Professional basketball is coming back to the Abbotsford Centre later this year, but the presence of fans is still yet to be determined.
The Fraser Valley Bandits and the Canadian Elite Basketball League released the 2021 regular season schedule today, with all teams playing a reduced 14-game slate.
The league aimed to begin in mid-May, but games have been pushed back to early-June to increase the possibility of fans getting a chance to take in the action in person. The CEBL is unable to push the season back any further because many of its players must report to international pro teams in Europe and Asia by September.
The Bandits home opener is set for Saturday, June 5 at 1 p.m. and is a rematch of last year’s CEBL championship against the Edmonton Stingers. That game will also be broadcast nationally on CBC. Other home dates at the Abbotsford Centre include: June 13 (vs. the Saskatchewan Rattlers), June 26 (vs. Saskatchewan), June 29 (vs. the Niagara River Lions), July 3 (vs. the Ottawa Blackjacks), July 14 (vs. the Guelph Nighthawks) and July 25 (vs. Edmonton).
The June 5 game is the Bandits lone scheduled appearance on CBC, but all games will be streamed on the CBC Gem service.
Post-season plans and the playoff format for 2021 will be announced at a later date.
The CEBL debuted in 2019, but plans for the second season had to be altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year saw the teams compete in a bubble in St. Catharines, Ont. for an event called the Summer Series. The Bandits finished second at the Summer Series event.
Dylan Kular, the vice-president of the Bandits, stated that he hopes that fans attending games can be a possibility at some point in 2021.
“The health and safety of fans, players, officials and staff was our top priority when we created the schedule for 2021, followed closely by a structure that would increase the odds of having fans in the stands for as many games as possible this summer at Abbotsford Centre,” he said in a press release.
“It is our hope that by summer our region and community will be better positioned in the fight against COVID-19 and restrictions around public gatherings may allow for some number of fans to attend games. Live events and entertainment have an integral role in reenergizing a community and we want to contribute to that to the extent that we can in the Fraser Valley.”
Fans who have purchased season tickets for 2021 are being moved forward into 2022 and will be applied to next season’s ticket packages. If fans will be allowed into Abbotsford Centre, those ticket holders may choose to draw tickets from their 2022 package to use for any games they wish to attend in 2021. There will be no obligation to use any tickets in 2021. All unused tickets will remain on account and applied toward the same ticket packages in 2022.
Those who purchased season tickets for 2020 and left their tickets on account for 2021 received credits towards future tickets and a discount on team merchandise. Those benefits are also being extended through to August 2022.
Additional ticketing details will be announced closer to the start of the season when it is expected there will be more clarity from government and health officials around public gatherings.
For more information on the team, visit thebandits.ca.