Amanda loves basketball. Well, more accurately, her affection of the sport extends from her love of Chris Bosh, but same difference. When the Raptors came to Edmonton for an exhibition game two years ago, we were there. We waited in vain for another such opportunity this season, but none came.
So when I read about the Edmonton Energy (Edmonton’s own International Basketball League team), I suggested to Amanda that we attend a game. She laughed in my face. Why would she want to watch second-rate players?
I finally won her over at the tail end of the Energy’s regular season (read: I guilted her with the birthday card) – a three game home stand against the 2009 IBL Champions the Los Angeles Lightning. The venue had shifted since the Energy began this year – from the Butterdome to the Main Gym at NAIT. From what I’ve read, the smaller facility better suits the modest crowd (which was still a larger audience than either Amanda or I expected).
Tickets were just $15 ($10 for students), making it the second most inexpensive sporting event in the city (trailing the Edmonton Capitals). And with the intimate venue (the space was only just larger than your average high school gym), we really felt like we were right in the action.
The Lightning warm up
If this event was any indication, Energy games are casual affairs, so much so that the above comparison to juvenile sports seemed fitting. On our way to the washroom, we passed by the LA Lightning in the hallway holding their pre-game meeting. Inside the gym, children from the stands were shooting baskets on the floor. While not necessarily a bad thing, I think I’m just so used to a line of demarcation between fans and professional sports players that I was taken aback.
As for the game itself, we found out the next day that the Lightning had played their second-tier roster, which explained how the Energy were able to achieve a double-digit lead within the first five minutes. The lead quickly increased to over forty points, and the Energy never looked back, eventually winning 144 to 103.
While the points buffer didn’t make for the most exciting game, we were able to watch some talented players at work. Steve Sir and Dave Patten proved to be skilled three-point shooters, while team-leading scorer Will Funn was able to combine with Anthony “AGP” Parker for several amazing slam dunks.
AGP at work (blurry, but the best my little point-and-shoot can do)
There was also definitely some effort to keep fans entertained throughout, including Energy dancers and a fan skills competition at half time. I really felt that I received full value for my ticket price.
Energy Dancers after the first quarter
The Energy won two out of the three games, and it was enough to put them in the playoffs. Unfortunately, the IBL makes team playoff participation optional, and the Energy management opted not to compete. While I didn’t closely follow their season, I would think this is a slap in the face to the fans who did, and not a vote of confidence for the players who tried their best for the team.
If the Energy are indeed back next season, I would suggest checking them out – even Amanda enjoyed herself, in spite of her earlier misgivings. It was an economical, but entertaining night out.