SUMMERSIDE - While it was an up-and-down 36 games on the court for the Summerside Storm, the team's owners consider its inaugural season a business success.
© Stephen Brun/Journal Pioneer
The Summerside Storm's Louie McCroskey dunks during a March 2 NBL of Canada contest against the Oshawa Power at EastLink Arena. Looking on are Storm players Eric Gilchrese, 3, Mike Williams, 7, and Al Stewart, 10.
Despite finishing sixth in the seven-team NBL of Canada with a 12-24 (won-lost) record, Storm fans consistently flocked to EastLink Arena to watch professional basketball.
The ever-increasing attendance figures culminated in a record crowd of 4,064 for the Storm's final home game on March 2.
Now heading into the off-season, the biggest unanswered question about the franchise is whether it will call Credit Union Place home for a second season.
Duncan Shaw, who co-owns the Storm with Darren MacKay, said he couldn't say definitively that the team would play its home games in Summerside next year.
"We're still negotiating with the city," he said.
"Really all (the tickets) we've started selling is people who want to renew their seats who had them this year. We'd like to open up the rest, but we're still negotiating."
As those negotiations continue, the NBL of Canada's top four teams will be battling to be crowned the league's first champions.
With the Storm on the outside of the playoff picture, head coach Joe Salerno's focus now shifts to improving the team for next season.
While Salerno was pleased with the team's competitiveness, he said there are some missing pieces that prevented the team from winning consistently.
"Out of the 36 games we played, we had a shot at winning probably 30 of those games. On the downside of that, when you're in those ball games you want to win them," he said. "It was clear that we were lacking in a couple roles. Mike Williams is a presence inside, but I think we really need another player to compliment him down in the post, both defensively and offensively. It's no secret that we really lacked perimeter shooting."
Salerno will spend time scouting players at various combines in the U.S. this summer, while the Storm's owners have plans to hold team combines in Baltimore, Memphis, and the Bahamas to begin generating a player stream.
Shaw and MacKay said they'd like to have both Salerno and assistant coach Mev Bahonjic return next season, with the possible addition of one or two other assistants to lend some experience.
"Joe is planning on coming back... as long as the Celtics don't offer him a job or something," said Shaw. "He's a young guy with a tremendous knowledge base. Joe will get offered opportunities... and we're not going to stand in his way, but I think after this year he'll be back, and we're really excited to have him back."
Both the owners and coaches will try to retain a core group of players with contracts for next season, but said some changes will always occur.
Something that won't change, however, is the Storm's involvement in communities across the province and the team's charitable work.
Fans and sponsors seemed to return that giving spirit through their support of the team this season.
"It's beyond what we ever thought we could do," said Shaw. "Next year you will see as much or more charity work, so we'll probably give away more. Because we're doing so well bringing in people from Charlottetown right now, that opens up a different sponsorship market... and now the sponsorship realm has to expand and really be an Island-wide effort."