This is not how I expected my basketball season to end.
Last night was Game 7 of a highly-fought and tight series between the top two teams in the National Basketball League of Canada – the Halifax Rainmen, champions of the Atlantic Division; and the Windsor Express, the defending NBL champions.
Even though I made my playoff prediction that the Rainmen would win Game 7 by five points, I was looking forward to that night’s match. Soda, chips, a streaming YouTube feed from the WFCU Centre…
And I’m still slightly smiling that Windsor broke up my perfect NBL Canada playoff bracket. And just for the record, here’s the video of Windsor happily winning the Central Division championship and letting me know that I may have made a slight error in my prediction.
Okay. It’s basketball time. Hoop it up, let’s play.
Friday’s Windsor Star sports front pic.twitter.com/cn6SCcqk8Z
— Windsor Star Sports (@WinStarSports) May 1, 2015
No no no.
This can’t happen.
The final game of the season, Game 7 of the championship series, is declared a forfeit?
And it all started with a battle in morning over available practice time?
It’s Friday morning and I’m still shaking my head over the whole situation. I’m not going to recap it; recapping it just makes me sick to my stomach. Read the embedded news reports from the Windsor Star and the Halifax Chronicle-Herald to get both sides of the story and make your own decisions.
The last time I heard of any sports team willingly forfeiting games would have to be the 2003 St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team. Yeah, good old St. Bonaquitter.
And the last time I heard of anybody willingly forfeiting a basketball game because of outside forces? You’d probably have to go all the way to maybe 1920, when players used two-handed set shots and leagues still played hoops games in wire cage enclosures. Back then, the Albany Senators and the Troy Trojans were in the midst of playoffs in the old New York State League (don’t you laugh, that league produced basketball Hall of Famers Barney Sedran, Marty Friedman and Ed Wachter); the teams were declared co-champions after neither side could agree on the conditions for a series-deciding final match.
But still… a fight over practice time? Players leaving over concerns for their physical safety? What is this, the Jets and the Sharks from West Side Story? Or is it more like the Winnipeg Jets and San Jose Sharks from the NHL?
And the only other time that I’ve ever seen a championship contest not get played? I’d have to go back to watching my favorite sports comedy of all time, Slap Shot. The championship game between the Charlestown Chiefs and the Syracuse Bulldogs turned into a fight-filled bloodbath, until Charlestown forward Ned Braden captured everyone’s attention when he went out to the ice and started taking off his uniform… oh hell, go put it on your Netflix queue.
But part of that game involves the arrival of Syracuse’s leading goal scorer / enforcer Ogie Oglethorpe. In fact, Ogie gets his knuckles nice and red after beating up a few Chiefs players; it’s a running thread through the film that Ogie is the most feared player in the Federal Hockey League.
And now the Federal Hockey League has made its way to the NBL of Canada.
This is not how the series should have ended. This should have ended on a game-winning buzzer-beater. This should have ended with hometown fans cheering their Windsor Express taking the title. This should have ended with fans in bars and in “watching parties” all across Nova Scotia cheering their Halifax Rainmen taking the title.
Instead, the Rainmen are on their way back home. There’s no chance to get the game rescheduled; many players have overseas contract commitments that couldn’t go past May 1st. There’s fans in Windsor who are stunned and shocked. There are fans in Halifax who are stunned and shocked.
And there’s a fan in Albany who’s stunned and shocked.
The NBL voted that because the Rainmen left the city and did not take the court in time for their game, that Game 7 has been declared a forfeit win for the Express. Windsor retains the NBL championship and joins the London Lightning as the only two-time champions in league history.
I will say congratulations to the Windsor Express on their championship. And congratulations to the Halifax Rainmen for a hard-fought series.
But game 7…
I’m not going to sit here and try to figure out who’s right and who’s wrong. I can’t do that. All I can do is hope that the NBL can figure out what happened and how to fix the damage. This may be a black eye upon the league, but black eyes can heal over time. Hell, I’ve seen an Albany Patroons playoff game where Carl Mitchell and Felipe Lopez started punching each other – and they were teammates!
I know I’ve seen crazy things in minor league and independent basketball.
I just wish I didn’t see this.
And I’m not completely sure how to react.
I suppose, though, if I was at the playoffs next year and something like this happened…
Maybe I should go out there on the court and do my best Ned Braden imitation.
And wouldn’t THAT be something memorable?