Honey Badgers to move from Hamilton to Brampton due to arena closure

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Published November 28, 2022 at 10:48 am

Honey Badgers
With FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton due for $150 million renovations, the 2022 CEBL champion Honey Badgers are relocating to Brampton permanently.

The Hamilton Honey Badgers, one of the original franchises of the Canadian Elite Basketball League, is on the move.

The 2022 CEBL champions announced Monday that the franchise is relocating to Brampton permanently.

“It is extremely disappointing that one of our original franchises and the 2022 CEBL champions are forced to relocate due to circumstances beyond our control,” said Mike Morreale, CEBL commissioner and co-founder.

The circumstances are the temporary closure of the Honey Badgers’ home area, FirstOntario Centre — which will undergo renovations next year that won’t be completed until 2024.

“We launched the Hamilton Honey Badgers in 2019 and worked tirelessly through a pandemic that limited us to having fans in the stands for only 14 games in three seasons before a successful 2022 championship run,” added Morreale, who grew up in Hamilton, attended McMaster University, and became one of the most popular football players in Hamilton Tiger-Cats history before starting Canada’s largest professional basketball league.

“The desire was to continue to build on that success, although the threat of the arena renovations always loomed and new opportunities needed to be found. Now knowing the full extent and duration of the renovations, we have no choice but to find a dependable home for the team, and we are very grateful to be moving to a market with one of Canada’s strongest grassroots basketball programs.”

In an official statement, Morreale did not rule out the CEBL’s return to Hamilton someday.

“We really like the Hamilton-Burlington market, and despite the lingering effects of the pandemic, the Honey Badgers more than doubled their sponsorship support, and attendance was up more than 25 percent in 2022 from the last full season of 2019,” Morreale added. “When the time comes that FirstOntario Centre is finally renovated, or another suitable arena gets built in the region, we will certainly entertain the possibility of putting a new team back in the area.”

Originally, the arena’s primary tenants, the Honey Badgers, the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, and the Toronto Rock of the National Lacross League, were told they would be able to play at FirstOntario Centre during the $150 million renovation and upgrade. However, that changed, leading to a he-said-they-said dispute with the Hamilton Urban Precinct Entertainment Group (HUPEG).

The Bulldogs and Rock have not made an announcement regarding their plans.

'Extremely disappointing:' Hamilton Honey Badgers relocate to Brampton due to arena closure

The Honey Badgers will relocate to Brampton while FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton undergoes renovations and upgrades. (Anthony Urciuoli/insauga)

As for the Brampton Honey Badgers, deposits on tickets for the 2023 season can be made now, and team merchandise is already available at honeybadgers.ca. The team will continue to wear their familiar black and gold pinstriped uniforms.

In moving to Brampton, the Honey Badgers will play in one of the country’s most robust grassroots basketball systems. The club will also play near the home of their biggest rival, the Scarborough Shooting Stars, which they defeated to capture the 2022 championship last summer.

“Brampton is excited to bring the Honey Badgers to our city for the 2023 season,” said Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown. “Brampton continues to establish itself as a hub of talent for sports and recreation, locally, nationally and on the world stage. We look forward to welcoming the Brampton Honey Badgers to our community and supporting and cheering them on this coming year.”

The Honey Badgers depart Hamilton with an all-time record of 40-27 (.597), including a 17-11 (.607) mark at FirstOntario Centre.

“While we’re disappointed to be leaving Hamilton, our organization is proud of the positive impact we made as a contributing member of the Hamilton and Halton communities, despite being significantly impacted for three of our four years by COVID-19,” said Honey Badgers President John Lashway. “On the court, we reached the semifinals three times, the Final twice, and brought a championship title to Hamilton.”

“I thank the many sponsors and season ticketholders who enthusiastically supported us and also the FirstOntario Centre frontline staff and the Hamilton Bulldogs organization for being great partners and friends.”

The CEBL has ten teams in six provinces and the highest percentage of Canadian players of any pro league in the country, with 71 per cent of its current team rosters being Canadian. Players bring experience from the NBA, NBA G League, international leagues, Canadian National Team program, NCAA, and U Sports programs.

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