Edmonton Energy: An Entertaining Night Out

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).

The crowd

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.

Tip off

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.

Go Energy!

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.

De-fence!

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.

NBA Pre-Season: Toronto Raptors vs. Denver Nuggets

When my sister found out that the Toronto Raptors would be staging a pre-season game in Edmonton, she immediately jumped on the opportunity to watch Chris Bosh (aka “CB4”) live in action. I told her I wouldn’t be willing to spend $500 for courtside seats, but something more reasonable would be fine. It turned out our $39 seats were quite a good deal – decent view, and on the side where the most hilarious mascot concentrated his entertaining efforts.

Me and my sister in Rexall

Converted centre ice (it seemed quite sad to both of us that the floor had to be borrowed from the University of Alberta)

CB4!

Strangely, they brought out the anthem singer with 12 minutes left in the warm-up, and prior to the announcement of the starting line-ups

Raptor team huddle

It’s probably been a good ten years since I paid close enough attention to the NBA to recognize individual players (“What, Allen Iverson doesn’t play for Philadelphia anymore?!”), but my sister was a good resource to get reacquainted to the unfamiliar team composition.

The game itself was decent – I had forgotten how perfect basketball is for those with short attention spans (as opposed to say, hockey), as the scoring is constant. The sold-out crowd was obviously largely cheering for the Raptors, but unfortunately, they couldn’t outdo the exceptional three-point shooting and defense of the Nuggets, and lost 94-105.

In action

We were both expecting the music to be more consistent in the game, but the DJ played only short snippets when the Raptors were in scoring range. He also seemed to have about a ten-song repertoire (New Kids on the Block and Michael Jackson were on high rotation).

The best part of the entire game for both of us was Raptor, the team mascot. He had two different costumes – the more form-fitting, “fuzzy” one we were used to seeing, and a second, inflatable version that neither of us had seen before. It was this second costume that made the game for us, as he wandered around harassing courtside patrons, breakdancing, and moonwalking to Michael Jackson. I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard in a long time. Near the end of the game, they played a video chronicling Raptor’s most embarrassing moments (set to Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day”) – who knew the inflatable raptor had a costume big enough to engulf a whole person?

 

There he goes!

The “fuzzy” mascot (is there a technical name for the costume?) also performed two trampoline-assisted slam dunks, much to the audience’s delight.

Success!

It was a fun night overall – should another NBA team swing by Edmonton, I’d consider going again.

My highly-repetitive photo set is here.