Chicago Sky impressed by ‘Finals feel’ energy brought to first WNBA game in Canada
TORONTO – Serving as the WNBA’s ambassadors for the weekend, the Chicago Sky and Minnesota Lynx made history today after playing in the league’s first-ever game in Canada. Between consuming “beaver tails” and interacting with fans who traveled internationally to get to Toronto, the team was overwhelmed by the support.
Sky head coach and general manager James Wade felt right at home, even referring to himself as a Canadian multiple times over the last two days.
“You guys have something special here in Toronto,” Wade said after the Sky’s 82-74 win. “You could sense it here when [the Toronto Raptors] made the 2019 Finals run where there was just as many people outside as there were inside. With us being here yesterday and seeing 100,000 people here in a mile-square radius in Maple Leafs shirts, it was nice to see how vibrant and energetic the city is.
“The WNBA deserves that too and when 20,000 of you come to an exhibition game, it says a lot about your city and sports culture.”
The excitement from the sold-out crowd of 20,000 fans permeated from the 300 level down to courtside and did not wane throughout the preseason battle. The energy was reminiscent of the Sky’s 2021 Finals run, with both teams struggling to hear the person next to them.
Kahleah Copper, one of the three remaining players from the squad that notched Chicago its first title, felt the same energy she did two postseasons ago.
“Those were the exact feelings that I had,” Copper said talking about the exhibition compared to the 2021 Finals. “Just feeding off the crowd and their energy, it definitely had Finals feels. It was amazing here. Major shout out to Canada and all the supporters who came here.”
Danielle Ross has been a Sky fan for as long as she can remember. The Michigan native tried to attend the 2022 All Star game when Chicago hosted it but was unable to go. The hours-long trek to get to Wintrust Arena dissuaded her from attending a Sky game in-person until she found out the Sky would be a part of the first-ever WNBA game in Canada.
After the anxiety induced process sealing her tickets (which sold out within 15 minutes when they went on sale), Ross finally got to see her favorite squad up close for the first time.
“It was easier to get [to Toronto] than it is to get to Chicago for me,” Ross said. “I love the Sky, I have been a die-hard fan since Candice Dupree [played for Chicago] so this was a lifelong dream of mine to see an actual game outside of All Star. I feel like I could cry.”
And the first-ever WNBA bucket in Canada goes to…@CourtMWilliams #skytown pic.twitter.com/Ym8bHEzRfn— Chicago Sky (@chicagosky) May 13, 2023
At one point, Chicago was down by eight with seven minutes left in the game before the team went on a 21-8 run to stifle the Lynx. Rookies Kayana Traylor (13 points) and Robyn Parks (nine points) poured in 22 points in the final quarter to put the Sky on top the rest of the way.
However, this moment was more significant for the Sky than taking home the first WNBA win on Canadian soil. It was a testament to the culture Wade and his staff have built since he came to the organization in late 2018. Chicago, whose inception in the WNBA came in 2006, has become a globally recognized brand following its recent success.
“We are very grateful to Canada and the Toronto Raptors for choosing us to come here,” Wade said. “It’s humbling, because I don’t know if Chicago four years ago would have been at the top of everybody’s minds for hosting a game internationally. Now nobody thought, ‘Hey why Chicago?’ Everybody understands that.
“We are a premier ball club, and we can represent the WNBA at this stage.”