WINDSOR, NS — Lauren Hainstock is excited about the potential for a new women’s basketball league to begin play this spring.
The 17-year-old Aylesford resident recently learned that the Windsor Edge will be one of six teams in the Maritime Women’s Basketball Association.
“Finally, to have something big like this for female athletes is huge,” she said. “It will be a very good opportunity for many girls.”
Hainstock is a Grade 12 student at King’s-Edgehill School who plays for the Highlanders prep basketball team. She plans to play college ball next year, but hasn’t decided where yet.
“I find, especially in Nova Scotia, that there aren’t a lot of opportunities for women to play somewhere after college or during college (after the season).”
The idea for the circuit came to league founder Brad Janes while attending a Zoom training symposium at the start of the pandemic.
Former national team head coach Lisa Thomaidis was asked about the challenges of keeping the program near the top of the standings. She said Canada was the only top FIBA (International Basketball Federation) country that does not have a national professional women’s basketball league.
“It really stuck with me,” Janes said.
He contacted Thomaidis to explore the idea further. While a professional league was very expensive, an amateur circuit seemed feasible.
Maritime Women’s Basketball Association
What – A six-team amateur basketball league with three teams in Nova Scotia and three in New Brunswick.
Teams – Windsor Edge, Halifax Thunder, Halifax Hornets, Port City Fog, Fredericton Freeze and Moncton Mystics.
WHO – Over 120 players have officially signed up for the league, and more have expressed interest. Most have played at the college level. Teams can carry 16 players and dress 12 for matches.
Format – Each team will play a 12-game regular season, with each team qualifying for the championship weekend. The single-elimination tournament will follow the same format as the Atlantic College Sport Championship, with the top two teams earning a bye to the semifinals.
Trick – The current schedule calls for the league to open on April 21 with Moncton in Saint John, New Brunswick. But the league also has a contingency plan in place in case it has to push things back due to the pandemic. If that were to happen, the league would start on the weekend of May 14-15.
— Moncton Mystics (@MonctonMystics) January 31, 2022
In line – themwba.ca.
Windsor Edge Governor and CEO Marc Ffrench said“People just have to come out and give it a chance.”
He reached out to others he knew in the Maritime basketball community and within a short time the basics of the league had been done.
Janes, the owner of the Fredericton Freeze, looked back on his own playing years, transitioning from junior hockey to senior hockey.
“At 21, I wasn’t told you just had to play beer league or go to a tournament once in a while because there were all kinds of opportunities,” he said. . “It didn’t really exist for women.”
Janes, past president of Basketball New Brunswick, has always been a strong supporter of long-term athlete development.
“How many women peak at 21 in terms of athletic ability and then all of a sudden they’re done,” Janes said. “That was one of the reasons behind the league.”
One of the people Janes contacted was Marc Ffrench, who runs the King’s-Edgehill prep program.
He was very interested in the league, noting that there is currently no place for the U Sports graduate unless he goes to Europe.
“It’s an idea whose time has come,” he said.
Ffrench owned a sports management agency that helped place players in European teams in the past.
“The vision I had for our basketball program here is based on the European model,” he said, referring to a system made up of professional, academic and school teams.
He sees the new league as a great opportunity to give players a chance to continue playing the sport at a high level close to home.
“It’s going to be competitive,” he said. “It’s going to look like a professional league; we just don’t pay the players. …
“We’ve heard from players who play U Sports now to players who played U Sports five or six years ago who want their kids to see them play.”
Ffrench, who will serve as governor and general manager of Edge, said they have already signed players into the Edge program. They are waiting to release player names until the coach has been announced.
“The response from players in the player pool has been overwhelming.”
Ffrench sees a lot of possible synergies between the Edge program and the King’s-Edgehill program.
Hainstock, a six-foot wing one of the King’s-Edgehill Highlanders, can’t wait to see it unfold.
“It will be a very good opportunity for many girls, especially younger ones, to watch and admire.”
Windsor’s proximity to Halifax also works in the Edge’s favor, as does the Annapolis Valley’s rich history with sports.
“It’s such a hotbed of basketball,” Janes said.
Hainstock, who grew up in Kentville and attended the Northeast Kings Education Center before this college year, said it was nice to have a franchise close to home.
“I didn’t expect there to be something like this here in Windsor, but they’ve grown so much,” she said, noting the new facilities in the community. “And I feel like people are finally looking at women’s sport differently than they are and have a little more respect for it and the effort these girls put into it.”
Don’t slow down
With the league having six teams set to enter the inaugural season, Janes said there are more communities interested in having their own franchise.
“We’re a Maritime league – we have to be on the island,” Janes said, noting that they hope to have a franchise in Prince Edward Island for the 2023 season. get to opening day before looking beyond that, but I think there are a lot of people watching to see how we do.”
Jason Malloy is a multimedia journalist at the Valley Journal-Advertiser. He can be contacted by email at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @JasonMa47772994 .