VANCOUVER - The Raptors' championship run proved Metro Vancouverites can be just as crazy about basketball as hockey. This Thursday, Kawhi Leonard and his new team the L.A. Clippers are coming to Rogers Arena for an NBA pre-season game, and that has fans of the gone-but-not-forgotten Vancouver Grizzlies planning a pre-game rally to show the league this city is ready for a second chance at an NBA team.
”There's an underground community of Vancouver Grizzlies fans in Vancouver,” said rally organizer Kat Jamye. “We're just trying to show the league and hopefully potential investors in Vancouver that there is a market for this.”
Jayme, who directed a documentary about the Grizzlies last year, "Finding Big Country," is encouraging fans to dust off their old teal Grizzlies gear and gather at the Roger Neilson statue outside Rogers Arena at 4:30 p.m. Thursday to show their support.
“Make some fun signs, 'Bring back the Grizz,' 'We the West,' 'Vancouver loves the NBA,'” she said. “It’s our job to try and rally everyone together to show there is support for a team.”
The idea may not be that far-fetched, according to Tom Mayenknecht, host of “The Sport Market” on TSN 1040.
“Vancouver's a lot of more international than it was back in the days of the Grizzlies, and the league is more international,” Mayenknecht said. “ I think it’s much more than a pipe dream, and I'm among those that do believe the NBA will back within five to seven years. Seattle first, but I think Vancouver gets back in soon.”
But he thinks the owners of the Canucks would have to be involved. “Certainly it has to be either owned by Canucks Sports and Entertainment and the Aquilini family or a strong partnership between the two. You can’t be a tenant in another person’s building in this NBA, especially with billion-dollar franchise valuation.”
So far, Francesco Aquilini has not shown any interest in bidding for an expansion NBA franchise, but Jayme hopes Thursday’s rally can help convince him.
“If we show how much support there is, maybe we can change his mind or others people's minds out there,” she said. “I want the NBA back on my hometown for the younger generation of athletes. It was so special for me as a kid to be able to go to GM Place and see all these superstars out there. They were my gateway to dreaming.”