremely pleased."
Shaw, who played basketball at Charlottetown Rural, UPEI and coached in different development divisions, added: "It's a very unique product we're bringing in. It's great athleticism. . . To see a six-foot-eight guy who can almost fly is amazing to watch."
While details on tickets will be released soon, Shaw did stress fans can expect affordable prices.
"It's going to offer a good compliment to hockey, which is obviously P.E.I.'s love," said MacKay.
Fans can expect to experience a complete entertainment package, offered Shaw.
"We don't want a parent hearing the dreaded phrase, 'Mom, I'm bored,'" continued Shaw. "I always like to tell people that I took my son, who was six (at the time), to see the (NBA's Toronto) Raptors play the Phoenix Suns and Steve Nash, the greatest Canadian basketball player we've produced.
"The majority of guys on our clubs are Division 1 (NCAA graduates), (former) NBA and professional guys. They are big, athletic, fast. I know a lot of people in the new markets don't know what to expect, but I can say you will be extremely pleased." League president, CEO and Halifax Rainmen owner Andre Levingston
"I thought this would be one of the great experiences of his life, and he was more excited to watch the Raptor drive around the court and shoot T-shirts into the crowd.
"The point is it was phenomenal family entertainment for everybody - my six-year-old, the teenager we brought with us and my wife. . ."
National Basketball League of Canada facts:
Teams in Halifax, N.S.; Saint John, N.B.; Moncton, N.B.; Quebec City; Oshawa, Ont., and London, Ont., round out the seven-team league.
The Island team's home opener is at Credit Union Place on Nov. 3.
Teams will play a 36-game schedule - 18 home and 18 away. Teams will play each other six times.
Top four teams make the playoffs. The playoff format will feature two best-of-three semifinals - first vs. fourth, and second vs. third. The winners will then meet in a best-of-five final.
The league will operate under FIBA rules.
The league draft is Sunday, Aug. 21.
Rosters will consist of 12 players, including two Canadians.