Raps give St. John's blow off

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:48 AM ET

HOUSTON -- Pro basketball has gone the way of the cod in Newfoundland. And perhaps everywhere else in Canada, save Toronto.

The Raptors have a long tradition of playing pre-season games in other Canadian cities, starting with Halifax, Saint John, N.B., Saskatoon and Winnipeg during the inaugural 1995 season. Since that time, the Raptors also have touched down in Calgary, Ottawa, Hamilton, Edmonton and London, Ont.

The Raptors travelled to St. John's for a pre-season game against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers at Mile One Stadium on Oct. 23, 2003, but the game was cancelled at the last minute because of moisture on the court.

Then-general manager Glen Grunwald, who made the final decision to cancel the game, promised the disappointed fans, many of whom climbed down from the stands to help wipe the moisture off the court with towels, that the team would return to St. John's in two years for another pre-season game. That promise has not been kept and probably never will be.

ALL GAMES IN TORONTO

Richard Peddie, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., told the Toronto Sun last night that the Raptors likely will play all their Canadian pre-season games from now on in Toronto only, to take advantage of the city's multi-ethnicity. The Raps have brought in professional teams from Greece, Italy and Israel in the past for pre-season games, and the games have gone over well with the Greek, Italian and Jewish populations.

Peddie said the Raptors would be interested in holding a training camp overseas for the first time, perhaps as early as 2007, if the NBA gives them the green light.

NBA commissioner David Stern confirmed Saturday that his league will expand its global presence next year, with four teams -- the L.A. Clippers, Philadelphia 76ers, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns -- conducting training camps in Europe, followed by exhibition games in Moscow, Barcelona, Paris and Rome. After that, two of the teams involved will go on to play in a tournament in Cologne, Germany.


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